[OPE-L:5201] [Mike W on] use-value as qualitative?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Sun Mar 18 2001 - 14:17:16 EST

Sent to me by mistake./In solidarity, Jerry

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael J Williams" <mjwilliams@dmu.ac.uk>
Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2001 12:18 PM
Subject: RE: [OPE-L:5199] use-value as qualitative?

 There seems to be some confusions here and in other parts of Steve's
argument that 'use-value is
quantitative'. I'm afraid I lost a detailed  reply to
Steve's OPE-L 5189 that I wrote (dumb new
clunky web-anil system  that DMU have just
switiched to!) and I do not have time to
reconstruct it  (see below). However, here are
the main gists (!) of my issues with Steve:

 1. Of course some e-mails are quantifiable in their own 'natural' units -
calorific value for a food-stuff,
BTUs for a heater, etc.

 2. But this is not what Steve's argument requires: rather he needs
use-value  to be quantifiable *in the
same units as (exchange) value", so that value  and
use-value are commensurable.

 3. He attempts to argue for this by reference only
to the very special case  of the alleged 'use-value'
to Capital of the so-called 'Commodity'
Labour-Power. (Scptical adjectives and scare quotes arise from my value-form
approach. But my argument is not dependent on that approach.)

 4. And even in that extraordinarily special (to put it no higher) case, all
that he shows by his citations
from Marx is that Labour-Power (which Marx
certainly - but imo, wrongly - wanted to characterise as a Commodity) had to
have the special usefulness to capital of being able
(under suitably  coercive social relations) to create
more new *value* (note bene, *value*
not *use-value*) than was required for its

 5. So, to repeat, to grasp the usefulness of labour
to capital, it has to
have this special characterisitc ('use-value', if you must), but that speaks
not at all to the question of the quantifiability of use-value in the same
units as (exchnage) value so that they are commensurable.

 6. Ergo, despite getting a bit tetchy with Jerry for not 'reading his
Steven's lips have not provided any textual evidence (so far) from Marx to
support what he needs to argue - that value and use-value are quantifiable
in the same units (presumably Money &/or labour time).

7. To address one of the wider issues in Steve's argument: I agree that the
dialectic between value and use-value is important in Marx's argument. But
this has nothing to do with the putative commensurability of value and
use-value. Rather it has to do with value being the epochally-specific
social form that grasps transhistorical usefulness and distorts it into
'use-value'. (Einar Haug on 'The Promise of the Commodity' is very good on
the 'hollowing-out' of use-value that goes along with commodification. But
many people on this list will have first hand experience of the attenuation
of the Higher Education experience concomitant on its tendential and
on-going commodification.)

8. Finally, my take on the dialectic of use-value/utility (neo-classical)
that Steve raised tangentially, is almost the opposite of his. Neo-classical
economics has (although it doesn't often recognise the import of its own
concepts) a theory of the transformation from utility (conceived as an in
principle idiosyncratic relation between the consumer and the commodity they
purchase) to Money value: rational consumers under competitive conditions
make the translation from 'utility' to Money value at the margin by their
spending decisions. Of course, because they don't know what they've got
('til its gone ..!) mainstream economics seems to be stuck with a de facto
ontology of some kind of universal substance common to all use-ful objects,
called 'utility'. Of course, the more thoughtful (or empirically minded?) of
them have been uncomfortable with this bit of metaphysics. Hicks, for
example, tried to write out utlility with 'revealed preference' and rates of
substitution. More recently, Daniel Hausman simply asserts that mainstream
economic method makes *no significant reference to 'unobervables'*!

 Well, I would propose that Marxism celebrates its successful
'objective'conceptualisation of the subjective process by which essentially
idiosyncratic use-values (as in Marx's argument that a Commodity as such
must have a use-value *for someone* so that it can realise its value in
Money) are transformed into the universally commensurable value (expressed
in Money).

 Health warning: the Economics Programme at DMU has just been chopped, so in
order to maintain the income I need to contribute to the support of my young
family, I am re-training (de-skilling?) myself - on the hoof - to teach
'Corporate Strategy'. Admittedly this consists of little more than
classified lists, sometimes expressed in block diagrams of shapes chosen
apprarently at random. Nevertheless, I need to try and give the students
something worthwhile (and hopefully, critical). Consequently I have very
little time for research, let alone the related pleasures of OPE-L. So,
(Steve) any response to your no doubt insightful response to this message
may well be some time coming ... .

 Comradely greetings

 btw, can someone persuade Andrew Kliman to come back? I avoid entering into
threads in which he is involved, because for me personally the emotioanl
energy required to 'deal' with him outweighs the intellectual return.
Nevertheless, he is a valuable and intelligent meber of OPE-L whose
contributions are missed - including by me!

Dr Michael Williams
Business & Management Studies
De Montfort University
Block A (Business Studies Centre) (0.04)
Polhill Campus
Polhill Avenue
MK41 9EA
tel: +1234 793036
[Home: +23 80768641]
fax: 0870 133 1147

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Gerald_A_Levy
> To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> Sent: 18/03/01 08:31
> Subject: [OPE-L:5199] use-value as qualitative?
> Re Steve K's [5198]:
> In the quote below, you focus on the last word.
> I would focus on the last three words. What I
> take "intrinsically incommensurable" to mean is
> that they can't be "added-up" together because
> they are apples and oranges so to speak.
> Actually, that's a poor analogy because both
> apples and oranges have the characteristic of
> being fruit whereas use-value and exchange-value
> only have a general and systematic common
> characteristic to the extent that they both (along
> with value) represent different aspects of the
> commodity.
> I would say that, assuming the commodity-form,
> use-value can't be measured directly. It can only
> be measured indirectly. Nonetheless, I think it
> is legitimate to say that there can be a diminution
> of use-value over time and with use. I.e. use-
> values are consumed and as use-values are
> consumed there *must be*  less use-value remaining.
> Yet, we can only see this, assuming the
> commodity-form, through exchange-value even
> though  u-v. and e-v. are "intrinsically
> incommensurable".
> To me, this doesn't suggest that u-v is quantitative.
> All it suggests to me is that, through the
> commodity-form there is a quantitative measure
> of value that requires that the commodity has
> quality in the form of u-v and  (to the extent that
> quality must form a component aspect of
> the following) value.
> In solidarity, Jerry
> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
> . What is your take on the statement that "exchange-value and use-value
> [are]
> intrinsically incommensurable magnitudes".
>  Do you accept that as at least prima facie
> evidence that in some instances Marx did
> contemplate that use-value could be
> quantitative?
> <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

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