[OPE-L:5555] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: William ofOckam'sRazor and Political Economy

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Sat May 12 2001 - 12:31:33 EDT

re Ajit's 5553

>Rakesh Narpat Bhandari wrote:
>>  in 5541 Ajit says of what he calls the traditional interpretation:
>>  >
>>  >Secondly, this approach must explain how does it take the total
>>  >social labor as
>>  >*given* that is supposedly distributed.
>>  Ajit, would you kindly elaborate on exactly what this explanatory burden is?
>>  Nice to have you back.
>>  Rakesh
>Well, the question is: is there something given to you (in this case abstract
>social labor) before you distribute it.

Adam Smith recognized that objects exchange due to the division of 
labor. Marx then asks not only why did this division of labor arise 
but also whose labor is it that is divided.
To the latter question Marx answered that it society's labor that is divided.
So then we understand that while Smith argued that exchange of 
commodities is an exchange of equal quantities of labor, Marx 
analyzes the situation further to show that this labor is not 
personal or invididual labor but a social substance, some aliquot of 
the labor at the disposal of a society.

So what does it mean to say that social labor is a substance? It 
means that individuals producing in society is the starting point, 
that production by a Robinsonade individual outside society is just 
as much an absurdity as the idea that language could develop without 
people living and speaking together. It is a recognition that men 
must associate and depend on each other and more to the point depend 
on social production. Man is in short a zoon politikon. This is the 
starting point (it may even be understood as a transcedental 
condition as Max Adler argued).

It is thus society that has labor time at its disposal and that 
depends on social labor for its reproduction just as the individual 
depends on society for her consciousness, individuation and 
reproduction: the individual activity of every single person is only 
a mode of functioning of the species, and it is this social and 
abstractly general labor time that is expressed by way of its 
products in the exchange relationship.

To answer your question then: yes. something is given before 
distribution: it is humanity's dependence on social labor carried out 
in association in determinate social relations.

>  If so, then where does this come from

are you asking where does the labor time at the disposal of any 
society come from? It comes from the capacity of the members of that 
society to labor. So are you then asking where that capacity derives 
from? From metabolic processes?
The meaning and significance of this question are unclear to me.

>and how do you know how much of its quantity there is.

A larger society, a healthier society, etc. would  have a greater 
quantity of labor time at its disposal.

>  If not, then does the
>distribution of this thing affect its total quantity.

Well under various social relations, the proportion of the labor time 
at any society's disposal which is actually distributed to various 
concrete production processes may be great or small. So the quantity 
of the labor time at any society's disposal which is actually 
expended depends on its social relations of production and 

>  In what way the total
>quantity and its distribution are related to each other?

There is a historically variable relation; while each society has to 
accomplish an ongoing division in (or distribution of) the social 
labor on which it depends--no natural law can be done away with--that 
division is effected in historically variable ways. Starting then 
with social labor, Marx reasons that in a society in which man's 
relations are primarily through things, the distribution of social 
labor obviously has to be effected through the exchange value of 
those things.

That it is social--as opposed to personal or individual--labor then 
that has to be represented in the exchange relationship can be 
recognized without any palaver about proving or deducing value as the 
third thing in terms of which (reproducible) commodities are 
commensurated in the exchange relation.

Since I am still quite unclear what criticism of what you have called 
the traditional interpretion these questions are trying to set up, I 
am not quite sure I understand your meaning here; consequently, I may 
not have answered your queries.


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