[OPE-L:7624] Re: RE: reply to Riccardo B on VF theory

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Sat Sep 07 2002 - 13:04:45 EDT

Re 7583
I think I may be intermediate between Ricc. and Nicky. CA

>BUT HERE IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT POINT: In addition to abstraction from
>the useful characteristics of labor-power and its products, MONETARY
CA: The problem with this stress is that nothing is stressed! For me it
would be 'actual' and led on to SNLT. The discussion is obscure but it may
be that Nicky is conflating abstraction from the specific and abstraction
from the genus. B-B accused Marx of this with respect to utility, but Marx
consciously, and with good reason, set aside use as a genus altogether
where the magnitude of value was concerned; but with labour he set aside
only the concrete and  retained the absract with its socially determined
measure. What is problematic is that the external measure money
misrepresents , as much as it represents, to the firms how they are doing,
so the operational determinacy of SNLT is effective only in the long run.
But even so I stick with marx here.
>I do have time in my approach (a necessary subsumption of productive
>activity under the aspect of time); what I do not have is a quantitative
>theory relating quantities of time to prices.  I do not have a theory of
>price determination based on a labour embodied theory of value.  So, the
>first thing about an equation in the form of the above is to recognise
>that it is not intended to establish a relationship between dependent and
>independent variables, but to say something fundamental about capitalist
>society.  What is fundamental is that (m) and (L) are inextricably
>connected and that their  unity  makes capitalism what it is.  In
>capitalism, value and price are mutually constituted by exchange because
>this is the only process whereby the private, concrete labour of
>individuals is constituted as social, abstract labour.  Hence there is no
>sense in which abstract labour is independent of its monetary expression. 
>Abstract labour is (mL): labour time, measured in money, where the money
>productivity of labour (m) is the dominant operator. 
>From my perspective, then, your question must be rephrased.  By itself (L)
>as measured in time is not homogeneous; it can be made so only by assuming
>away a real problem (as Marx did).  Moreover, a measure in labour time is
>not constant since labour productivity changes over time.  There is no
>adequate measure of socially necessary labour time other than money, and
>it makes no sense to ask what (L) is in isolation from (m).  This is Geert
>s equation, but here of course you have MY interpretation of it (he may

CA: Like Riccardo I disagree on two grounds i. operationallly I see no
difficulty in principle about the meaningfulness of SNLT
ii. conceptually it makes little sense to say that time is measured by
space in the literal sense. Only if a strong functional relationship
(precisely what you deny here) existed can we e.g. measure weight by the
length of a spring or temperature by a length of mercury. But we know
weight as a force, and heat as an agitation of molecules, are not
intrinsically lengthy. Just so the intrinsic measure of labour is time (why
it is so is a different question, there is nothing 'natural ' about it).
The whole issue relates to the vexed form and substance business and the
independent/dependent variables.
The VF faces the 'facts' of production as 'intransitive' matter, but in the
very act of 'cognising' it as value changes it, thus turning it into a
'transitive' content more or less adequate to the form. It is because K
measures its success across time that 'time is money' and it determines its
competitiveness along the SNLT axis; but at any given moment we can go from
SNLT to magnitude of value as if the former were an independent variable
(The Fred Moseley abstraction so to speak). SO it isn't a simple choice
between form determination and material determination but of determined
determinants and complex interchanges between contradictory poles (e.g. v
and uv)

>>"On the question of the relation between content and form, Marx took the
>>standpoint of Hegel, and not of Kant. Kant treated >form as something
>>external in relation to the content, and as something which adheres to
>>the content from the outside. From >the standpoint of Hegel's philosophy,
>>the content is not in itself something to which form adheres. Rather,
>>through its >development, the CONTENT itself gives birth to the form
>>which was already LATENT in the CONTENT."
>>well, that's what I'm trying to do. may be I do not succeed. You seem to
>>me desperately to deny this Rubin's point, which >was for me a Marx's
>>point, the content itself giving birth to the form. Rubin again: "From
>>this point of view, the form of value >necessarily grows out of the
>>substance of value".
>For me content does not give birth to the form.  Form determines the
>character of the content.  Nothing desperate about that.
>>May we agree to disagree? That is that for you this of Rubin is a wrong
>>position? May be not as an interpretation of Marx >but as a way out of
>>Marx's contracdctions?
CA: This passage from Rubin is very very wrong - about Hegel, and also he
nearly loses the VF perspective .
a) Hegel overcame Kant's thing-in-itself through having form do alll the
work. He says 'The Concept marches ahead without the need for any external
stuff' - a statement mocked by marx if C ch 3 I think. He says 'absolute
form' generates its own content, e.g. the Idea 'creates Nature'. Again in
1843 Marx fiercely attacks this attempt by logic to give itself a body,
while acutely noting that despite Hegel's rhetoric, the development in his
PR is always on the side of the content.
So Rubin's last sentence has it completely wrong way round; in Hegel the
form gives birth to the content; that is why it is idealist.
b) and Rubin's conclusion about form and substance of value appears to give
up his VFT. But the story can be made consistent if one distinguishes two
levels  at which 'form' exists, as indicated already above.
First level: the entire VF imposes itself on matter and 'gives birth to' a
form-determined content.
Second level: WITHIN this system of forms all Hegel's ontological
categories gain actuality, including form and content themselves. We can
speak of value as form and value as content - in one way this maps money
and commodities (the latter considered not as use-values but as 'values')
Now what is value-as-content that makes these commodities 'values'? It is
NOT concrete-labour-embodied-in-products. It is rather that form-determined
in sense 1 of form, so it is the spectral objectivity of abstract labour, a
social rather than natural 'stuff', just as the content of a book is the
meaningful propositions and not the paper and ink.
So having given itself this spectral 'body' the VF must accept the
consequence that, taken NARROWLY, at the second level, it is the case that
there will be quantitative relations betwen SNLT and money with changes
(for whatever reason e.g. class struggle) in the former reflected in the
latter. This is the 'materialist moment' that is anti-Hegelian.

> it shows up a FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION in capital as 'value form' -
> that capital is NOT really and can NEVER be the autonomous 'subject'
> that form determination in the Hegelian sense seems to demand (the
> theory of the capitalist system cannot close with the resolution of
> contradictions as Hegel's does).  On this last point in parentheses I
> believe value form theories are in general agreement (whatever our
>disagreements about how this system is to be theorised).
>>WONDERFUL. that's EXACTLY what I think.
CA: And what I think (as long as I am allowed to have capital IN FORM a
subject that is stymied when it tries to 'give itself a body' because of
the recalcitrance of its 'hands')


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