[OPE-L:2835] RE: 2829] Re: relabeling commodities, value, and socialism

From: Michael Williams (mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Apr 13 2000 - 05:42:53 EDT

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A key point in this debate about the domain of Commodity is whether the
'generalisation' of objects produced with a view to sale leaves those
objects essentially unchanged (in which case Commodity can usefully
categorise such objects both before and after generalisation) or not (in
which case we need separate concepts).

Since there seems to be some common ground that capitalism is (at least)
generalised commodity production, and, perhaps somewhat less but still some
common ground that Capitalism is a (dynamic) system (the conditions of
reproduction of which are of scientific interest), it seems not too great a
further step to suggest that the key categories of that system gain their
meaning, at least in important part, from their interconnections within it.
In which case Commodity under capitalism is a categorically different thing
than 'object produced for exchange' in earlier epochs. (Whether or not these
epochs are themselves systemic to the same degree as developed capitalism is
a moot point; but they are certainly something other than a Capitalist

More intuitively, it seems meaningful to say that the value of BMW 5 series
is some 70K times the value of a packet of peanuts, only because they are
both commodities entering into a generalised (capitalist) commodity
producing system (with all that entails). To my mind, it does not seem
meaningful to say that an ancient Egyptian pyramid was worth 1,000M pairs of
sandals (I'm making some of this up) made in an Egyptian village,
notwithstanding the tallying and accounting by the Pyramid builders, or the
fact that the sandals may have been sold to passing traders. The reason is
that in the latter case these objects do not enter anything approximating to
a universal system of commensuration, in the way that cars and snack food do

Dr Michael Williams
Economics and Social Sciences
De Montfort University
Milton Keynes

tel: +1908 834876
[Home: +1703 768641]
fax: 0870 133 1147

mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk <mailto:mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk>
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