[OPE-L:5293] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: how is SNLT measured?

From: howard engelskirchen (lhengels@igc.org)
Date: Fri Mar 30 2001 - 03:08:38 EST


I think you are right on this, although my impression is that Peirce's
semiotics is a stronger resource than Saussure, and Volosinov's Marxism and
the Philosophy of Language is remarkable.  Volosinov read the first 100
pages of Capital very carefully.  The Italian Marxist F. Rossi-Landi (he
wrote the book on ideology in the Oxford Marxism series) in his Linguistics
and Economics takes the position that Capital turned economics into a
semiotic science.  Your quote from Capital suggests what he meant, and, in
fact, a glance through the first chapters in Capital and the section on
Commodities and Money in the Grundrisse shows pages full of reference to
signs, symbols and representation.

On the question at hand, I do think this suggests a missing link to resolve
what has been sundered.  I am not convinced that the question is either
abstract labor as the expenditure of human energy or value as a social
phenomenon, as Rubin put it.  If it is either/or, Rubin is certainly right,
but thinking in terms of sign and referent may make connection possible,
assuming we recognize also that what is a sign in one context may be
referent in another and that because something is a sign doesn't mean it is
not also a real object.  Smoke is a sign of fire, but it is not only fire
that kills.  And smoke is a sign of fire because of its causal relation to
fire.  Plainly in the first section of Capital Marx presents the use value
of one product as a sign of the value of another.

It is a fetish to think the only way we can measure time is by a clock.
Think of all the ways we measure time.  Capital shows us in a profound way
the manner in which labor time can be measured under capitalism.  You
cannot come up with technical by the clock measures because social
reproduction is a matter of the unity of production and exchange.  But that
doesn't mean we have no measure.  The remarkable thing is that while Peirce
struggled to work out semiotic theory in overly complex philosophical
terms, Marx, at the same time (a little before actually), confronted a
scientific hurdle and in his usual manner simply overcame it.  That is, one
of the things that makes the first part of Capital difficult is that an
altogether new science of semiotics is embedded there and we don't
recognize it.


At 05:33 PM 3/29/01 -0800, you wrote:
>To measure socially necessary labor time we would have to measure or 
>would be implicitly measuring socially wasted labor time--that is the 
>labor put into an object that is of no social utility.
>How would we know the clock time embodied in the taurus has not been 
>socially wasted even if manufactured at best practice unless and 
>until the taurus has been ex-changed into money and thereby proves 
>itself to be (or to have been) an aliquot of socially necessary labor 
>It seems to me not true that abstract labor time or socially 
>necessary labor time have meaning outside of monetary expression. I 
>guess this puts me on the value form side of the debate.
>I am going to take a wild stab at something else here.  Howard E 
>noted to me in private correspondence that he has been working on 
>semiotics, so I'll just throw this out.
>In the Saussurean sign we have
>object <=> concept <=> word
>While with the human use of words all the arrows are present,  there 
>is little indication that when say a vervet monkey hears the alarm 
>call for python, it actually forms the concept of a snake in its 
>brain; it seems to respond without knowing why it does.
>There seems to a three fold structure to commodity value
>(reproducible) commodity <=> social labor time (some aliquot thereof) 
><=>  price
>Marx seems to be saying that since as we respond to price signals we 
>have no concept that it is our social labor time that we are 
>re-allocating in such a way to allow one class to exort and share 
>more or less equally in the surplus labor performed by another class, 
>we too are responding to signals in everday market society without 
>knowing why we do.
>"Value therefore does not have its description branded on its 
>forehead; it rather transforms every product of labour into a social 
>hieroglyphic. Later on, men try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get 
>behind the secret of their own social product; for the characteristic 
>which objects of utility have of being values is as much men's social 
>product as is their language." (CapitalI, p. 167)
>Yours, Rakesh

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