[OPE-L:5822] Re: RE: Re: form and content re value-form and abstract labour

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Thu Jun 07 2001 - 10:20:42 EDT

On Wed, 6 Jun 2001, Michael Williams wrote:

> Fred (Hi Fred!) writes:
> >...  But that does not mean that abstract labor is the same thing as
> > money, as it is in value-from theory.
> It is an absurdity to suggest that any VF interpretation holds the position
> that Abstract Labour and Money 'are' the same thing. 

Michael, please forgive me if I misrepresented VF theory.  I was too
cryptic.  I should have said that VF theory defines abstract labor and
money IN THE SAME UNITS - the units of MONEY.  This would have been
correct, right?

By contrast, Marx defined abstract labor (and my last post was mainly
about Marx's concept of abstract labor, not the VF concept) in units of
LABOR, independent of money (in Sections 1 and 2 of Chapter 1).  Marx
assumed that abstract labor exists in units of labor, and in specific
quantities of labor, although not directly observable as such.  

Michael, do you agree or disagree with this interpretation of Marx's
concept of abstract labor?

> A source of the
> misunderstandings between VF approaches and Fred is that the former unpacks
> the notion of 'being' as connoted in the English verb 'to be', whereas this
> argument of Fred's seem to take it as a simple concept. The VF position of
> Reuten and Williams (1989) is that Money is the sole actual (near)
> autonomous manifestation of Value and so of Abstract Labour. What exists is
> concrete labour, that is really abstracted into Value by (to crudely jump
> levels of abstraction) the system of ubiquitous capitalist markets - the
> more concrete conditions of existence of the Value-form.

Yes, this is a possible source of understanding for me (and I imagine for
many other people).  I do not know what you mean by "VF theory unpacks the
notion of `being' as connoted in the English verb `to be', whereas Fred's
argument seems to take it as a simple concept."  So if one needs to
understand this in order to understand the VF concept of abstract labor,
then it is not surprising that I (and probably others) are having trouble
understanding it.  Michael, would you please briefly summarize what you
mean by "unpacking the notion of `being',"and how this relates to the  VF
concept of abstract labor?  Or refer me to your published works where you
have dealt with these issues.  Thanks.

> Fred may see this as obscurantist - even mystical. But it seems much less so
> to me than his hopping between alleged analytical/logical priority of
> abstract labour over money, and some ontological commitment to the
> independent existence of abstract labour. Neither one of these follows from
> the other. Fred now seems to agree that it is incoherent to commit oneself
> ontologically to the independent existence of abstract labour. But wants to
> insist that Marx's conceptual positing of abstract labour as a moment,
> textually prior (and systemically prior) to Money, implies that Money is
> logically derived from Abstract Labour. Clearly it is not - the most we can
> coherently allow Fred is that Money is 'derived', in the systematic
> dialectical presentation, as a necessary condition of existence of Abstract
> Labour. And that is the converse of deriving Money logically from a
> full-formed autonomous concept of Abstract Labour, and prohibits any
> ontological commitment to abstract labour independent of its systemic
> interconnections.

What I mean by money being derived from abstract labor is that the
specific characteristics of money - qualitative equality and quantitative
comparability - are derived from the fact that abstract labor has these
same characteristics.  These are the characteristics of abstract labor
that require an observable "form of appearance".  That is why the simple
form and the expanded form of value are "insufficient" - because they lack
the characteristic of qualitative equality.  

Furthermore, specific quantities of money function as the form of
appearance of specific quantities of abstract labor.  The quantities of
abstract labor are assumed to exist (although unobservable), and then
these quantities of abstract labor determine  the quantities of money that
serve as their observable form of appearance.

Michael, isn't this deriving money from abstract labor, and quantities of
money from quantities of abstract labor?  If not, please explain why not.

Thanks very much for the discussion.


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