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Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 22:42:13 +0000
From: Chris Burford <cburford@GN.APC.ORG>
Subject: Re: class as process
In-Reply-To: <200101061623.LAA01752@hartford-hwp.com>
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Class as process (Burford's second comment)

By Chris Burford, 7 Jan 2001

This is very broad ranging stuff.

One problem is that to take things further would need careful historical analysis of the appearance and development of certain ideas. I do not myself know how old the concept of "emergent properties" is, but I take it to be modern.

I was surprised you attributed the origin of the labour theory of value to the Middle Ages. Marx conscientiously details his historical references in Kapital. He is delighted to quote as the 9th footnote in Chapter 1 an anonymous work which he concluded was written about 1739 or 1740:

'The value of them (the necessaries of life), when they are exchanged the one for another, is regulated by the quantity of labour necessarily required, and commonly taken in producing them.'

I do not think from a marxist point of view it would be correct to refer to

>the Medieval labor theory of value, which is
>that humans are a chip off the old block - are quasi-divine, obtaining
>from god a creative capacity. Labor in the Medieval view of things
>means adding use value (beauty, utility, quality) to a product over
>and above its input costs

Do you have references for this connection?

The proposition however in your original post appears to me to be uncontroversial:

>The proposition:
>It is simple enough: What distinguishes a Marxist (in the sense of a
>distinctively modern working-class view) notion of "class" is that it
>represents a "process" rather than a bundle of empirical traits.

The last three paragraphs of volume 3 of Kapital essentially demonstrate how it is misleading to use superficial empirical features to define classes. My understanding of the marxist argument is that classes are defined by their relationship to the means of production and the processes of production. In that sense class is a process.

Can I suggest a different thread title if you could pursue the laws of thermodynamics? A book I appreciated as sound, materialist, but also progressive, which deals with this, is "The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature" by Ilya Prigogine, Free Press, New York 1997.

Chris Burford