Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

even

er's most vigilant attention. We have all read of secret doors in great cities, so exquisitely dissembled by art, that in what seemed a barren surface of dead wall, where the eye

forewarned could trace no vestige of a separation or of a line, simply by a simultaneous pressure upon two remote points, suddenly and silently an opening was exposed which revealed a long perspective of retiring columns, -architecture the most elaborate, where all had passed for one blank continuity of dead wall. Not less barren in promise, not less abrupt in its transition, this speculation at the very vestibule of political economy, at the point where most it had appeared to allow of no further advance or passage, suddenly opens and expands before an artifice of logic which almost impresses the feelings as a trick of legerdemain, - not by anything unsound in its own nature, but by the sudden kind of pantomime change which it effects. The demand is, that you shall subdivide exchange value into two separate modes. You are to do this without aid from any new idea that has arisen to vary the general idea ; you are to work with the two already contained in that general idea, — consequently with ideas that must be common to both the subdivisions, and yet you are to differentiate these subdivisions. Each is to be opposed to the other, each is to differ, and yet the elements assigned to you out of which this difference is to be created are absolutely the same. Who can face such conditions as these ?. - Given a total identity, and out of that you are to create a difference.

Let not the reader complain of the copious way in which the difficulty is exposed. After many hundreds of failures, — after endless efforts with endless miscarriages, it is no time for refusing his own terms to the leader of a final assault. So many defeats have naturally made us all angry. I am angry,— the reader is

angry; and that offer is entitled to consideration, even though it should seem needlessly embarrassed or circuitous, which terminates in the one object that can be worth talking about, — viz. in “ doing the trick,” — and carrying by a summary effort that obstacle which (whether observed or not observed) has so long thwarted the power of perfecting and integrating the theory of value. Once being convinced that it is a mere contradiction to solve the problem, the reader may be relied on for attending to anything offered as a solution by one who has almost demonstrated its impossibility.

Out of nothing, nothing is generated. This is pretty old ontology; and apparently our case at present is of that nature; for by no Laputan process of extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, does it appear how we can hope, out of two samenesses, to extract one difference; yet do it we must, or else farewell to the object before us. And, in order that we may do it, let us disembarrass our problem of all superfluous words; and, by way of sharpening the eye to the point of assault, let us narrow it to the smallest possible area.

What we have to do, is to consider whether (and now) it is feasible so to use a sameness as to make it do the office of a difference. With one single sameness this would peremptorily not be possible ; for we could vary

it no otherwise than by varying its degrees. Now, a difference in degrees is no substantial difference in logic; and the pretended subdivisions would melt and play into each other, so as to confound the attempt at sustaining any subdivisions at all. But, on the other hand, with two samenesses it is possible to move. A little reflection will show that there is a resource for making them alternately act as differences. In physics we see vast phenomena taking place all day long, which à priori might have been stated

D.

as paradoxes not less startling than that of extracting a difference out of a sameness. One gravity rises through another gravity. True; it is specifically lighter; but still it has a specific gravity: and thus we find as the result, with the usual astonishing simplicity of nature, that the same machinery serves for sinking objects and for raising them. By gravity they fall; by gravity they rise.

So also, again, that same ocean, which to nations populous and developed by civilization offers the main high-road of intercourse, was to the same nations, when feeble, the great wall of separation and protection. And again, in the case before us, monstrous as really is the paradox, yet it is true, that, by a dexterous management of two elements absolutely identical, all the effects and benefits may be obtained of two elements essentially different. Let us look more closely. The two elements are u and

If both elements are to be present, and both are to be operative, then indeed we have a contradiction in terms such as never will be overcome. But how if both be uniformly present, one only being at any time operative? How if both be indispensably present, but alternately each become inert? How if both act as motives on the buyer for buying at all, but one only (each in turn under its own circumstances) as a force operating on the price?

This is the real case : this is the true solution; and thus is a difference obtained, - such a difference as will amply sustain a twofold subdivision from elements substantially the same.

Both are co-present, and always. Neither can be absent; for, if so, then the common idea of exchange value would vanish, the case epsilon or the case Omicron would be realized. But each of the two is suspended alternately. Thus, by way of illustration, walk into almost any possible shop, buy the first article you see; what will determine its price? In ninety-nine cases

of a hundred, simply the element D,- difficulty of attainment. The other element, u, or intrinsic utility, will be perfectly inoperative. Let the thing (measured by its uses) be, for your purposes, worth ten guineas, so that you would rather give ten guineas than lose it; yet, if the difficulty of producing it be only worth one guinea, one guinea is the price which it will bear. But still not the less, though u is inoperative, can u be supposed absent? By no possibility ; for, if it had been absent, assuredly you would not have bought the article even at the lowest price: U acts upon you, though it does not act upon the price. On the other hand, in the hundredth case, we will suppose the circumstances reversed. You are on Lake Superior in a steamboat, making your way to an unsettled region 800 miles ahead of civilization, and consciously with no chance at all of purchasing any luxury whatsoever, little luxury or big luxury, for a space of ten years to come: one fellow-passenger, whom you will part with before sunset, has a powerful musical snuff-box; knowing by experience the power of such a toy over your own feelings, the magic with which at times it lulls your agitations of mind, you are vehemently desirous to purchase it. In the hour of leaving London you had forgot to do so: here is a final chance. But the owner, aware of

your situation not less than yourself, is determined to operate by a strain pushed to the very uttermost upon u, upon the intrinsic worth of the article in your individual estimate for your individual purposes. He will not hear of D as any controlling power or mitigating agency in the case: and finally, although at six guineas 8 apiece in London or Paris, you might have loaded a wagon with such boxes, you pay sixty rather than lose it when the last knell of the clock has sounded which summons you to buy now or to forfeit for ever. Here, as before, only one

element is operative: before it was D, now it is u. But, after all, D was not absent, though inoperative. The inertness of d allowed u to put forth its total effect. The practical compression of d being withdrawn, u springs up like water in a pump when released from the pressure of air. Yet still that D was present to your thoughts, though the price was otherwise regulated, is evident; both because U and D must coexist in order to found any case of exchange value whatever, and because undeniably you take into very particular consideration this D, the extreme difficulty of attainment, (which here is the greatest possible, viz. an impossibility,) before you consent to have the price racked up to u. The special d has vanished; but it is replaced in your thoughts by an unlimited D. Undoubtedly you have submitted to u in extremity as the regulating force of the price; but it was under the sense of d’s latent presence. Yet D is so far from exerting any positive force, that the retirement of d from all agency whatever on the price, — this it is which creates, as it were, a perfect vacuum, and through that vacuum u rushes up to its highest and ultimate graduation.

This is the foundation of any true solution applied to the difficulty of subdividing exchange value; and this statement of the case is open to a symbolical expression of its principle; which principle, let the reader not forget, is, — that, under an eternal co-presence of two forces equally indispensable to the possibility of any exchange value at all, one only of those forces (and each alternately, as the ultimate circumstances take effect) governs and becomes operative in the price. Both must concur to raise any motive for purchasing; but one separately it is which rules the price. Let not the reader quarrel beforehand with illustrations by geometrical symbols; the use which will be made of them is not of a kind

« VorigeDoorgaan »