[OPE-L:7078] Re: the "stuff" of value and surplus value

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au)
Date: Sun Apr 28 2002 - 01:59:01 EDT

Dear Jerry,
I can see why you think my formulation suggests the "stuff" theory, which
as you note I also reject. However, "trans-historical" concepts are not
necessarily "stuff" concepts. In talking of the most "abstract" concept of
exchange value and value I was not even suggesting that the "content" of
exchange relations is the same in each case. I was treating the case very
much as I would treat the concept of "exploitation", whose most abstract
definition I take to be the "coercive appropriation of surplus labour by a
class of property owners from a class of direct producers". The specific
content of this will vary with specific historical modes of production, so
there will not be a "single thing" which each of these modes of production
shares. Similarly, I do not claim that there will necessarily be a single
thing that different forms of commodity exchange have in common, though
there may be tendencies that every form of commodity exchange have in
common, simply because they will be embedded in economies.
I certainly was questioning whether a necessary condition of the existence
of surplus value (in an abstract form) is that commodity exchange is part
of the circuit of capital. I proposed a more abstract notion of surplus
value, which of course, is defined not by some stuff but by social
relations involved in exchanging commodities.

>    Re  [7062]:   Dear Ian:   In [6099] you claimed that viewing value and
>[the redistribution of] surplus value as "stuff" is  misleading.   I agree
>with you.     Even though value and surplus value are represented  through
>commodities  -- "stuff"  (broadly interpreted to  also include services) 
>--  "stuff" are not themselves  value and surplus value. That  is because
>value  and  surplus value express,  most fundamentally, *specific  social
>relations*.    This, in  a nutshell, is why I disagree  with your "most
>abstract definition  of value" [7062]  -- it takes categories (value,
>surplus value)  that express *specific* social  relations and applies
>those  category  trans-historically such  that they can apply wherever and
>whenever there are products  which are produced in order to have exchange
>value  and where there is a surplus (product).   This  strikes me as
>suggesting that "stuff" which comes to have a  use-value and an
>exchange-value must have a "substance"  called value and surplus-value --
>regardless of the  presence or absence of a  *specific* social relation
>between  the  ruling class and the direct producers.  Yet, you rightly
>claimed  that a "stuff"  conception is  misleading ... and  clearly a
>conception that  highlights the fact that 'commodities' are produced
>without  specifying the social relations characteristic of that commodity
>production is  a  pure "stuff" theory of value.   It is the *specific
>social relations* that  distinguish one form of extraction of surplus
>labor from others.   The specific and necessary condition for the surplus
>product to come  to represent surplus value is a  *specific* relation
>between the two major classes in capitalist  society.     In solidarity,
>Jerry   PS: the above represents a reply to Rakesh's [7063]  as well.  

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Philosophy Dept, School of Humanities,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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