Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

REQUEST FOR CLARIFICATION

Derek posts this comment:  "Hope you're enjoying the trip!  Perhaps you could say something on the suggestion that Marx employs the LTV ironically (http://slackwire.blogspot.ca/2014/09/piketty-and-money-view-reply-to-mrmister.html). Seems implausible to me, but I'll also confess that I'd never even entertained its possibility until just now, so maybe it will grow on me. Since you've written interesting things on irony and the LTV in Marx, maybe you'd indulge us (me) in taking this up?"

I am always happy to oblige, but I am a trifle puzzled.  Does Derek want me to talk about the question whether the Labor Theory of Value is employed by Marx ironically, something which he notes I have already written about?  Or does he want  me to respond to whatever is at the site for which he offers a URL?  I copied the link and pasted it into my command line, but up popped an error message.  As for the subject itself, I have indeed written an entire small book about it.  Does Derek want me to summarize what I said there?

A little clarity, please.

3 comments:

Jim Westrich said...

The link was to Josh Mason's blog-The Slack Wire (slackwire.blogspot.com). He is a UMass Econ product so you may know him. He seems familiar with your work (he is a smart and well-read guy).

wallyverr said...

The link provided works for me.

Try hardcoding an amendment to the link, making it ...blogspot.com... rather than ...blogspot.ca...

Blogspot seems to replace country suffixes with wherever you are internauting from.

My comment doesn't deal with the ambiguity RPW asks about. But the Mason post is worth reading in any event, probably best combined with his preceding post
http://slackwire.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/piketty-and-money-view.html

(The .co.uk shows where I'm browsing from, replace with .com as necessary )

Derek said...

Sorry! I see now how my comment was unclear. Hopefully this one will fare a little better, though I can make no guarantee.

Caveat: I'll confess it's been a while since I've read your little book, and I'm not recalling as much as I'd like (and I may be mistaken about what I recall).

I understood your book to be an attempt to answer the question: Why does Marx write in the way that he does? That is, why does his economic analysis in Capital drip with fantastic language, when we know that he was quite capable of writing in the style of sober (British?) political economy?

Your answer (again, please forgive the inevitable butcherings) is that Marx's fantastical language reflects the fantastical nature of the reality he analyzes and is better equipped to penetrate to the essence of this reality than the ordinary language of political economy.

So take the case of value as embodied abstract socially necessary labor. As Marx is fully aware, the idea that a commodity is just stored up abstract labor is bizarre idea. But labor *in reality* does increasingly take on an abstract quality in industrial capitalism and to survive workers must treat their labor in this way.

Returning to the link I posted, the relevant quote is:

"Now I agree that Marx does clearly say this [capital can be understood as embodied labor], but I think this can be seen as a concession he is making to the orthodoxy of the day for the sake of the argument... In effect, he is saying to Ricardo: OK, let's accept your way of thinking about capital, the system based on it is still conflictual, exploitative and in contradiction with its own conditions of existence... Marx adopts the labor theory of value ironically."

I take the author to be saying that Marx held that capitalism is conflictual, exploitative and so on for reasons that do not involve the LTV. His appeal to the LTV was *merely* for the sake of argument. *Even if* we adopt the categories of political economy, he says to the political economists, the result will be the same: we will find that capitalism is conflictual, exploitative and so on.

It is one thing to say that the LTV is superfluous to Marx's core insights, even if Marx himself was not aware of it. It is another thing to say that Marx did not endorse or believe in the truth of some version of the LTV, and I read the author to be implying the latter. This, I find deeply implausible. And if I understand your reading of Marx (and irony) correctly, you also do not think he employed the LTV ironically in the sense that he was granting a premise --one that he did not actually accept-- simply for the sake of argument.

I guess I'm not really sure what my question is. Perhaps you could say something about the only-for-the-sake-of-argument reading of the LTV and the ways in which it accords with and diverges from your own views?