[OPE-L:3162] FW: RE: RE: Simple Commodity Production

From: Michael Williams (mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 12 2000 - 18:10:52 EDT

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-----Original Message-----
From: Duncan K. Foley [mailto:foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu]
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 10:56 PM
To: mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:3132] RE: RE: Simple Commodity Production

Some comments on MIchael's response to my remarks on the commodity:

>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
>constituted anything like a commodity *system* in which it is meaningful to
>talk of such things as, for example 'abstract labour'.

There's no question of the ancient world being a "commodity mode of
production", since the commodity form, although well-developed, was not the
main form of organization of social production, nor the chief mechanism of
exploitation. But that didn't seem to stop the emergence of a commodity
"system" with money, exchange value, prices, and so forth, exactly the
categories Marx talks about in the first part of Capital.

>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
>as if they are both *produced with a view* to being sold on a market,
>I would submit that 'produced with a view too' would have a significantly
>different resonance in each case.

I don't think there's any question that the ancient commodity producers
produced "with a view to selling on the market". You can find Athenian pots
and coins all over the Mediterranean and Europe, for example.

>4. Back to the thread: My understanding of the first part of Capital is
>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
>a conceptualisation of money.

It seems to me that Marx realized that money and the commodity were the
medium in which capitalism could develop, so that he could not analyze
capitalism without first establishing these categories. They pre-exist
capitalist categories both historically and logically.

Duncan K. Foley
Leo Model Professor
Department of Economics
Graduate Faculty
New School University
65 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
messages: (212)-229-5717
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e-mail: foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu
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webpage: http://cepa.newschool.edu/~foleyd

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