[OPE-L:2915] Re: re:starting points

From: Andrew Brown (A.N.Brown@uel.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Apr 27 2000 - 07:28:50 EDT

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Hi Fred,

I'm very glad you we agree!

Annotated response below.

Date sent: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 09:35:58 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Fred B. Moseley" <fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu>
To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
Subject: [OPE-L:2907] Re: Re: Re: Re: re:starting points
Send reply to: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu

> Andy, I think we now pretty much agree on Banaji's interpretation of
> Marx's "double starting-point." I think I agree with everything with you
> say in your latest (below). But there is one point that I do not
> understand. In your sequence of categories, you have:
> commodity
> use-value
> exchange-value
> value (congealed abstract socially necessary labor-time)
> COMMODITY-FORM [emphasis added]
> money-form
> capital-form
> I do not understand what you mean by "commodity-form" in this sequence and
> how this "commodity-form" differs from the "commodity" with which the
> sequence begins. Would you please explain further?

By 'commodity-form' I mean the commodity now grasped as, and
positing itself as, a value. This is indeed the same 'commodity' with
which the sequence of categories starts. But to start with I had not
grasped the significance of the commodity. As it immediately appears
the commodity is simply something which has use-value and exchange
value. Exchange value is not yet grasped as a form of value. Rather, it
appears simply to be a quantitative relation between things. Looking
at the matter more closely it turns out that exchange value is a form of
value and that value is objectified abstract social labour. Armed with
this information I am able to return to the commodity to comprehend
the social significance of the exchange relation; viz. that it is the way in
which one commodity is able to express (give an appearance form to)
its value; it reflects its value into the equivalent commodity. The value
of one commodity gains appearance form in the use-value of another.
This, then, is the 'commodity-form'. The most elementary form of

> You also say that the "commodity-form" is the "concrete historical
> synonym" of value. What does "concrete historical synonym" mean?
> Why is the "concrete historical synonym" of value the "commodity-form" and
> not the "money-form"?

Well, yes, this is more tricky. I know Banaji says it but what on earth
does he mean?! I guess he means that the synthetic point of departure,
value, is not itself complete until we have shown how value gains an
appearance form (gains 'reality'); this it does in the commodity-form.
Now, I can can grasp that 'value' *needs* a form (this is Hegelian
essence logic I believe), without yet establishing what the form is.
When I do establish what the form is then I have the actual historical
manifestation, or counterpart, or synonym, for my abstract concept of
value. (regarding the money-form; at this stage, money *is* a
commodity. The money-form is a more concrete and complex
development of the commodity-form - it is just that it is not the
simplest expression of value, which is the 'simple commodity-form'.
Granted, this simple expression is 'inadequate').

I am afraid this latter paragraph may be complete rubbish; I look
forward very much to any corrections. Regarding the former
paragraph, then Marx's move to value and then to abstract socially
necessary labour immediately strikes any reader as something like an
assumption, at best (eg. Rakesh's last post). Or more
straightforwardly it looks like an illegitimate deduction. Yet, this is not
so if one recognises that (1) identical powers must stem from identical
substances [one day I hope to get the time to reply to Michael
Williams' long and illuminating post on value, posted some time back.
To answer one question you posed, Michael: the identical power
shared by commodities is 'exchangeability']; (2) Marx has already
established a great deal of transhistorical knowledge which is
presupposed in Capital and is commonly known as the materialist
conception of history. Given these presuppostions it is indeed entirely
obvious and straightforward that the substance of value is labour (but,
of course, it must be labour of a very peculiar sort).

Thanks very much - I hope this isn't all just total gobbledegook.


> Looking forward to further discussion,
> Fred
> On Tue, 25 Apr 2000, Andrew Brown wrote:
> > Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 14:42:16 GMT0BST
> > From: Andrew Brown <A.N.Brown@uel.ac.uk>
> > Reply-To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> > To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> > Subject: [OPE-L:2899] Re: Re: Re: re:starting points
> >
> > I read Banaji's article to death some years back. Great to see the
> > interest in him now.
> >
> > Having looked at the article again, some suggestions:
> >
> > First, Fred is right that Banaji stresses two points of departure, not
> > three (as I had orginally and mistakenly suggested). Nicky is right,
> > also, to stress the beginning as a *movement* between the two. The
> > two points of departure are (1) the 'commodity' (as 'Schein' or
> > immediate so illusory being) and (2) 'value' (NOT 'value-form')
> > whose concrete historical synonym is the 'commodity-form'.
> >
> > However, I don't think I was all that far off the mark in suggesting
> > three starting points. This is because value is only the 'abstract
> > essence' of Marx's investigation; in its 'concrete essence' value posits
> > itself as capital (M-C-M'). This latter is the most abstract definition of
> > capital, one which Marx goes on to develop more and more
> > concretely. Thus the 'double structure' of the beginning is indeed a
> > movement from Being to Essence; a movement between two points of
> > departure; but it is vital to note that value [the second point of
> > departure] is only the 'abstract essence' of Marx's investigation;
> > capital being the 'concrete essence'. [I should add that Banaji himself
> > does not say absolutely explicitly that capital is the 'concrete essence'].
> >
> > Alfredo, the notion of 'two points of departure' is fairly clear from the
> > first few pages of Volume one, chapter one: Marx starts with the
> > 'commodity' as the immediate appearance of bourgeois wealth; he
> > then analyses it (the commodity as analytic point of departure) first
> > into use value and exchange value, next (looking at the matter more
> > closely) reaching the concept 'value', of which exchange value is the
> > form. Marx returns to the commodity, but now he grasps the
> > commodity as a form of value. Value, or the commodity*-form*, is
> > then the synthetic point of departure from which Marx derives the
> > money-form and then the capital-form.
> >
> > The sequence of categories entailed is: commodity, use-value,
> > exchange value, value [here we get congealed abstract socially
> > necessary labour], commodity-form, money-form, capital-form. In
> > general, I don't think that the various presentations of systematic
> > dialectics follow the above sequence (eg. I interpret Tony Smith,
> > 1990, as starting from the 'synthetic' point of departure - value - so
> > missing out the first three categories of the above sequence; Chris
> > Arthur rejects the introduction of labour so early in the presentation.
> > Apologies if I have mis-interpreted).
> >
> > For myself, looking back at Banaji, I am a little bit apprehensive that
> > he cites Itoh's criticisms of Marx (regarding the illegitimate discussion
> > of value prior to the discussion of money). This would then have,
> > perhaps, some resonance with the 'value-form' criticisms of Marx
> > (with which I disagree). I don't think that Banaji refers to 'congealed'
> > abstract labour quite as I would. But he does refer to the abstract
> > reified form of labour so, to the extent that I can grasp it at all (few,
> > it's tough going!), I pretty much agree with Banaji's interpretation.
> >
> > Many thanks,
> >
> > Andy
> >
> >

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