[Marxism] Quantum theory and materialism - reply to Domnhall

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Tue Apr 27 14:43:09 MDT 2004

Domnhall asked:

Les and Jurriaan, I am interested in what you have to say about the
Standard (i.e. Copenhagen) Interpretation of QM, particularly from a
materialist vantage point.

I do not really want to say anything on this topic. I do not believe I
studied it correctly, insofar as I have studied it (it is long ago now I
read about it, and that was in connection with the philosophy of science,
because Dugald Murdoch mentioned something about it, must have been 1979,
that intrigued me). I don't really like to give out any opinions about
physics except in very limited, special cases. I've talked about maths only
a little bit (when I worked for Statistics New Zealand 1991-1994, a bunch of
frauds conspired to wreck my life and so I did not get round to my area of
mathematical interest).

All I can tell you is that my own "impression" as humble layman is that
Einstein was just wrong on many topics. I've referred to the Heisenberg
principle only as an illustration in discussing the epistemological problems
raised by theory of economic value propounded by Karl Marx (with which
Einstein seems to have agreed in an Heilbroner sort of way). But that was
just a threefold theoretical point, namely:

(1) if it is argued that we cannot understand something unless we can
validly measure it, we would be committed to the idea that we simply cannot
understand the relationships of position, momentum, velocity, energy and
time, which is self-evidently absurd. This is a "scientific realist"
position which admits the existence of unobservable or unobserved entities
and admits causality, in contrast to a naive empiricist or stochastic

(2) an implication of Marx's law of value as applied to the capitalist
economy, if it is correctly formalised, states that it is impossible to
measure economic values and prices simultaneously (except in special cases),
and this has implications both for the correct solution of the
transformation problem and for price theory. Many people now think this is a
trivial scholastic issue, but in fact the operation of the law of value in
the capitalist economy has very important implications for e.g. the law of
entropy, and if they are not spelled out correctly, then entropy is
"naturalised" in false ways, i.e. the dynamics of capitalist development and
imperialism are mistaken for a "natural" process, and this leads to errors
of monstrous proportions, i.e. errors which cause and will cause very large
numbers of human fatalities.

(3) In the tradition of analytical Marxism propounded by Roemer, Elster and
Wright, and in the tradition of Piero Sraffa, value theory is not necessary
in economic science, because all explanations of economic relationships can
be expressed in price terms or in terms of utility. This causes disastrous
errors in economics, which I think should be repaired.

Actually, if Harvard University Press is publishing Dumenil & Levy's book (a
refreshing change from Negri/Hardt's "Empire"), then we're dealing with
another case of "Marxism as the last refuge of the bourgeoisie" and then we
should be talking about something else. I don't really want to explain to
the exploiting class how their own system works, I am primarily interested
in socialist political economy (but you have to correct theoretical mistakes
in order to understand how a viable socialist-type economy is possible). I
experienced very heavy harassment in my life by idiots and therefore I have
not been able to study and write things up.


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