[OPE-L:5259] Re: Re: was Marx an economist?

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Sat Mar 24 2001 - 23:28:26 EST

Chris A wrote:

>Re the debate between Nicky and Andy, I endorse everything Nicky says about
>my view* and about  how to read Marx. 

Thanks for endorsing both accounts, Chris.

>With regard to the issue of abstract
>labour and money I think we all agree that abstract labour can only appear
>in money and that money represents abstract labour. The issue is the
>conceptual priority of each term. For a value form interpretation it is
>only the money form of value that creates the conceptual space for the
>abstract concept of labour to become separate from and opposed to its
>concrete reality. Furthermore it is only as thus abstracted that capital
>can cognise labour; for its concrete cognizance capital has to rely on
>managers etc. I do not see any other way of giving an account of abstract
>labour specific to  capital.

Hence the key issue in whether capital is *productive* does not come down
to whether it is *productive of surplus value* but to the material
abstraction that is affected by the specifically capitalist form of
production for exchange, and the inverted reality of value-forms that it
creates.  The presentation of capital as self-valorising value - and in
consequence, the doubling of the labour process into technical process
(use-value producing) and valorisation process (value producing) - then
rests on a concept of pre-commensuration (as in the R&W account). The term
"productive" in Chris's usage is therefore different in meaning to that
advanced in a labour embodied account of value creation as the productive
activity that creates surplus value (as a positive thing).  It has to do,
rather, with the (negative) role of capital in determining both the forms
and content of economic activity.     

>Of course one could argue it is not specific
>to capital; thus the 'physiological' definition does not sound specific;
>Uno explicitly denies it is specific but he is clearly confusing it with
>general concrete labour in which the element of separatness and opposition
>is not present. In an artcle in the old CSE Bulletin and subsequently I
>have admitted that labour must be concretely general in the sense of
>adaptable for the law of value to work but equally I argued this is only a
>precondition of the possibility of taking this, stripping out the
>variation, and treating it as ontologically abstract. To be charitable to
>Marx one could  argue the first few pages are an ungrounded anticipation.
>But I think the real problemis that he has already silently assumed only
>products are to be considered in the first place.

One difficulty with the 'charitable' reading is, of course, that Marx
himself retains, well beyond the first few pages, his reference to value as
labour in its 'coagulated state' thereby creating a link to the classical
theories he criticises.  For example, in his explication of the *necessity*
that the value of a commodity be represented in the bodily form of an
equivalent commodity he writes: 'human labour creates value, but is not
itself value. It becomes value only in its coagulated state, in objective
form' (1867a [1976], p.142; also p.149). The notion that human labour is
value *only* when it takes on an objective equivalent form underwrites
Marx's derivation of the eqivalent commodity against which all other
commodities exchange, and supports his argument for reification, such that
in a system of generalised production for exchange the social character of
the relationship between producers appears inverted as a monetary
relationship between the objects they independently produce. If this theory
of 'reification' is not convincing, it is because the 'objective form' into
which socially equalised 'human labour' necessarily 'coagulates' might be
interpreted alternatively as a physiological embodiment (in the body of a
particular commodity, or universally in the money commodity) that takes
place independently of any monetary abstraction from concrete-labour in
exchange (i.e. ontological abstraction is absent). A physiological
interpretation of 'social equalisation' then implies a Ricardian model of
reification, in which the 'relation of things' is constituted as a form of
'appearance' **autonomous** of the 'real' social relations hidden behind
it. In my view a 'social' theory of value must reject this false dichotomy
of essence (labour) and appearance (money) and see money/capital as
ontologically determining of the content and forms of economic activity.  I
guess I agree with Backhaus, Chris, R&W (and others) that a dialectical and
social value theory must reject altogether the independence of value and
money, of labour as *essence* 'defined in contrast to the form of
appearance, in a formal logical way as the universal, typical and
principal' (Backhaus, 1969/1980, p.101).

To expand a little.  Marx's retention of physiological references (beyond
the first few pages of Capital 1), leads to the conclusion that the social
mediation implied by Marx's theory of value-form 'can only be construed as
a pseudo-dialectical movement of psuedo-dialectical contradiction'
(Backhaus, 1969/1980 p.101). The main point is that Marx fails to explicate
the double character of labour as a **form determined** opposition
(although of course Backhaus doesn't use the term form-determined); in
short, Marx's theory does not grasp the *essential* opposition of
capitalist production, grounded in the internal social structures that
constitute labour in its double form. This because a Ricardian opposition
of content-independent-of-form continues to plague his work. Thus, the
value-form is constructed conceptually by Marx, not as an
abstract-universal mode of association determining the social form of
private productive activity in capitalism (i.e. ontologically determining),
but much more ambiguously as a theory of 'commodity money' derived from the
exchange relation.  Value-form theories try to rectify this Ricardian
weakness, and develop the social elements of Marx's value theory, beyond
Marx; as Chris points out, this means reconstructing the order of
determination systematically and dialectically.

Comradely greetings

>*If anyone does not have access to C&C I have offprint of my piece
>available or I could send a pdf attachment.
>17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England
Nicola Taylor
School of Economics
Division of Business, Information Technology and Law
Murdoch University
Telephone: 61-8-9385 1130

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