[OPE-L:5205] Re: use-value as qualitative?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Mon Mar 19 2001 - 08:29:09 EST

RE Steve K's [5202]:

> I actually focus on all three words too:
> "intrinsically incommensurable
> magnitudes". I emphasised the final one only to make the point that, at
> least once in Capital I, Marx explicitly stated that use-value could be a
> magnitude. It seems that you've accepted that point, so let's now check
> phrase itself out.

No, my point (which I'll draw out now) is that
one can notice that a quality can increase or
decrease even though it isn't itself a magnitude.

[Mushy stuff follows:]
Hath thou ever been in love, perchance?  If
so, then you know that love is a quality which
does not have a magnitude (i.e. it is not quantity),
yet we can be able to make perfectly valid
statements like "I love her MORE THAN I
used to" or "My love for her has DIMINISHED".
If something really has magnitude, though, then
it should be able to be measured in some
uniform way  (and there is no generally
agreed upon socially valid way of "measuring"

> Your take is quite feasible: it could be, for instance, that
> is measured in tonnes of steel, while use-value is measured in volts.

Exchange-value,  where e-v forms part of the
totality of the commodity,  is measured in
money.  What lies behind this measure, though,
is value. Thus, e-v is a necessary form of
appearance of value. This requires that value
must come to take the money-form.

> However, we know that the unit of measurement of exchange-value which Marx
> used (and which I accept as a measurement tool) is units of socially
> necessary abstract labor.

Yet, this social relation (value) is necessarily
linked to the money-form. *This means that
we can only determine with certainty if a
product has value EX POST, i.e. after it passes
the 'test' and is sold*.  Thus, it is the act of
exchange which socially validates the value and
shows with certainty that what was *presumed*
to have u-v and be value does *in fact* have
u-v and is value. (You might recall that we
discussed these issues once in a long thread
called "Ideal vs. Real Value").

Your quotes from Marx seem to be directed
towards Mike W, so I'll let him (or someone
else) discuss them ... eventually.

>  From my point of view, Marx's characterisation of labor-power as a
> commodity *in the first volume of Capital* is entirely understandable. I
> believe that in the intended volume on Wage Labor, Marx would have shown
> what happened when one dropped this supposition, and treated labor-power
> both a commodity and a non-commodity. In other words, there is a further
> dialectic which means that the rules which apply to strict commodities
> (products which are produced for a profit using other products) do not
> apply in toto to labor-power.

On this point: have you read Mike L's
_Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy of
the Working Class_ (NY, St. Martin's Press,

> One clear consequence of this is that the
> wage would normally *exceed* the value of labor-power, since if workers
> only received their means of subsistence in return for labor, they would
> treated as no more than commodities.

Yet, paradoxically, in the context of capitalist
production, workers do come to be treated as
no more than commodities. Indeed, it is part
of the value-form imperitive that *everything*,
including that which are not commodities, comes
to be treated *as if* they were commodities. Thus,
within a capitalist society even an intangible quality
such as love comes to be intimately connected
(pun intended) to the value-form. Just
about everything, thus, under capitalism has a price
even if it isn't itself value.

As for the value of labor-power, this encompasses
both physiological needs amd socially necessary
needs. The latter (socially necesary needs) are
established by custom and habit.
And, of course, class struggle plays an important
role in *establishing* custom, habits, and social
needs. From Marx's perspective, thus, the wage
equals the value of labor-power ON AVERAGE.
Yet, this average is itself a VARIABLE that is
subject to change as customs, habits, and social
needs change. Furthermore, not only can there be
a WIDE dispersion of wages where only a small
minority of wage-workers receive wages equal
to the value of labor power but the VLP (as
well as wages) are constantly changing.
Moreover, there are wide REGIONAL and
INTERNATIONAL disparities here largely
due to the inter-regional and inter-national
variation in habits, customs, social needs and,
relatedly, histories of class struggles.

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Apr 02 2001 - 09:57:29 EDT