[OPE-L:5876] Re: Re: Re: Reply to fred

From: Paul (clyder@gn.apc.org)
Date: Tue Jul 03 2001 - 16:19:38 EDT

On Sun, 01 Jul 2001, you wrote:

> 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. >  

This seems fine by me. It recornises that money merely makes
evident what is actually the case - that labour is performed for
society even if the money given for its product is privately appropriated.
> 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.  
The formula that I would always have used prior to seeing the 
discussions on this list is that the substance of value is "abstract
socially necessary labour". I would view the sale of the commodity
for money as validating the socially necessary aspect of the labour
not the abstract aspect. Thus whilst I would agree that abstract
labour in one sense pre-supposes particular skills - concrete
labours into which the abstract labour is distributed. I do not see
how most concrete labours can exist without abstract social labour. 

The pre-condition for most concrete labours is that they exist
as part of a general social division of labour. In the absence of 
that, the only concrete labours that exist are the most primitive
hunting and gathering skills.

In socialist society concrete labours will obviously still exits, but
only because the society will support a complex division of labour
and associated advanced technologies. The existence of that
complex division of labour in its turn implies some mechanism
for regulating the division of labour between different activities -
some form of economic calculation. 

The classical view of Marx and Engels was that this calculation
would be explicitly in terms of a calculus of labour time. This calculus
is obviously not a calculus of concrete labour - since these are
incomensurable, but a calculus of labour time in the abstract.

We know that in most socialist economies - with the possible exception
of the work-point system on the Chinese People's Communes, such
explicit calculation in labour time did not take place - though I dont
know enough about the internal practices of GOSPLAN to know if
labour budgets were drawn up as part of the planning process.
Instead calculations were done in a combination of material terms
( system of material balances ) and in monetary units - what
Makoto Itoh calls S money.

Here we no longer have the social character of the labour validated
by sale - the labour has its social character pre-conditioned by the
plan. Nor do we have the private appropriate of the value of the
product - since S money was not freely convertible into goods,
and in any case the bulk of any surplus reverted to the state
treasury. I think that it is arguable that the absence of an explicit
calculation of abstract labour time acted as a severe constraint upon
the effectiveness of planning, and indirectly contributed to the economic
difficulties encountered by hitherto existing socialism.

That is the main reason why I am so dogmatic an intolerant about
suggestions that abstract labour necessarily entails the existence
of the market and money.

If one takes that position one is either being wildly adventurist
in proposing socialism without having any concrete ideas about
how you would run a socialist economy - and who is likely to end
up directing planning agencies if not socialist economists - or
one ends up with a market socialist position since one holds that
the social character of labour can only be validated by monetary
sales. This, of course, is the classic objection of von Mises and

>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
Paul C
This is what I think smacks of adventurism. I think it is based on a
conflation of abstract social labour which exists wherever there
is a division of labour - with a historically specific form of economic
calculation arising from the private appropriation of the product through
monetary sale.


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. >  > Fraternally >  > Paul B. >  -- 
Paul Cockshott paul@cockshott.com  

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