[OPE-L:2811] Re: relabeling comodities and money

From: clyder (wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 10:57:28 EDT

[ show plain text ]

Fred wrote:
> Paul replied in [OPE-L:2809]:
> > I do not regard commodities from a trans-historical perspective, if by
> > that you mean that I think all modes of production depend on commodity
> > production.
> No, that's not what I meant. What I meant, rather, is that your
> definitions of commodity and value are not specific to the capitalist
> mode of production. Thus, from your perspective (I gather), if a product
> was produced in order to be sold and has a use-value and an
> exchange-value, it therefore has value. I insist, rather, that for a
> product to have value, and therefore be counted as being a commodity in
> the fullest and most meaningful sense of the term, there must exist a
> class relation between wage-labour and capital. I.e. value is not merely
> production of products with the intention of sale but expressive of a
> particular social and class relationship specific to capitalism.
> > However, I suspect that
> > your conception of the historical range of commodity production is
> > narrower than mine.
> Correct. That is because we are defining this term differently.
> > I understand commodity production to have occurred in a number
> > of pre-capitalist modes of production including slavery and feudalism.
> I know you do. And *if* we are referring to products that are produced
> with the intention of being sold, then I agree with you. Our difference in
> interpretation, in other words, isn't over what happened historically in
> pre-capitalist modes of production but is rather centered on how we
> *define* commodities and value.
> Would it also be correct to say that you believe that commodity production
> is possible under socialism?

Yes commodity production did occur under socialism, this is a fact.

Why this occured is an interesting question. The classic answer given by
Stalin was that it was due to the co-existence of different forms of social
property - state property and collective farm property. Since a large part
of the social product came from collective farms which were not fully
owned, the consumption goods had to assume the form of a commodity.

I think that whilst this has some truth in it, it does not fully explain the
of the commodity form and the money form in those socialist economies where
state farms had replaced collective farms.

Bettleheim was onto the key to it when he looked at 'forms of calculation
forms of property', though I dont think that he came up with fully

I would say that commodity production necessarily occurs when there exists
a set of economic agents - whether individuals or abstract juridical
that can only reproduce themselves by the purchase of commodities - Sraffas
condition if you like.

I would say that commodity production persists as a relict, as in relict
when despite the change in juridical property relations, no alternative
method of
economic calculation has been instantiated to replace the commodity/money

> > We have good historical evidence for this, not least in the form of
> > surviving currencies, price lists and records of trade. It is counter
> > factual to deny this.
> I don't deny this. I am saying, rather, that terms such as commodity and
> value should not be used to describe this process -- unless we wish to
> use those terms in a looser and popular metaphorical way (like calling
> slaves proletarians).

You may chose to use words in an idiosyncratic way, but this use of words
is quite contrary to what has been the standard use by historians including
Marxist historians, and also contrary to the use made by Marxists writing
about whether commodity production exists under socialism.

Such political correctness in the use of words does not get one over the
real problems of political economy, one of which is to explain the concrete
historical circumstances in which commodity production as commonly
understood exists. You may label all non capitalist commodity production
as false commodity production, and all non capitalist money as fake money,
but you still have to explain when fake commodities and fake money are

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Apr 30 2000 - 19:59:43 EDT