[OPE-L:6928] Re: Re: value-form: reply to Chris

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sun Apr 07 2002 - 05:33:11 EDT

Nicky writes in 6927:

>4.  Living labour systematically produces 'actual' money (i.e. value in
>money form) only when it takes the wage-form; the wage form is a Value-Form
>(of labour) necessitated by the separation of workers from means of

Nicky there is a conflation here.

workers can in fact be separated from the means of production without 
being either free to negotiate with other employers (workers on 
visas, workers in compounds behind barbed wire, workers tied down by 
immovable pensions) and/or free to spend a spend their wage as they 
wish (slaves, workers in compounds surrounded by barbed wire). Yet 
these formally unfree workers may well engage in living labour under 
the command of capital.

>Also, on your [6915] reply (below) to Geert [6891] and the relation between
>the two dynamics.  On the first relation, would you agree with Backhaus's
>conclusion that in the first chapter of C1 the dynamics of value considered
>as content can 'only be construed as a pseudo-dialectical movement of
>pseudo-dialectical contradiction' (1980, p.101) because Marx actually
>*fails* to explicate the double character of labour as the *essential*
>opposition of capitalist production i.e. he fails to ground that opposition
>in the Value-Form (because of the retention of a transhistorical concept of
>abstract labour)?  So that the second relation (that between value and its
>forms in section 3) appears rather ambiguously as a theory of commodity
>money derived from an exchange relation - in the context of non-monetary
>barter exchanges! - rather than an exposition into 'fully dialectical'
>monetary relations of a Value-Form determination?

I am not sure what this means. Have read Backhaus' work in Thesis 
Eleven and Open Marxism--it's quite stimulating.

Let me offer my take on the beginning of Marx's Capital which I 
believe flirts with Hegel's Doctrine of Being. If anyone knows where 
this has been pointed out elsewhere, please tell me.

 From Bohm Bawerk on, Marx has been read as offering as a proof by elimination.

That is, value has to be something which commodities have in common, 
and also it must be something without which they will not exchange 
(since air, water, and sunshine do not in fact have exchange value). 
Use value does not satisfy these requirements; nor does any 
particular physical quality. However--and this is supposed to be 
Marx's deduction--abstract human labor does satisfy every requirement 
fully, and must therefore be recognized as the value element in all 

What is not properly emphasized is that for Marx himself is quite 
unhappy with this proof by elimination for Hegelian logical reasons. 
After all, Marx refers to this abstract labor as a phantom 

Of course Russel puts it more directly: To assert about something 
that it exists, is to assert that there is at least one x such that 
this x has a certain property.

But just like Hegel's pure being "passes into" nothing because it it 
has no properties and because it is a being from which all properties 
have been abstracted and because it is a being to which no properties 
have been ascribed; abstract labor as Marx first derives it is--AS HE 
HIMSELF EMPHASIZES--nothing or what Marx calls a phantom objectivity 
because it seems to be labor from all which concrete properties have 
been abstracted and because it is a residue.

Marx then proceeds to attribute  characteristics to abstract labor 
that will make it determinate. But these characteristics or qualities 
have to be such that  they will in turn allow of quantitative 

At any rate, I think it is highly misleading to read Marx's opening 
argument as proof by elimination as Bohm Bawerk and many have others 


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu May 02 2002 - 00:00:08 EDT