[Marxism] Heinrich

Charlie charles1848 at sbcglobal.net
Mon Feb 18 13:09:13 MST 2013

Paul Cockshott wrote: "If you reject the independent measurability of 
labour inputs then you reject any possibility of putting the labour 
theory of value to the test. It is impossible to prove that value rather 
than energy for example is the source of value."

No, a theory can be tested by comparing developments it logically leads 
to with what actually happens - all while a basic entity of the theory 
is not directly measurable, not observable.  For example, statistical 
mechanics in the nineteenth century theorized tiny particles and their 
motion without being able to observe or measure them individually. The 
theory derived verifiable macro-quantities of gases, extending Boyle's law.

Similarly, the labor theory of value leads to explanations of crises and 
other macro-economic developments that accord with actual history - 
without measuring the _abstract_ labor in commodities.

Of course you can look at actual hours of labor input, examine the fate 
of firms using one technology and another, bring in other conditions 
like firms' access to credit and distribution channels - and perhaps 
offer an explanation of individual prices. This would be analogous to 
the progress of physics, now able to make microscopic measurements of 
individual molecules that had previously been a concept within a theory. 
One difference is that social measurements at individual firm level are 
hidden by the secrecy of the firm. No one says that Farjoun and Machover 
should not examine data.

Physics has driven its investigations to smaller and smaller distances. 
(It has probed trans-galactic distances, too, but with fewer and less 
solid results.) That has been very fruitful in practical inventions. In 
contrast, the practical task of historical materialism is deeper 
understanding of the broad sweep of national and international history 
today, such as explaining the historic decline since 1973 of workers' 
real earnings in the U.S. (See No Rich, No Poor.)

The above statement by Cockshott is closer to the positivism of Karl 
Popper than to historical materialism.

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