[OPE-L:5830] RE: form and content re value-form and abstractlabour

From: Michael Williams (michael@williamsmj.worldonline.co.uk)
Date: Fri Jun 08 2001 - 07:09:08 EDT

My response to Andy's (Hi Andy - how's the book going?) message is
interpolated into it:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> [mailto:owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu]On Behalf Of Andrew Brown
> Sent: Friday, June 08, 2001 11:17 AM
> To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> Subject: [OPE-L:5829] Re: form and content re value-form and
> abstract labour
> Why assume that, because I talk apparent gibberish (!!),

I do not find you talking gibberish - these are tricky issues for all of us.

> I must be
> for some strange reason interested in 'justifying Marx', regardless
> of reality.

This is not a motive I intended to attribute to you. Sorry if it sounded

> Surely, a more sympathetic interpretation is that I view
> capitalism differently to you. Isn't it, in fact, fairly clear that our
> differences stem from our different philosophical positions. Note the
> difference between the materialist principle I tried to articulate on a
> previous post and your own philosophical position as expressed in
> your 1989 book. We both talk of U, I and P, but I add the rather
> important notion of 'matter'!

Fair enough. I do not feel unsympathetic to your position - I just disagree
with parts of it, and have learnt much from discussing these issues with
you, and stand ready to learn more, and perhaps change parts of my position.
As I have said before, rather than describing my position as 'materialist'
or 'idealist', I problematise the distinction as it is usually used. I do
not dispute the concept of 'matter', but hold to a thoroughgoing
anti-naturalism that sees matter has playing a secondary role in the
understanding of society, whilst not accepting that thereby my political
economy is anti-materialist. Social relations interconnected into systems
have real and systematic effects susceptible to rigorous theorisation and
empirical investigation - but they do not essential consist of 'matter' in
any coherent sense.
> Re 'plausibility': you seem to forget that your VFT is not quite so
> 'plausible' as you make out; for it involves a rather odd sui generis
> 'entity' called 'value', which apparently has no content whatsoever!

Value is certainly odd if perceived as an 'entity' - but, imo, this is
because it is a predicate!

> More abstract even, than space and time, because space and time
> are abstractions from matter, whereas value doesn't seem to be an
> abstraction from anything. Now I guess you will reply that value
> must be 'concretised' but I don't see how one can concretise an
> impossible absurdity....I can concretise a general concept (animal,
> law, whatever) but not an impossible one (contentless 'value'). So
> on the 'plausibility' count I don't think you do much better than.

So be it. This reference to plausibility can carry no more argumentative
weight than an appeal to shared 'intuition' - and on this matter we clearly
do not share any intuition. However, the position you attribute to me is
inaccurate. Value is a predicate. The process of concretisation (if you
will) involves developing the more concrete conditions of existence for
Value to be predicated of Commodity and related to Abstract Labour.

The absurdity you refer to belongs properly to the Capitalist system in that
it is Value-form determined. But even this does not entail that the
value-form has no content; only that, absurdly, the capitalist System as
such is indifferent to the content of the value-form.

> Sorry to be so far away from grasping your notion of value...

I am tempted to say that it is your loss - but that would be rude! In fact I
am always open to the possibility of changing my position in dialogue with,
inter alia, you. Anyway, presumably if I am 'right', then my inability to
persuade you is down to my weaknesses of presentation rather than to
anything in you about wish you need to apologise!

Comradely greetings,


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