Monday, February 25, 2008

Symbiotic readings of Marx and Hegel integrating kernel and shell

[Just as Marx’s “science” is not an instrumental or positivist exercise, but an exercise in reconstructing a network of relationally-determined concepts, his notion of “determination” is intended to situate his categories within the network of relationships within which they acquire their present-day meaning: the concept of “determination” operative in his work is not a causal concept in an applied social science sense of the term...Essence and appearance are intrinsically related, for Hegel: they are mutually interpenetrating, mutually generative, sharing the same substance, but also distinct from one another. Marx takes this sort of argument over into Capital, with value presented as a kind of “social essence” generated in and through the flux and apparent lawlessness of the appearance of exchange (the argument is a bit more complex than this, as exchange isn’t the only site of “flux” - I’ll leave this point aside for now). In Marx’s argument, this social “essence” does not exist as some separate substance that sits outside exchange, determining the movement of “appearances” in the form of prices. Instead, value is something that emerges in and through that flux - a pattern or regularity that the flux itself generates, in and through its apparent random walk. Within this framework, it doesn’t make sense to talk about “value” as if it exerts a casual force on exchange as the dependent variable. Value is rather itself an “effect”, a “result”, intrinsically bound together with the flux through which it becomes manifest as a non-random pattern emergent over time. This pattern “determines” the flux, not in a casual sense, but as a description of the qualitative attributes of one of the aspects of, in this case, an overarching process in which both the “law” of value and the “flux” of exchange are moments.... I like the way that Elson emphasises how Marx’s method makes it possible to transform our understanding of categories...Elson uses this point to argue that world cannot be appropriated fully in thought; she suggests, however, that it could perhaps be fully appropriated in practice (143) - a position I’m not sure Marx would share, as practice also has its situatedness, its form: I’m not sure that appropriation of the world can be “completed”, whether in thought or in practice… She then moves to a criticism specifically of capital logic approaches for confusing capital - which she takes to be a category of analysis - with an entity, existent in the world in some form. -- Reflections on Elson’s “Value Theory of Labour”, part 1 from by N Pepperell]

Such symbiotic readings of Marx and Hegel, hopefully, would generate more fruitful (integrating kernel and shell) ontological consequences than the jejune sociological (standing on its head) discourse permits. [TNM]

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