More on Dialectics

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Fri Sep 3 15:32:51 MDT 1999

>>> Chris Matthew Sciabarra <cms10 at is> 09/03/99
Charles: You have not proven that the Marxist conception of the whole of
the relations and forces of production are Platonic idealism or demand a
divinity. In fact, it is the market's invisible hand handling the totality
or the knowing-how-without- knowing-what that you give in the reply to Sam
P. that is a mystical and divine like conception of knowing the total.
Atheism holds that nothing is, in principle, unknowable. We do not know
everything, but nothing in the universe is in principle unknowable. A first
principle of divinity and mysticism is that there are truths (such as your
truth of the total economy) that are unknowable in principle to humans and
only knowable to the divinity, or in your case knowable to the divine
invisible hand of the market, the price mechanism.
It is your argument here which is mystical and theist. You pose that
something is unknowable IN PRINCIPLE.

Chris:  I'm not saying that things are unknowable in principle.  I'm saying
that a Central Planning Board cannot know everything -- because it destroys
the means by which information is generated in order to make any decisions.


Charles: Marxism doesn't propose your Central Planning Board that destroys the means
by which information is generated in order to make any decisions. Marxism proposes a
planning by democratic centralism that perserves the infromation necessary to make a
plan that will meet the needs and wants of society better than capitalist price
mechanisms or the market. You have not made an argument that such a Marxist planning
is impossible in principle. You merely assert without proving it that your idea of it
would destroy its means of information. It sounds like a sort of "Heisenberg
uncetainty" principle of the economy. In trying to measure or know, the observer
impacts its object of observation, distorting the measruement.

I remember getting to this point of the argument with Justin Schwartz.

 Prices have an epistemic function; where there are no prices, there is

Charles: This is begging the question, circular. You are asserting what you have to
prove, by argument and evidence.


 I am saying too, that knowledge of various prices must be related
to the personal contexts of the decision-makers, where each personal
context has its own vast array of experiences and "tacit" concerns that are
simply not quantifiable by means of inputs-and-outputs, which is what a
Central Planning Board relies on.

Charles: This is a social economy. This subjective mystery cannot be a basis for
refuting its viability because this subject must come out with it's wants if its wants
them fulfilled by his or her co-producers. This is a free asSOCIATION of producers,
not a self-absorbed bunch of Robinson Crusoes.


Charles: History does not at all prove that the price mechanism works.
Capitalism doesn't work.
There is another error in the above that I can't quite articulate yet. It
is an error of making the price mechanism a subject such that it "knows the
whole". This may be super commodity fetishism , in that you posit that a
non-human thing has not only knowledge, but TOTAL knowledge. People can't
know, i.e. are like objects, and a thing can know, i.e. is like a subject.
This is a supernatural or divine commodity fetish of the price mechanism.

Chris:  The price mechanism does not know anything; people know things.
Prices are the result of social interaction.  They communicate different
things to different people who have different arsenals of experience and
knowledge to which prices are applied, and by which decisions are made.
Central planning eliminates a social mechanism by which this
decision-making process ensues.


Charles:In actual history, prices have been the result of a social interaction termed
the market or commodity exchange.

What are the different things the prices communicate to different people ? Why does
central planning have to eliminate this communication between people ? as to who needs
and wants what and therefore how much we should make etc. ?

But the central planning has another social mechanism for decison-making. In fact, it
is more social than the actually and historically exiting price mechanisms, which rely
on private appropriation while production is social.  The social appropriation with
social production removes critical contradictions from the decisonmaking by private

That is with the actually existing price mechanisms the decisonmaking is concentrated
privately, not socially,contra your utopiam price mechanism scenariio above. In other
words, we want to destroy the price mechanism decision making. What the evidence of
history shows us is that the things decision makers, people , know under the price
mechanism is not a knowledge of the whole ,but of the part, the private.  Actually, it
is under the price system that people cannot know the whole, but only the part, not
under a socialist planning.

I can see accounting, cost accounting. You have to count, and keep track of things.

 And if history does not prove that
attempts to destroy the price mechanism have resulted in calculational
chaos, shortages, and economic stagnation -- I guess I've been reading the
wrong history books!  :)

My reading of history (_Capital_. etc)  is that it is exactly the price
mechanism/market that causes chaos, shortages, wars and economic stagnation - for the
working class and masses. That's why we want to try something new.

Are you saying the price mechanism is independent of private property ? If so, you
have not said how. Price mechanism has been identical with the market in history.

On this point , Rand, Hyek et al seem quite irreconcilable with Marx, and this is
central point.

>From the market to the Marx-it !

Charles Brown

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