[OPE-L:3132] RE: RE: Simple Commodity Production

From: Michael Williams (mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk)
Date: Thu May 11 2000 - 18:14:26 EDT

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> -----Original Message-----
> From: Duncan K. Foley [mailto:foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu]
> Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2000 3:30 AM
> To: mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk
> Subject: Re: [OPE-L:3092] RE: Simple Commodity Production
Duncan writes:
> I'm surprised that Michael takes this tack. Even if there's no
> labor market
> to equalize the returns to labor, doesn't the exchange of commodities
> against money shed the aura of abstract labor back on the labor?

>From the bit of my message that he cites, I guess the 'tack' we are talking
about is:

>>Under developed capitalism, widespread markets *(including for
labour-power and money capital)* >>do the trick. In the evolution to
capitalism, we can identify embryonic forms of such
>>mechanisms. In definitively pre-capitalist societies, what are the
analogues of the capitalist >>market system? [emphasis added]

I guess the first sentence may contain a bit of over-determination, but it
is the question at the end that was my focus. We are, I think, agreed that
there is a highly developed market system that grounds value formation under
capitalism. But what in definitively pre (or for that matter post)
capitalist societies does the same work?

Duncan continues:
> For my part, count me out of Fred's "growing consensus". I think Marx
> properly saw the commodity and money as historically prior to the full
> development of capitalist social relations of production.

And it seems to me that this statement begs all the tricky issues at stake

1. Of course fully-featured 'capitalism' did not leap onto the world stage
from nothing. Inter alia, embryonic forms of money and commodity developed
along with much else, including various forms of markets.

2. Further, we do not need the authority of Marx to accept the historical
commonplace that various forms of commodities and of money existed even
prior to capitalist pre-history. But my take is that none of these phenomena
constituted anything like a commodity *system* in which it is meaningful to
talk of such things as, for example 'abstract labour'.

3. If we then take the next step (that I know that many will not wish to
take) that postulates that adequate characterisation of social categories
involves locating them in their systemic interconnections, then capitalist
commodities and money will be taken as categorically different from
pre-capitalist commodities and money. More pragmatically a pre-capitalist
commodity, for example, may share with a capitalist commodity *some*
characterisitcs, for example that it is sold on a market. It may even appear
as if they are both *produced with a view* to being sold on a market, though
I would submit that 'produced with a view too' would have a significantly
different resonance in each case.

4. Back to the thread: My understanding of the first part of Capital is that
the theoretical object is not some notional or historical simple commodity
producing system, but indeed a capitalist system in which the question of
capital and labour markets have been temporarily bracketed to allow the
development of a conceptualisation of commodity, value and the beginnings of
a conceptualisation of money.


"What is matter? - Never mind. What is mind? - No matter."

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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