[OPE-L:5747] Reply to Fred - B

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Sat Jun 02 2001 - 12:32:22 EDT

Reply to Fred - B
This relates to Fred's 5675 and 6591
I do not think it profitable to analyse the mess Marx makes of Ch.1; but
since Fred and Nicky directly appeal for comment on the criticism of CPE
here goes....
First, though, it is necessary to set the scene by distinguishing two quite
different relations that have been discussed by Fred and Nicky under the
rubric: form and content.

First there is that between the ahistorical concretelabour/usevalue
'matter' (as I would prefer at this level) and its historically specific
social form, namely value. So the focus here is the value form *of the
Second there is that between value considered as a content and the forms
*of value* listed on 174 as commodity, money , capital, and including the
transitions of sec. 3 one assumes.

These have entirely different dynamics.
The value form is entirely alien to the product and valorisation is
entirely alien to production. The main problem for us is to theorise this
almost impossible combination. Because it is a combination it is logically
possible to examine each separately, and their relations will be ones of
interaction such that Fred's preferred language of 'cause' is not too far
off: the  value form 'causes' the development of industry, this development
in turn 'causes' changes in socially necessary labour times, in turn
'causes' the magnitude of value to vary. But the ontological difference is
enormous and poses huge conceptual problems. It requires what I call
'bridging concepts' namely abstract labour, precommensuration,
'personified' instruments etc.
But the other relation, that between value and *its* forms is where fully
dialectical relations such as form and content, essence and appearance,
have their place. It is literally senseless to separate value from money
because value only exists in a money economy. Occasionally Marx sees this
e.g. (but I concede he often fails to): " [without money] they definitely
do not confront each other as commodities but as products or use values
only." (180) (and a fortiori as products of concrete labour not abstract).
The relation between the sides will be inneraction.
It is because of the relative autonomy of the value form that two things
are possible, namely the *self-development* of value a la Hegel's logic,
regardless of the matter regulated, and the force which it exerts on
production which underpins Fred's beloved  quantitative changes.
Once these two relations are firmly grasped (and not conflated as by Marx)
it follows that there are *two* possible failures, both committed by CPE.
Firstly the naturalisation of bourgeois production and hence a failure to
make the first distinction and address how the product of labour acquires a
value form.
Secondly a failure to make the second distincton, and either dismiss money
as a veil or bring it in ad hoc without connecting it to the value form
Only now can I turn to the two passages where Marx makes *both* complaints
but *fails to notice* he has made two different points. here they are:

"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."
Marx elaborated his critique of political economy in the following footnote
to this passage:
"It is one of the chief failings of classical political economy that it has
never succeeded, by means of its analysis of commodities, and in particular
of their value, in discovering the form of value which in fact turns value
into exchange-value.  Even its best representatives, Adam Smith and
Ricardo, treat the form of value as something of indifference,
something external to the nature of the commodity itself."

Focus on the term 'value'. It plays the role of form in the first passage
and that of content in the second passage!
Transparently therefore they are two different points. The first is that
CPE failed to grasp 'the value form of th product of labour' (as Marx says
further down the note - for me this has to be concrete labour). The second
is that CPE had not accomplished the derivation of money and more broadly
the development of the value form as Marx did in sec. 3.
IMO Fred too muddles these points. In his 5664 he glosses Marx's point as
about commodity production per se i.e. in terms of the first distinction;
but in 5675 he totally misreads the first passage as about prices, whereas
Marx speaks of values, thereby conflating the two relations; then in 5691
he says the passage is about the content and form *of value* i.e. the
second relation.
Finally Fred in 5675 says:
"There are other issues to discuss:
1.  whether abstract labor is physiological or social?  (I agree with Rubin
that it is social.)
2.  whether or not abstract labor exists as a separate entity from money
and prices?  (I argue yes, although as explained above, necessarily
expressed as money and prices.)"
This seems incoherent. If abstract labour is a social determination this is
due to its being the way labour is represented in value and therefore
cannot exist separately from money. On my reading it is concrete labour
that exists separately and the value form determines what of it is to count
as abstract.
While on Marx criticism: it is truly astonishing he did not provide an
introduction stressing the first relation as the context of his work, as
both R&W and my 1993 felt impelled to do, Instead he dives straight in with
given commodity relations.

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