[OPE-L:5873] Re: Re: Reply to fred

From: paul bullock (paulbullock@ebms-ltd.in2home.co.uk)
Date: Sun Jul 01 2001 - 06:36:44 EDT

In reading these exchanges, one particular feature strikes me, that is, the lack or absence of a definition that is explicity founded in private property and class relations. The emphasis is on exchange, the market.  Perhaps I misunderstand what is being said, but certainly the reiteration of the term 'abstract' labour, without clarifying what is meant by 'abstract'  doesn't seem to help. At times, as with the 'value form' school... we seem to have 'abstract '  meaning 'of no particular concrete/ or technical skill'... human labour in general... although there is an avoidance of the notion of some essential physical/mental activity.. since this would move into an obvious a-historical position.

'Exchange value'  is  predicated upon  private property. Now we are no longer dealing with a directly 'human'/ social process, but  - as I stressed some time ago - the link in an historically new indirect  social process. Private property exchanges with private property, abstracted from the particular existence of man as a directly social being. Mankinds directly social being is of no immediate interest to capital. The quality of labour socially, becomes 'abstract' when direct exchanges are broken down through the spontaneous development of money. It becomes systematically so when labour is torn away from any possibilty of exchanging its own products freely, ie when the labourer  is forced to sell his/her labour power as a commodity.  Abstract labour as a social reality  ( a category/ the substance of a relation), comes into being  over a period of time. Understanding it after industrial capitalism had developed simply enabled us correctly to understand the history leading up to it accurately.

Money is the universal form of existence of this social, and no longer personal,  labour . Money is the gateway by which private property is able to act for its own society, it blesses the private offering with the stamp of social validation. It reveals the abstract, social, nature of the labour performed privately.

We can continue, correctly to say that 'abstract labour' is the substance of value, we thus separate out the  social quality of labour performed for private property with society  in mind, from any particular skill of any labour resulting in a useful thing. The former cannot exist without the latter, the latter can, has existed and will exist in the future without the former.  Our concern however is not to make this simple distinction (simple for us to pick up from Marx), but constantly to relate the 'abstract' quality to the class nature of capitalist society, that it is a society of private property using the 'alienable' powers of  propertyless labour.  So please, even if you take this as given, can we constantly relate the 'abstract' to the specific relations  between private property, and so class society based on labour power as a commodity, and not one sidedly reiterate the fact of exchange as such.


Paul B.

-----Original Message-----
From: Fred B. Moseley <fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu>
To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Date: 28 June 2001 05:18
Subject: [OPE-L:5870] Re: Reply to fred 

>Howard, thanks for your (5868).  I agree in general with what you say.  I
>don't have the time right now for a full response (we are packing up to go
>to Maine for two months), but a quick comment on your last paragraph.  
>On Tue, 26 Jun 2001, howard engelskirchen wrote:
>> One consequence of this argument, Fred, if it is correct, is that you
>> cannot without a good deal of qualifying explanation easily identify money,
>> price and exchange value as the form of value.  I think you can defend that
>> usage, but it invites the idea that value is a phenomenon of exchange and
>> that exchange is decisive from the point of view of form determination.
>> But it is a particular form of social labor which is value and so it is
>> possible also to think of that form as a crucially important value form --
>> in other words the value form can refer to value as a historically
>> determined form of labor, and in fact that usage is common.  
>I agree with your formulation here.  Exchange-value is the form OF
>APPEARANCE of value.  Abstract labor, as the substance of value, also has
>a form, a historically specific form of social labor.  Chai-on's comments
>were helpful here (thanks, Chai-on).  Although Marx sometimes used
>"exchange-value (or money) is the form of value" as a shorthand for
>"exchange-value is the form OF APPEARANCE of value."  
>> This emphasis
>> on a determined form of laboring producers can be preserved with less
>> confusion by referring to money, price and exchange value, plainly
>> phenomena of exchange, as forms of appearance of something which is not
>> exclusively a phenomenon of exchange.  That is, we insist that these, which
>> belong to exchange, refer to something beyond exchange to which they give
>> expression.
>I agree completely that exchange-value is a form of appearance of
>"something beyond exchange to which it gives expression."  It is this
>"something else" - this "essence" - that makes a quantitative theory of
>exchange-value possible.
>I argue that value-form theory (at least in the Reuten and Williams
>version) does not provide a quantitative theory of exchange-value and
>surplus-value precisely because it rejects abstract labor as the
>"essence" or "substance of value".  
>Thanks again.

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