magnum = magnum = magnum.
commodities, that is. which is what i’m interested in, in Biz’s post. to what extent does “Hot Karl” leave any room for the “qualitative” in his analysis of capital? presumably, at some point, class is going to become the code for that. but, for the time being, i tend to agree with you Biz, though not to the extent that this is a problem with “Hot Karl’s” response to capital (of course), but rather of his analysis of it, which is (accding to him, both original and comprehensive as a biznatch).
so here are the places that i was thinking that Hot Karl may be leaving room for the qualitative/mystical. hopefully, that is to say, i’ll learn more about this shit as this thing slogs along.
(1) the sort of necessary limits in trying to describe a thing as it exists as either a use-value or exchange value. i can’t be bothered to look to see if H.K. ever says this is a necessarily limited view or not, so i’ll just assume he does, or thought it.
(2) i thought there was something in the way that commodities had to be qualitatively different in order to create quantitative difference that might address Biz’s concerns, though it’s a little abstract for me to totally get at. basically, the sense that qualitative difference has to exist and that that difference gets instantly retranslated (always insuffiently) by capital as positive or negative (relative) value. He’s talking about this circa 133 and then again on 143 when he gets floridly Satrean (a thing is only a thing as such insofar as it recognizes its identity or difference from that which it confronts). Linen, you do not look like coat. Coat, you see, you are made of, but distinctly different from linen. Etc. Don’t you think that this is just the kind of thing he’s going to make a lot of hay out of later?
(3) The extent to which a commodity is able to realize a “thing’s” senuousness or socialness (163, 165). I was sort of intrigued when this became a discussion of hieroglyphics (167). Is is possible, Biz, that he’s trying to acknowledge something of what you’re saying by talking about how a capitalist always insufficiently reads the value (use or exchange) of a thing-qua-commodity? I don’t know. Nor do I have a clear sense of whether/how this has to do with its sensuousness or socialness.
The Aristotealian Dilemma of Marx’s Quantitative Analysis of Value or The Fallacy of Pure Quantification of Semi-Qualitative Indices
There exist two distinctive sets of complex theoretical models that people tend to spend a whole bunch of their time analyzing. The first of these are the models that are truly quantitative. This would include calculations and modeling in the realm of physics, astronomy, geology and the like. These fields of study and analysis attract researchers and thinkers of a certain type because at their root there appears to exist consistent mathematical rules and laws that govern their worlds. Distances between planets, the molecular weight of Lande’s nether regions and the thickness of the Earth’s crust are all subject to definite, quantifiable calculations.
The second of these sets of inquiries often masquerades as a purely quantitative exercise, however, when incorporating social variables and those mystical qualities that raise humans above the level of Jimmy’s mom and into sentient, semi-rational beings with the capacity to implement destruction on a landscape level it is impossible to ignore the sloppy, incoherent qualitative variables that tend to drive the semi through the rational. It is here that Marx finds himself in a quandary as he lays the foundation for his theory of value and attempts to drive the semi-that-is Capital through the rational wall that is Aristotle.
Through careful maneuvering Mr. Marx does create the illusion that his vehicle punctured that wall. Devoting a scant few sentences to dismiss the qualitative notion that beds and homes possess some inherent distinction between them and that they cannot be thought to exist in a perfect commodity market together, Marx preys on the minds of the uneducated, the bleary-eyed, and anyone else who may not be inclined to wrap their sweaty paws around such an obvious attempt to dodge an undeniable lump in the footings of his logical premises. Yet, Marx’s inability to address Aristotle’s premise that an object can be both a commodity yet not be completely fungible and transferable with perfect liquidity is more akin to a piece of fancy driving that swings the semi of Capital around the wall of rationality and on to the vulnerable backside. Hot Karl manages to simply dismiss Aristotle as if he were a Philosophy – Classical Studies double major at St. Olaf and plow forward.
Is the flaw in Marx’s thinking here so significant that it undermines the credibility of the remainder of his arguments? I posit that it is not, while at the same time proposing that Marx’s refusal to engage in any qualitative analysis alongside his quantitative breakdown of commodification serves as an entry point to explain the source of the challenges faced by Marxist communities who have made efforts to structure their human and inherently unquantifiable communities and relations on the theoretical premises laid out in Capital. People represent inherently emotional, irrational and downright mystical beings, with the capacity to also think and act rationally under the correct circumstances. No human being alive can truthfully claim to have thought and acted rationally at all times in their lives.**
However, all but the most pathetic Oles or most upstanding citizens of certain regions of the country can claim to have pieced together at least a single, rational thought over the course of their lifetime. Simply that first cry released from a child escaping from the womb, or from the lusty grab of Mrs. Blair, is in itself a rational act predicated on the expulsion of noise to draw attention to the imminent need for satisfaction of the child’s basic requirements – oxygen, milk and coffee – perhaps in close proximity but never mixed together.
The challenge therefore is that these emotional and irrational beings that make up our population, past and present, including Marx, have ingested the myth of rational thinking hook, line and goddamn sinker. So Marx presents us with a cool, calculated and eminently rational and quantifiable determination of the essence of value, which we are irrationally able to convince ourselves can serve as a model for irrational social structures and relationships. The inability to translate the rational theory of Marx into the irrational world of the human being is certainly traceable back, in part, to Marx’s unwillingness to address qualitative variables, such as to consider that there is in fact a difference between a house and 5 beds, regardless of what the mathematical modeling might tell you about that relationship. The resultant inability of Marxist communities to resolve, rationally, to step away from pure quantitative models for social designs and allow for some unquantifiable interference of emotion and qualitative modifications to allow for humanness to blossom alongside a semi-rational distribution of value, exchange of commodities on a socially equitable scale and such highlights the failures of strict quantitative reasoning and analysis when applied to human dynamics. The same shortcomings have always and will always doom fiscal conservatives to lives either of hypocrisy, failure, or both.
Marx’s commitment to the quantitative and swerve around the rational wall of Aristotle should be viewed not so much as a flaw in Marx’s thinking, however, but rather as a product of his time. If Karl lived on my block today, I suspect that I would refer to him as, “that fucking kook,” in an entirely flattering and non-pejorative manner. I suspect that he would meet the same fate just about anywhere in the world, at any point in world history. Not because of his ideas per se, but because anyone willing to spend the time and effort to so painstakingly address the source of value and commodification is not capable of existing in human society without being considered a fucking kook. I think that this can be considered a given. Fucking kooks with a desire of having their work read, appreciated and taken seriously, particularly to the point of hoping to influence or at least accurately predict the structure of global society, are inherently tied more closely to the conventions and methodology employed by establishment thinkers in order to in essence, compare apples to applies, or at least apples to pears. At the time of Marx’s writing, of course, to delve too vigorously into the qualitative and away from the scientific, rational, quantitative methodologies that were equated with truth, reason and the financial stability (nee exploitation) of the global economy would have been more akin to comparing apples to Slim Jims. One is fruity while the other just hadn’t been accepted as a worthwhile foodstuff at the time.
The ideas and analysis that mostly depict and explain the foundations of the capital system would have likely faced even greater difficulty in finding acceptance and serious, rational readership had the ideas of Aristotle been more fully addressed and ultimately accepted rather than dismissed offhand. Thus it is reasonable to conclude that Marx likely made a rational choice to seek acceptance and hope to have put enough readers asleep prior to his confrontation with the wall of Aristotle to avoid controversy rather than to court disaster by straying outside the accepted bounds and norms of rational, quantitative thinking and analysis. Now that we’ve reached the conclusion of the Mayan calendar and there’s enough qualitative wasting of time and energy over such activities as facepaging and twattering to allow society to ship Lande’s nether regions to the non-planet Pluto if that became the next reality show – Project Ballstar – it seems as though there is space for a concerted effort to interpret and translate Mr. Marx’s qualitative omissions such as his snub of Aristotle to provide the quantitative blueprint for a quasi-qualitative – quantitative lovechild of Marxian society to actually produce the requisite balance of equality to emotional irrationality to survive on a long-term scale. Or to be more blunt, I guess I’m suggesting a class field trip to Cuba.
I.E. Adolescence. Even if we were to presume nothing that occurred prior to legal majority counted in this equation, I would note that male humans do not achieve the capacity for reason until roughly the age of 30 or so, from what I hear. By extension, any female of any age who willingly copulates with one of those males is responsible for at least a single act of irrationality. That leaves, therefore, the population of women who have never and will never sleep with a man in his 20s to deal with. And I think it is fair to say that each of those women, regardless of their sexual orientation or experience, have most certainly acted irrationally at some point in time.
KARL MARX’S END-OF-YEAR DEPARTMENTAL ASSESSMENT 2012
May 25: Intro (11-86):…………………….. Phil
June 1: CH1 (125-177)…………………….. Biz
June 8: CH2/3 (178-246)……………………..Sherm
June 15: CH4-7 (247-306)…………………….. Hdln
June 22: CH8/9 (307-339)…………………….. Tom
June 29: CH10 (340-416)…………………….. Phil
July 6: CH11-13 (417-454)…………………….. Biz
July 13: CH14 (455-491)……………………..Sherm
July 20: CH15.1-15.4 (492-552)…………………….. Hdln
July 27: CH15.5-15.8 (553-609)……………………..Tom
August 3: CH15.9-15.10 (610-642)……………………..Phil
August 10: CH16-22 (643-710)……………………..Biz
August 17: CH23-24 (711-761)……………………..Sherm
August 24: CH25 (762-872)……………………..Hdln
August 31: CH26-32 (873-end)……………………..Tom
harvey’s intro (it gets better as it goes on)