File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0312, message 105

Date: Thu, 11 Dec 2003 00:56:09 +1100
Subject: Re[2]: BHA: Structures are not things that are true or false, even if Hegelian Marxists say so

Dear Mervyn,

on Wednesday, 10 December 2003, you wrote:

> A mirage really does have the appearance of water quite independently of
> the cognitive mistake of the particular observer--i.e. in our world-line
> would have that appearance, given the laws of optics etc, to any
> observer of the relevant kind. Even when you know that it's 'only a
> mirage' it persists, so the effect is not reducible to your mistake.

But seeing a mirage as a mirage is not a "cognitive mistake" - seeing it as water is. The mirage is real/true, the appearance of water is false.

> Similarly, the wage-form really does appear to be a free and equal
> exchange when in fact it's nothing of the kind, and it's not reducible
> to the false consciousness -- the cognitive mistakes -- to which it
> necessarily tends to give rise.

Similar errors there, Mervyn. The wage form *is* a free and equal exchange: the worker receives the equivalent value of his/her labour *power*, and has the *formal* right to accept or refuse the contract. The mystifications arise out of the confusion of labour power with actual labour (or to put it differently, the use value and exchange value of labour), which leads to the false consciousness (yes indeed) that disguises the extraction of surplus value and the fact of exploitation. The same applies to the suggestion that the worker can refuse the contract: he/she can, some indeed do (Californian hippie communes, drop outs of all descriptions) but most cannnot: the compulsion, however, lies not in the terms of the contract but in the separation of producers from the means of production.

> When a little fish gets gobbled up by a seaweed that turns out to be a
> camouflaged big fish, is it really just the mistake of the little fish
> that produces the result? A dialectical view suggests otherwise...

I'd say it's a deadly illustration of the difference between the transitive (seaweed) and intransitive (big fish) objects of knowledge... Quite apart from showing that empiricism does not work because the little fish is dead before it can establish a constant conjunction of events :-)

> Social forms can be false, especially because analytical Marxists deny
> it (not you, I know.)  -:)

I'm not an analytical Marxist - whatever that is, apparently some hybrid of rational choice theory and historical materialism I'm told - but I don't see how social forms can be "false". You'll have to come up with better examples than the above...

(See you in London soon, I hope).


GŁnter Minnerup
School of History
University of New South Wales
Sydney NSW 2052
Tel. (+61 2) 9385 3668 (work)
Tel. (+61 2) 9398 3646 (home)

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