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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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

KNOCK ON WOOD

I have not read Wood on Marx, so I think I should stop knocking him, and stick to what I know about.  A propos, Matt writes this:

 “A deeper question, one I'd been meaning to ask, is how this stuff relates to the (pretty strong, I think) case made by people like Bowels and Gintis on the one hand, and John Roemer, on the other, that Marx's account of exploitation can't work on its own, because, from the technical presentation given, any factor in production can equally count as the "exploited" factor. I'm not an expert, but the presentation seems pretty good to me, in both Bowels and Gintis and Roemer. Roemer, at least, thinks this shows that we need a moral theory showing that the treatment of labor is substantively unjust, and that without this, Marx's view doesn't go anywhere. (At least, that's how I understand his account.) It seems like a pretty important issue to deal with, but one that takes us away from "standard" Marxism in some important ways.”

I was the one who told Bowles and Gintis about this.  I recall having lunch with Sam and Herb in 1979 or 1980 at Beardsley’s, a lovely restaurant in Northampton, MA now sadly defunct, and telling them what I had discovered.  When I proved the theorem in 1979, I was very excited.  It was the only thing I had ever actually proved, and I fully understood how important it was.  However, when I published the proof in my 1981 article, “A Critique and Reinterpretation of Marx’s Labor Theory of Value,” John Roemer wrote a comment pointing out that Josep Vegara had published a proof of the same proposition in his 1979 book Economía Política y Modeles Multisectoriales.  As I remarked during my Brown talk, being the second person in the world to prove a theorem is not nothing, but it does not hold a candle to being the first.


Since that proof is at the heart of my deepest interpretation of Marx’s theories, I will just refer here to my 25,000 word summary of my work, archived on box.net.

3 comments:

Chris said...

“A deeper question, one I'd been meaning to ask, is how this stuff relates to the (pretty strong, I think) case made by people like Bowels and Gintis on the one hand, and John Roemer, on the other, that Marx's account of exploitation can't work on its own, because, from the technical presentation given, any factor in production can equally count as the "exploited" factor. I'm not an expert, but the presentation seems pretty good to me, in both Bowels and Gintis and Roemer. Roemer, at least, thinks this shows that we need a moral theory showing that the treatment of labor is substantively unjust, and that without this, Marx's view doesn't go anywhere. (At least, that's how I understand his account.) It seems like a pretty important issue to deal with, but one that takes us away from "standard" Marxism in some important ways.”

All of these people are in Plato's cave, so to speak. The answer to your question is in Vol III, near the end, of Capital. I would elaborate, but I'm trying to publish on this very issue, and don't want to reveal my hand too early :/

Matt said...

That's good to know, Bob, and a funny story, from my perspective.

Chris said...

Also, let's remember that at the end of chapter 6, Marx is fairly explicit that he's conducting an immanent critique. He argues that the values we liberal capitalists hold dear (equality, liberty/freedom, bentham, and property) have their origin in certain relations of production. Okay, fine, but that doesn't mean that the values are necessarily bad ones. But once we delve into the sphere of production, we find that one cannot consistently support equality, liberty/freedom, bentham, property AND support capitalist relations of production. Our conceptions of what constitutes each of these values is contradicted by the way we live in a worker exploitative world. Marx, personally, does not have to take a MORAL or VALUE laden side. What Capital reveals is WE, the reader, the capitalists, the liberals, etc., have a contradiction on our hands. Our values, and our practices are mutually exclusive. So what option is left? We can either say screw it to those values and embrace capitalism, knowing good and well by our old standards we are exploiters, or we can embrace those values and say screw it to capitalism.