[OPE-L:5861] Re: Reply to fred - A & B

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Fri Jun 15 2001 - 20:20:31 EDT

Oh dear! I go away fro a week and find the discussion has once again moved
on. However I will start from where I left off. That is with fred's 5782/83

>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.

In Hegel 'actuality' is the highest grade in ontology, when something is
fully grounded and not a mere potential or ungrounded existence.

>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)

Note the three levels: substance/labour; value; form of value/exchange
value. I do not believe you have taken on board this point yet.

>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.
[Incorrect. it appear in value, money has not yet been mentioned]
>Money and exchange-value, as the form of appearance
>of abstract labor, "remain to be analyzed".
[Completely Incorrect. Marx says they are forms of value.]

>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?

This is difficult since I think the text is ambiguous; it could certainly
support you but charitably could be read in a systematic dialectical way as
still an ungrounded presupposition.

>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 ask - why are they unobservable? In my opinion because they are merely
ideal requiremenets that are only actualised with money. I entirely agree
with the thrust of Jerry, Michael and Chai-on Lee in the subsequent posts
in this thread. I stress that in my own theory money is derived first
before abstract labour; but I also agree entirely with Michael when he
writes in 5812
"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
I also draw your attnetion to my piece on systematic dialectic in S&S where
I stress that because something is mentioned first it does not mean it has
anything other than expositional priority , its actuality depending on its
being posited by what comes later in the exposition.

Now to 5783
Fred writes

"This is a response to Chris' (5747) about the key passage from Section 4
of Chapter 1 that he and Nicky and I have been discussing.  This passage
once again is:

"Political economy has indeed analysed value and its magnitude, however
incompletely,[1] 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. [2]."
(C.I: pp. 173-74; numbers in brackets refer to footnotes to this passage
that will be discussed below.)

Chris began his post by making the following distinction between two
different meanings of the terms content and form in Marx's theory:

> 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
> product*;
> 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.

Chris went on to argue that Marx's meaning of content and form in the
above passage is the first meaning, not the second meaning.  Which implies
that the meaning of content and labor in this passage is CONCRETE labor,
not abstract labor.

Chris, thanks for this clarifying distinction, but I must say that it
still seems very clear to me that Marx's meaning of the terms content and
form in this passage is your second meaning:  the form and content OF
VALUE.  Which implies that the meaning of content and labor in this
passage is ASBTRACT labor, not concrete labor.  "

Fred, look again - there is NOTHING in the passage about the form and
content OF VALUE. It is all about the form OF LABOUR, i.e. its taking shape
as value.

Fred continues:

"1.  To begin with, as I have already discussed, the second meaning is the
meaning Marx gave to the terms of content and value throughout the rest of
Chapter 1.  Indeed, the content and form of value provides the basic
logical structure of Chapter 1 (Sections 1 and 2 are about the content of
value and Section 3 is about the form of value).  So, if your
interpretation were correct, this would imply that Marx is using the key
terms content and form in this passage in an entirely different way from
the rest of Chapter 1, without alerting the reader that he is doing so.

2.  Secondly, you acknowledge that the footnote to the second sentence of
this passage (footnote [2] above) also uses your second meaning of the
terms content and form, i.e. the content and form OF VALUE.  Thus, there
is an inconsistency between your interpretation of the meaning of content
and form in the text and the meaning of these terms in the footnote to the
text.  You argue this inconsistency between the text and the footnote was
another mistake by Marx.

So we can see that your interpretation of the meaning of the terms content
and form in this passage is inconsistent, not only with the previous three
sections of Chapter 1, but also with this footnote to this passage.  You
explain these inconsistencies by arguing that Marx made a mistake, or
rather two mistakes: failing to alert the reader that he was using the key
terms content and form in a completely different way from the rest of the
chapter and not noticing the inconsistency between the text and this

However, I think there is a much simpler explanation of these
inconsistencies.  Marx did not make either one of these mistakes, and your
interpretation of the text is mistaken.  Content and form in this text
mean the content and form OF VALUE, as in the rest of the chapter and
in the footnote.  I don't think Marx made these elementary blunders,
especially in Chapter 1, that Marx rewrote and rewrote many times."

I am surprised you have not taken the point yet that the substance of value
and value itself is a different distinction than that between value and the
forms of value such as money. How can you not see that in the text value is
a form and in the first sentence of the footnote value is a content.
MOreover, although I hate to boast, the very fact that i subsequently
disovered that my intuition about the inappropriatness of the placing of th
footnote was entirely confirmed by looking at the first edition is all the
proof I need that I am on the right lines in sorting out Marx's ambiguities.

Later Fred writes that "the labour that appears as the value of the product
is abstracct labour not concrete labour". But I never denied that when
labour appears AS VALUE it is abstract; all I argue is that it is the value
form that transforms concrete labour into abstract labour.
This is a qualitative point about the concepts involved. As I pointed out
to you before this is consistent with your equation. To repeat my analogy.
Weight does not exist independently of gravity which is a force that acts
on something idependent of it namely mass and then whatever the G is the
weight will be proportional to the mass. Read value form for gravity, mass
for labour time and price form for weight.



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