[OPE-L:5841] Re: form and content re value-form and abstract labour

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Sat Jun 09 2001 - 00:57:02 EDT

On Fri, 8 Jun 2001, Andrew Brown wrote:

> Hello Fred,
> Abstract labour indeed determines price as you say. This requires 
> that there two distinct magnitudes, viz. abstract labour time and 
> price magnitude, with the one determining the other (ie. the 
> quantity of one leads to the quantity of the other, and not vice 
> versa). 
> But does this require that abstract labour exists independently of 
> price? Above I talked about quantity, but not quality. Do they have 
> to be qualitatively 'independent'? Why should this follow?

Hi Andy,

I think you have hit upon the key here!

My answer to your question is NO!

The fact that abstract labor and money are two DISTINCT MAGNITUDES does
NOT require that they EXIST INDEPENDENTLY of one another.  In fact, they
do not exist independently of one another.  Rather, they are NECESSARILY
CONNECTED.  However, although they are necessarily connected, they are
nonetheless DISTINCT MAGNITUDES, distinct entities, defined in distinct
units of measure (labor-time and money).  A necessary connection between
AL and M does NOT imply that AL does not exist as a distinct magnitude, a
distinct entity, from M.  Indeed, a necessary connection between these two
distinct entities REQUIRES that there must be two distinct entities,
between which there is a necessary connection.  AL (in units of
labor-time) exists as distinct or distinguishable from money, and this
distinct entity of AL is necessarily connected with the distinct entity of
money.  The latter is the necessary form of appearance of the former.  But
AL is nonetheless a distinct entity from money.  

This is indeed a "serious ontological commitment" that Michael is asking
about.  AL exists as a distinct entity, although necessarily connected
with money.  

One source of confusion was my earlier formulation that AL EXITS
INDEPENDENTLY of money.  "Independence" seemed to suggest "no necessary
connection".  And since there was a necessary connection, AL could not be
independent of money.  However, now we can see that, although AL is not
independent from money in this sense, it is nonetheless still a "distinct
entity" from money, distinguishable from money (one in units of labor-time
and the other in units of money).  

On the third page of Chapter 1, Marx used language similar to this in his
derivation of a common property - some inner substance - that determines
the exchange-value of commodities.  Marx argued:
"It follows from this [the general exchangeability of commodities] that,
firstly, the valid exchange-values express something equal, and secondly,
exchange-value cannot be anything other than the mode of expression, the
`form of appearance', of a CONTENT DISTINGUISHABLE from it."  
(C.I. 127; emphasis added)

A "content distinguishable" from exchange-value is what I mean by AL as a
"distinct entity" from money.  The content of abstract labor is
necessarily connected to money, but AL is nonetheless a "content
distinguishable" from money (with different units of measure).

Another similar text from Marx is the following passage from the beginning
of Chapter 3 of Volume 1:

"It is not money that renders all commodities commensurable.  Quite the
contrary.  Because all commodities, as values, are objectified human
labor, and therefore IN THEMSELVES commensurable, their values can by
communally measured in one and the same specific commodity, and this
commodity can be converted into the common measure of their values, that
is into money.  Money as a measure of value is the necessary from of
appearance of the measure of value which is IMMANENT in commodities."  
(C.I. 188; emphasis added)

The measure of value "immanent in commodities" is abstract labor.  This
immanent measure exists as a distinct entity from its necessary external
measure as money.

Andy and Michael and others, I hope this clarifies the issue.  What do you

Thanks again for this very productive discussion.


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