[OPE-L:5691] Re: Re: Re: Response to Fred - 1

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 10:35:37 EDT

Nicky, thanks again very much for your latest post and this very
stimulating discussion.  My responses below. 

On Tue, 29 May 2001, nicola taylor wrote:

> You request a summary interpretation of Marx's passage.  Difficult since,
> imho, no passage or chapter in Marx can be interpreted in isolation from
> it's place in the whole of Capital, or in isolation from the debate on
> Marx's method.  However...  
> >"Political economy has indeed analysed value and its magnitude, however
> >incompletely, and has uncovered the content concealed within these forms.
> >But it has never once asked the question why this content has assumed that
> >particular form, that is to say, why labour is expressed in value, and why
> >the measurement of labour by its duration is expressed in the magnitude of
> >the value of the product."
> ...From a VFT perspective, the fundamental question posed by Marx is why
> content (eg use-value/concrete-labour) is 'concealed within' or has
> 'assumed' particular forms (eg value/abstract-labour)..  

Nicky, I think you are fundamentally misinterpreting Marx's meaning of the
term "content" in this passage.  You interpret content to mean "use-value
/ concrete labor".  But Marx's meaning of content in this passage is not
concrete labor; rather it is ABSTRACT labor.  Marx's use of the terms
content and form in this passage (and elsewhere) refer to the content and
form OF VALUE.  Marx's theory of the content and form of value abstracts
altogether from use-value and concrete labor.

I think this meaning of content is clear from the passages in Chapter 1
that I reviewed in my previous post (5664).  Section 1 of Chapter 1
derives abstract labor as the "content" or the "substance" of
value.  Section 2 elaborates further the distinction between abstract
labor, which is the content of value, and concrete labor, which is
not.  Section 3 derives money as the necessary form of appearance of
value, from the presupposed content of value, i.e. from the presupposed
characteristics of abstract labor (qualitatively equal and quantitatively

The passage we are debating is from Section 4.  Presumably Marx's meaning
of content in this passage in Section 4 is the same meaning of content in
Sections 1 through 3 - i.e. the content of VALUE, or abstract
labor.  Marx's critique of political economy in this passage (and
elsewhere) was that it never asked why the content of abstract labor
assumes, or is expressed in, the form of appearance of money and
prices.  Marx's critique of political economy in this passage was NOT that
it never asked why concrete labor and use-values assume the form of
exchange-values and abstract labor.  The necessity of money, which
political economy was unable to explain, follows abstract labor; it does
not follow from concrete labor.  For Marx, abstract labor was the content
of value, not the form of value (as you suggest).  

Therefore, I do not see how this passage supports the VF interpretation of
Marx's theory as you (and Chris) have suggested.  (Chris, do you have the
same interpretation of this passage as Nicky, or a different
interpretation?  If different, please explain.  Thanks)

> Given the concept
> of form determination, as I have described it above, this question is not
> concerned with a splitting of value and price into essence/content and
> appearance/form as autonomous entities between which causal relations can
> then be established.  

I think I have shown in my previous post that Marx's own logic in Chapter
1 (and I would argue beyond) is indeed concerned with "splitting of value
into essence/content and appearance/form as autonomous entities between
which causal relations can be established."  The causal relations are
derived as necessary connections between the autonomous entities of
abstract labor and money.  I have presented key passages in which Marx
said precisely that, and I would be happy to discuss Chapter 1 in greater

Therefore, if systematic dialectics does not allow such autonomous
entities and quantitative causal relations, then I would have to conclude
that Marx was not doing systematic dialectics, at least not in Chapter 1.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat Jun 02 2001 - 00:00:09 EDT