[OPE-L:5782] Re: Reply to fred - A

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Mon Jun 04 2001 - 12:16:55 EDT

This is a response to Chris' (5737).  Thanks, Chris.

> Nicky and Fred are going too fast for me but I will try to catch up. This
> post responds to fred's 5664. Fred, I have good/bad [delete one] news: you
> are a value-form theorist! This is examplified in the following 3 key
> statements of your position.

I am going to focus here on your second point, which I think is my key
difference with VF theory - whether or not abstract labor exists as a
separate entity (the "substance" or the "content" of value),
distinguishable from money, and from which money and prices are derived.

I had written:

> 2.>The all-important Section 3 ("The Value-Form, or Exchange-Value") then
> >derives money as the NECESSARY FORM OF APPEARANCE of the content of value
> >(abstract labor).  Form is derived from content.  The characteristics of
> >abstract labor (homogeneous, a definite quantity, comparable with all
> >other kinds of labor) determine the necessary characteristics of
> >money.  The simple form of value is "insufficient" (p. 154) and the
> >extended form of value has its "defects" (pp. 156-7), because these forms
> >of value do not adequately express the characteristics of abstract labor,
> >the content of value.

And you replied:

> Here your argument shows that only money makes possible the actuality of
> abstract labour. This is the purest VFT argument I can think of. 

I am not sure what you mean by "actuality", but what money does (in Marx's
theory) is make abstract labor OBSERVABLE in an indirect form.  Marx
assumed that abstract labor EXISTS as a separate entity, distinguishable
from money, but it is NOT OBSERVABLE directly as such (rather it has a
"ghostly objectivity").  In order to actually function as the common
property of commodities that determines their exchange-values, abstract
labor must acquire the form of appearance of money.  In other words, the
form of value (money) is derived from the content of value (abstract
labor), not the other way around.  In order to derive the necessity of
money, abstract labor is assumed to exist as a separate entity from money.  

Chris, your excerpt of my last post leaves out my arguments about the
first two sections of Chapter 1, which are about abstract labor as the
content or the "substance" of value, and which exists separately from
money or exchange-value.  As I quoted in my post, after his derivation of
abstract labor as the content of value in Section 1, Marx remarked: 

"The progress of our investigation will lead us back to exchange-value as
the necessary mode of expression, or FORM of appearance, of value.  For
the present, however, we must first consider the nature of value
INDEPENDENTLY OF ITS FORM of appearance."  (p 128; emphasis added).  

In the rest of Sections 1 and 2, Marx described in greater detail the
characteristics of abstract labor, INDEPENDENTLY of its form of appearance
as money.  This is what I mean by "exists as a separate entity" - what
Marx described in Sections 1 and 2.  Money is not derived until Section 3,
and then it is derived from abstract labor, which is assumed to exist
separately from money, although not directly observable as such.

Similarly, I also quoted the following important methodological remark at
the end of Section 1:

"Now we know the *substance* of value.  It is *labor*.  The *form*, which
stamps *value* as *exchange-value*, REMAINS TO BE ANALYZED.  But before
this we need to develop the characteristics we have already found somewhat
more fully."  (p. 131; capitalized emphasis added)

In other words, the first two sections describe the characteristics of
abstract labor, as a separate entity and independently of its form of
appearance as money.  Money and exchange-value, as the form of appearance
of abstract labor, "remain to be analyzed".

Chris, are you doubting that Marx assumed that abstract labor exists as a
separate entity in Sections 1 and 2, or criticizing him for doing so?

Your reply on this point continued:

> If the
> argument were really from the content there would be no 'defects' or
> 'deficiencies' in the simple form and money would just be a numeraire
> rather than doing any constitutive (form determining) work, which your
> argument clearly shows it does. At least I assume that is what is meant by
> the inclusion of the word 'NECESSARY'. If the content really were seperable
> as is, then it would clearly be possible for it to have various forms of
> appearance.

I don't understand this argument at all.  Abstract labor has certain key
characteristics - the abstract labor contained in each commodity is
qualitatively equal and quantitatively comparable with the abstract labor
contained in all other commodities.  But these characteristics are not
directly observable as such; hence abstract labor must acquire an
observable form of appearance.  But THIS FORM OF APPEARANCE MUST
and the expanded form of value do not adequately express these key
characteristics; i.e. they do not express the abstract labor contained in
all commodities as qualitatively equal and quantitatively
comparable.  Only money, the general form of value, in which the abstract
labor contained in all commodities is expressed in one and the same form
of appearance, satisfies this requirement.  Why do you think it is
possible for abstract labor as a separate entity to have "various forms of
appearance"?  How would these different forms of appearance adequately
express the homogeneity and the quantitative comparability of the abstract
labor contained in all commodities?

I look forward to further discussion.


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