[OPE-L:2648] Re: slaves and value

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Thu Mar 30 2000 - 11:41:22 EST

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On Thu, 30 Mar 2000, nicola taylor wrote:

> I agree with Jerry that value is a dimension that concerns the form of
> labour in capitalism. I can only add that the problem in this discussion
> lies in Marx's ambiguous definition of value. It is not clear in *Capital*
> that the production of *value* and *surplus value* are confined to
> capitalism (on the contrary, these appear as transhistorical categories;
> ch1); therefore it is not clear how these categories represent the
> capital-labour relation. Moreover, in his discussion of the capital-labour
> relation (ch 7) Marx does not even refer to abstract labour (the substance
> of value). On this issue, see Chris's Rivisti piece.
> At a different analytic level, the problem concerns Marx's definition of
> the commodity as a duality of *use-value* and *value*. If neither
> use-value or value are historical categories, then we are faced with the
> question of why Marx considered the commodity to be an appropriate starting
> point for his analysis of capitalism? In his riposte to Wagner he made a
> case for viewing the commodity as an historically specific category, but he
> does not seem to have developed this line of argument. Instead,
> contradictory propositions seem to pervade his work (Perhaps, as Steve K
> commented a while back, what Marx lacked was a good editor!).

Marx should have used a different word than "use-value", i.e., something
without the word "value" in it. When he gets to his 1881 "Marginal Notes
on Wagner" he has to correct the possible confusion:

     "Wagner does not distinguish between the *concrete character of each
kind of labor* and the *expenditure of labor power* common to all these
concrete types of labor." A couple of pages later, exchange-values
"represent something *common to them*, which 'is quite independent of
their use-values'.... Thus I do not say 'the common social substance of
exchange value' is 'labor'.... [Wagner] means by a general theory of value
the hair-splitting over the word 'value', which enables him to adhere to
the traditional German professorial confusion between 'use-value' and
'value', since both have the word 'value' in common."

And, some pages later:

     "I do not proceed from 'concepts', hence neither from the 'concept of
value', and am therefore in no way concerned to 'divide it.... I find that
on the one hand in its natural form it is a *thing for use*, alias a
*use-value*; on the other hand, a *bearer of exchange value*, and from
this point of view it is itself an 'exchange value'.... Thus I do not
divide *value* into use-value and exchange value as opposites into which
the abstraction 'value' splits up..." (Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol.
24, pp. 531, 533-34, 544-45)

I'd go a bit further and suggest that that confusing terminology in turn
came from a residual Hegelian element remaining in Part One of *Capital,
Volume 1*, which in its turn aided and abetted a supra-historical use of
"value". (Actually to be more precise, it is not 'supra-historical' but
supra-'mode of production' -- "value" is a category in theory relating to
the theory of the capitalist mode of production which of course refers to
a specific period of human history, not all human history).

Paul Z.

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