[OPE-L:5547] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: William of Ockam's Razor and Political Economy

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Fri May 11 2001 - 11:25:25 EDT

re Howard's helpful 5539

>My understanding is not that the inversion referred to in the passage from
>Marx gives us, insofar as it characterizes value, an illogical and absurd
>mystical interconnection.  There are two possibilities here:
>   a.	the abstractly general is a property of the concrete and sensuous real
>-- an example might be whiteness as a property of horses, swans, hats, etc.

representing an aliquot of abstractly general or social labor would 
seem to be a property of all (reproducible) commodities in the 
exchange relation.

yet in fact only one commodity immediately counts--in fact it 
actually incarnates--  abstractly general or social labor.

Yet how if being some aliquot of abstractly general or social labor 
is supposed to be a predicate of all commodities does the concrete 
sensate of one commodity come to be alone the form of appearance of a 

>   b.	the concrete and sensuous real is a form of appearance of the
>abstractly general.
>There is nothing peculiar about one thing being a form of appearance for
>another.  The error is to treat sometihng that we arrive at by purely
>mental effort as if it were to generate the particulars abstracted from.

The problem is when the abstractly general is treated at the same 
level as the concrete sensate.

That is, the university is searched for in one of its buildings or departments.

So while abstract or abstractly general or social labor time--and any 
aliquot thereof-are real, what would be mistaken is to assume that 
abstract labor could then instantiate itself in one of the concrete 
forms which putatively all together compromise abstractly general 

  so it is as if the university could be said to have materialized 
itself in say the Hearst mining building at UC Berkeley.

Having the property of universal exchangeability or in other words 
being itself the form of appearance of social labor,  money is 
thereby fetishized and to that extent real wealth devalorized.

>If value is purely conceptual, then we do have an illogical mystical
>connection.  But if it is sometihng real, a causal ensemble, then, if it is
>also non-empirical, we will have to study it through its form of

Social or abstractly general labor time--and any aliquot thereof--is 
of course real.

Value is the system by which any act of labor only becomes as an 
aliquot of social or abstractly general labor time if its product can 
be ex-changed into the money (commodity) which (alone among 
commodities) itself incarnates social or abstractly general labor 
time. Value is thus a social relation (or system) mediated by things.

In the system of value then social labor only becomes as such in 
homogeneous, quantitative terms--each act of labor equatable and 
reducible to the other by the equivalence in exchange of their 
respective products.

>  That is why we have two separate questions presented.  First,
>what is the nature of what we refer to, ie what kind of thing is it and
>what does it tend to do?

Value is not a description of an independent thing; it is a system.

>  Second, what are the forms of its representation?
>  Thus Aristotle could not make sense of value because he could conceive of
>no referent that houses or beds or money could be the form of appearance

The mysticism is not in that each act of labor has in addition to its 
concrete and qualitative aspects the abstract aspect of being 
(potentially) a form of appearance of some aliquot of abstractly 
general or social labor time.

The mysticism of value is in the three peculiarities of the equivalent form.

>  An alternative error would be to treat the form of appearance as if it
>were actually, or possessed the powers of, the referent.
>As for the third peculiarity, while I don't think there is anything to
>suggest the text is about gold producing labor as such, I get the point --
>it is the equivalent form that is at issue.

yes this is what I should have said.

>  That is, it's not that the
>inversion doesn't apply to the third peculiarity -- ie it is possible to
>think of private labor as a form of expression for social labor -- it is
>rather that Marx is saying something different:  because private labor in
>the equivalent form is a form of expression for social labor it serves as a
>general claim on the labor of others, ie it becomes directly exchangeable
>with other commodities.  As such, it is directly social in form.

And it is the peculiaritity or the mysticism or the category mistake 
implicit in this that we will hopefully be able to specify better.

looking forward to your reply,


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