In my previous post, I reprised Marx's argument that the properties of the gold commodity as money cannot be explained, to use Aristotelian terms, by the material substance (causa materialis) of gold but rather by its form (causa formalis) as the universal equivalent in the exchange relation. It would indeed be as misleading to explain certain attributes of gold in terms of its material substance as it would be to account for the most striking properties of an exquisite statue in terms of its metallic content, rather than its form . The puzzling attributes of gold obtain by the imposition of the specific form of the universal equivalent on the determinate substance of abstract labor. Marx's meta-science then seems to assume at least at the semantic level the possibility of Aristotelian formal causality; in other words, causality is not reduced to event generation by the transfer of energy from one entity to another : "The general relative form of value imposes the character of universal equivalent on the linen, which is the commodity excluded, from the whole world of commodities." (I, 159) Marx has replaced gold with linen as a reductio ad absurdum criticism of the common sense notion that the dazzling properties of money, viz., its monopoly over direct exchangeability, derive from the metallic nature of the money commodity rather than the form of the universal equivalent: If I state that coats or boots stand in a relation to linen because the latter is the universal incarnation of abstract human labour, the absurdity of the statement is self-evident. Nevertheless, when the producers of coats and boots bring these commodities into a relation with linen, or with gold or silver (and this makes no difference here), as the universal equivalent, the relation between their own private labour and the collective labour of society appears to them in exactly this absurd form. (I,169) But in this critique of the fetishism of money, Marx has compromised the orthodox labor theory of value. Marx implies here after all that characteristic of social labor in capitalism, as Paul Mattick, Jr., has put it, is that the transformation of quantities of various forms of concrete labor into homogeneous, abstract labor or value (as Marx defined it) occurs precisely through market exchange. Though the work of production is in fact social labor, it is exercised under the control and to account of individual enterprises; the social character of production is thus invisible until the products are sold. "Only then can the piece of work in social production be measured-for only then does it have such a place." Value as commodified substance indeed goes through a change in ex-change. Value does not persist unchanged in ex-change; the value substance is not what it is in change that does not itself change. Rather the commodity only pupates into the value substance in the successful act of a monetary transaction : Gold, as we saw, became ideal money, or a measure of value, because all commodities measured their values in it, and thus made it the imaginary opposite of their natural shape as objects of utility, hence the shape of their value. It became real money because the commodities, through their complete alienation, suffered a divestiture or transformation of their real shapes as objects of utility, thus making it the real embodiment of their values. When they thus assume the shape of value, commodities strip off every trace of their natural and original use-value, of the particular kind of useful labour to which they owe their creation, in order to pupate into the homogeneous social materialization of undifferentiated human labour. (I, 204) In short, at what point do commodities acquire value? In A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx did not evade the difficulty: But the different kinds of individual labour represented in these particular use values, in fact, becomesocial labour only by being actually ex-changed for one anotherSocial labour-time exists in these commodities in a latent state, so to speak, and becomes evident only in the course of their ex-change. The point of departure is not the labour of individuals considered as social labour, but on the contrary the particular kinds of labour of private individuals, i.e., labour which proves that it is universal social labour only by supersession of its original character in the exchange process. Universal social labour is consequently not a ready made prerequisite, but an emerging result. Thus a new difficulty arises: on the one hand, commodities must enter the exchange process as materialized universal human labor, on the other hand, the labour time of individuals becomes materialized universal human labour time only as the result of the exchange process. In trying to understand how the propensity of a quantum system was drawn out in different ways according to how it was surrounded by measuring devices, Werner Heisenberg was led to think of the system's potential as a "quantitative version of the old idea of 'potentia' in Aristotelian philosophy. It introduced something standing in the middle between the idea of an event and the actual event, a strange kind of physical reality just in the middle between possibility and reality." For Marx, value also seems to exist in potentia; money measurement is thus more than the passive ascertainment of a pre-existing property but rather the production of a datum (value) through the active involvement of measurer and thing measured. In other words, value seems to describe a system--the thing being measured and the measurement being made--rather than being an independent description of the thing being measured. No less than measurement in quantum mechanics, money measurement seems to invert common sense: while the commodity only possesses the quality of having value after that quality has been quantitatively measured in a successful exchange, we would find it absurd that if only after a quantitative measurement of a thing's quality ("it's eleven feet") can we say that it in fact possesses the quality ("it has extension"). It is as if objects do not even "have" extension until they are forced to adopt a particular value through a measurement.*** For Heisenberg and Marx quantum potential (or quantum superposition) and value, respectively, are kind of shimmering mirages of dream-like reality, waiting to be awakened by the magical Midas touch of measurement. While Heisenberg with his revived Aristotelian potenia may have been trying to save an underlying reality when no such thing may indeed exist, Marx seems to have located the actualization of commodity value in the act of monetary measurement itself, not in expended labor in the hidden abode of production, and thus to have weakened the Marxist dogma that the expenditure of labor alone is necessary and sufficient for the creation of value. Rakesh ***Simmel makes this very argument however: the logical difficulty that two things can only be of equal value if each of them has a value of its own seems to be illustrated by the analogy that two lines can be equally long if each of them has a definite length. But strictly speaking a line gains the quality of length only by comparison with others. For its length is determined not by itself--since it is not simply 'long'--but by another line against which it is measured: and the same service is performed for the other line, although the result of this act of measurement does not depend upon theis act of comparison but upon each line as it exists independently of each other. Let us recall the category that embrace the objective value judgement, which I termed metaphysical: from the relationship between us and objects develops the imperative to pass a certain judgement, the content of which, however, does not reside in the things themselves. the same is true in judging length; the objects themselves require that we judge them, but the quality of length is not given by the objects and can only be realized by an act within ourselves. We are not aware of this fact that length is only established in the process of comparison and is not inherent in the individual object on which length depends, because we have abstracted from particular relative lengths the general concept of length--which excludes the definiteness without which general length does not exist. In projecting this concept onto objects we assume that things must have length before it can be determined individually by comparison. (Philosophy of Money, p.86) It is difficult however not to think that the line has some pre-existing property (extension?) to which we then *attribute* length in measurement; the *attribute* of length is a conceptual representation of the line's *property* of extension. The difficulty with value, as with quantum superposition, is that there seems to be no pre-existing property of which measurement yields a conceptual representation. The property/attribute distinction I suggest however may not be tenable, as has been suggested to me by Mattick, Jr. The fact of the matter is that few philosopher scientists seem to find it tenable (Bunge and Lewontin are exceptions).
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