[OPE-L:6904] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: value-form

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Fri Apr 05 2002 - 07:10:30 EST

Hello again Rakesh [6902], I don't want to become embroiled in one of those
interminable debates, where I have to go into the whole methodology of VFT
and the meaning of all the concepts in an entire system (email is not
conducive to that), so I'll state the case here as simply as possible and
then bow out.  If it doesn't make sense, so be it: 

>>1) when I say 'capital-labour' relation I emphatically **DO NOT** mean a
>>relation of production.  The capital-labour relation describes a
>>relationship constituted in circulation (i.e. by the whole capital circuit
>>of production and exchange, within which the moment of production lies).
>No, I disagree. The capital-labor relation and exploitation are 
>exactly not constituted in circulation!  This is the superficial 
>relationship, a deceptive appearance which is not the true essence of 
>the relationship. To focus on circulation is precisely to gloss over 
>the essential nature of the capital-labor relationship, extinguishing 
>its differentia specifica. Which is the production of surplus value 
>and capital.

Yes, we disagree profoundly.  For me the forms of capital (constituted as
circulating capital through moments of exchange, production and exchange)
do indeed describe the true essence of capitalism as a form-determined
system.  From this disagreement, all other disagreements follow.  I will
pick up the main ones now, and elaborate them a bit:  

>>This is so because the exchange of labour-power for wages (prior to
>>production) is the key part of it
>key part of what? the reference here is unclear. Moreover, why must 
>wages take the form that you specify? In the Journal of Peasant 
>Studies you will find scholars who argue that there are many hidden 
>wage forms.

Key part of the reproduction of capital (as described in Marx's C2
circuit), and therefore the capital-labour relation.  Specifically, it is
the initial exchange of labour power for wages that motivates the
metamorphosis of money-capital into productive capital, a capital form from
which follows the subsumption (in production) of living labour under aspect
of time (exploitation).

>Perhaps more importantly, this exchange for wages is at best a 
>necessary but not  sufficient condition for the capital-labor 
>What are the other conditions? And why can't those other conditions 
>be sufficient?

In his discussion of circulating capital (the first 4 chs. of C2, Marx
identifies the 'necessary' but insufficient condition for the reproduction
of capital as money. The condition required to make it sufficient is the
existence of 'free' labour power available for monetary purchase (wages) in
the first (exchange) stage of the circuit.  

>>   From this
>>perspective, the *owners* of slaves and serfs are not faced by the same
>>Value Form 'requirements' as the *employers* of wage labour.
>Why not? I am just trying to get a clear answer here.

It's obvious: one of the necessary and sufficient conditions isn't met.

>What are value form requirements? And why cannot they appy to the 
>owner of slaves or serfs?

Again obvious, that is, if you temporarily allow yourself to accept that
the presupposition of Marx's system is capitalism (and that the conditions
that he sets down for the existence and reproduction of capital are money
and wage labour).  As for the slaves and the serfs, I read Marx's own
statements on method as flatly refuting any such linkage between conceptual
and historical development. He explicitly states in the Grundrisse
'Introduction' that economic categories are valid only to the extent that
they apply to the specific social form to be investigated, irrespective of
their role in historical development.  Explicitly: 'It would be unfeasible
and wrong to let the economic categories follow one another in the same
sequence as that in which they were historically decisive.  Their sequence
is determined, rather, by their relation to one another in modern bourgeois
society' (p.107).  Or again: 'In the succession of the economic categories,
as in any other historical social science, it must not be forgotten that
their subject - here modern bourgeois society - is always what is given, in
the head as well as in reality…' (p.106).  What matters in any scientific
inquiry is, therefore, a demonstration of logical necessity upon which the
validity of concepts depends.
So, as I already said, the problem (as I see it) is to demonstrate that the
necessary and sufficient conditions of a capitalist economy *are* money and
wage labour, as posited by Marx.  Since reproduction of the whole depends
upon complex determinations, functional demands specify the meaning of
economic categories and of the interconnections that they describe.  To
speak of the necessity of money and wage labour, then, is to ask what
specific and essential roles money and wage labour play in the reproduction
of capitalism.  Imo, these concepts can be taken as valid only to the
extent that they are verified (within the presentation) as necessary to the
entire set of interconnected determinations that constitute capitalism (in
thought) as it essentially is.
To clarify this point, consider the hypothesis that a material form of
commodity money (gold) is necessary to the existence and reproduction of
capital, so that the absence of a gold standard must result in collapse of
the monetary system, unless some surrogate can be found.  If this
hypothesis is correct, the freeing of monetary instruments from any
commodity connection must signal the decline of capitalism because one of
its necessary conditions of existence has vanished.  An alternative
hypothesis is that the concept of money is necessary, but the requirement
for a commodity money embodiment is contingent.  If so, the reproduction
and development of capital will continue unabated in the absence of a gold
standard, along with a proliferation in monetary instruments.  According to
the alternative hypothesis, what matters is the social institution of money
per se, quite irrespective of any historically contingent or physical
The same two possibilities arise in the case of wage labour.  Your
possibility: that 'relations of production' are separate from 'forms of
exploitation'.  In that case, wage labour is not necessary to the
reproduction of capital and there are many 'forms of exploitation' (to link
to Alfredo's 6903 - Hi Alfredo! - abstract labour is then simply social
labour, whatever its form).  The other possibility: that the capital-labour
relation describes a specific relationship constituted not in production
but in circulation (and by this I stress again that I mean the whole
circuit of industrial capital, within which the moments of production and
exchange lie), then wage labour is logically necessary.  Precisely because
it is the initiating moment of the transformation of money-capital into
productive capital, hence the fundamental determinant of what Marx calls
the 'authentic transformation' of labour into capital (C1, pp.993-994).  In
this case, the conclusion must be that exploitation arises only within the
capital-labour relation, that abstract labour is a capitalist Value form -
i.e private labour verified as socially useful only when commodities
exchange for money on markets (although it is of course already there in
'ideal' form in production), and exploitation consists of the whole of the
working day.
More on abstract labour and money: the standard argument for a necessary
interconnection between labour time and money is that any measure (money)
must always and everywhere possess something in common with what is
measured (here the value of the commodity), and for Marx this is
necessarily an equal amount of abstract labour.  The ideal or purely
symbolic function of money in the circulation of capital is thus opposed to
the necessity that money take on a material form in its function as measure
of value.  However, Value-Form theory implies no such opposition between
monetary functions (see the many works on this by Mike W, Chris A, and
Geert R).  This is because the concept of value is a 'social' rather than a
'physical' phenomenon; ultimately money is (capital) value, grounded in
market mechanisms.

Clearly you will not agree with me.  But as Isaak Rubin pointed out a long
time ago it is impossible to reconcile certain points of view: especially
those where the people in the debate use the same terms (eg circulation,
value form, capital-labour relation, abstract labour and value) to describe
totally different things.  Best to try to understand the differences,
accept them and leave it at that.  

>My reading of Marx's articles and correspondence on the American 
>Civil War do not turn up references to the Southern slave system as 

I use Marx **only** as a source of inspiration not as a bible - I'll leave
it to others to decide whether my particular brand of VFT is compatible
with Marx's, or not.  Frankly, what Marx thought of the Southern slave
system isn't a question that interests me very much.

>Do you think the plantations and mines of colonial Southern Africa 
>and Zimbabwe--I mean Rhodesia--were not capitalist enterprises just 
>because they were often based on formally unfree (or rather formally 
>the unfreest) labor relations?

I'm not sure what you mean.  Rhodesia was initially the private property of
Cecil Rhodes and his (mostly British) shareholders.  They exploited wage
labour (peasants were forced to work in the mines by the imposition of huge
taxes on head of cattle).  On the other hand, colonists in some parts of
Southern Africa (especially Mozambique and Angola) did use slave labour
extensively.  Was this capitalism?  Does it express a capital-labour
relation?  Was the labour of these people abstract labour?  Obviously I say
no.  If I were interested in the problem though, I might try to find some
other term for it, and some other theory to explain it.  After all, a
theory that is intentionally meant to explain a system conditional on money
and wage-labour should not be expected to explain something else.    

>How do you make sense of the history of your own homeland?

Different question... perhaps another time. 
(ps. thanks very much for Chomsky! I am in constant awe of your ability to
simultaneously write and have a life)
all best Nicky

Nicola Taylor
Faculty of Economics
Murdoch University
South Street
W.A. 6150

Tel. 61 8 9385 1130 
email: n.taylor@stu.murdoch.edu.au

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