[OPE-L:7626] Re: Re: RE: reply to Riccardo B on VF theory

From: Nicola M Taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Sat Sep 07 2002 - 20:11:08 EDT

At 06:04  7/09/02 +0100, you wrote:
>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.

NT: I think we agree that value form determines the doubling of 
concepts??  Both the doubling of the commodity into use-value and value and 
the doubling of labour into concrete and abstract are, then, results of a 
peculiar determination of products and labour by a social form where time 
is critical.  Why, because capital aims at the expansion of magnitude (not 
the expansion of use-value, although the latter is necessary to the 
former).  On the qualitative side, I have no problem with this: the time 
measure (SNLT) is the measure of abstract labour ONLY because capital must 
bring labour under the regime of time in order that valorisation is 
possible.  Social labour is not subject to such measures in non-capitalist 
societies (abstract socially necessary labour IS the social expression of 
labour in capitalism).  However, I cannot see that there is any convincing 
way to jump from the correct conclusion that the time measure is a 
capitalist abstraction, and in this sense the immanent measure of value, to 
the conclusion that value is determined by quantities of SNLT.  A key 
feature of capitalism is that individual capitals are in competition; in 
competitive markets, we cannot know that SNLT is or is not equal to value, 
when its money measure is accurate or not, why it changes over time.  Thus, 
I can see no necessary quantitative relationship between what are in effect 
two fundamentally different things: SNLT (a qualitative concept of 
magnitude) and relative prices (the quantitative expression of exchange 
values).  Ultimately, the problem with using SNLT in a quantitative theory 
is that it has no measure other than money.  If money 'misrepresents' 
socially necessary labour to firms, then the concept of SNLT becomes more 
obscure than ever.  Btw, I do not see how the long-run choices of firms 
over their combinations of living labour and dead labour resolves 
this??  Since growth is a long-run concept, you seem to abstract completely 
from the possibility of crisis (which then must be confined to short run 
deviations around the trend).  Incidentally, R's firms must have at least 
adaptive expectations when they decide in advance the workers' consumption 
basket - in this case 'necessary labour' can be understood as a kind of 
'natural rate' around which there are fluctuations.

> >
> >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
> >object).
>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)

NT: i) the question of 'operationalizing' SNLT as a quantitative measure 
implies for me the empirical question of whether labour (and labour time) 
can be treated as homogeneous before an exchange against money, to which I 
answer in the negative.  Duration of labour depends not just on 
capitalists' decisions, but on social norms and level of class struggle, 
intensity upon average techniques and organisation of production, 
qualification on the market and state provision of education and training, 
and composition of output depends on social determinants of demand.  It 
seems more sensible to say that abstract labour is 'ideal' or 'potential' 
in production, and so too the measurement of AL in SNLT.  ii) conceptually 
we differ in how we see value as process.  You say the metamorphosis is 
from 'property' to 'substance' to 'subject' , so value is fixed 
successively in commodities and money; but for me value is not fixed in 
commodities, on the contrary commodities are but potentially values (i.e. a 
commodity cannot express the objectivity of value until it is exchanged 
against money.  So we come back to the question: what is value?  You seem 
to say that value expresses something intrinsic to commodities (SNLT) as 
weight expresses something intrinsic to objects (a force) and that money 
then expresses the objectivity of this notion of value as something 
intrinsic and non-arbitrary.  I say that this is to take as a premise what 
has to be proved (puts the science before the science).  Rather, value must 
be posited as a quality uniting particular commodities in a world of 
commodities, a quality that finds its only quantitative expression of 
objectivity in money prices.  This suggests that what a commodity is 
intrinsically is a total of determinate external relations peculiar to 
capitalism that must be grasped by the VF in exactly the way you describe 
in the last sentences (above).  By derivation, by uncovering ever-more 
concrete determinations, we arrive at SNLT as an *immanent* determinant of 
value, the only objective expression of which is money, (mL).  What I deny 
is not that SNLT determines value but that the (m) can be taken out of the 
functional expression of SNLT.  If you do that, you are left with (L), and 
this is concrete labour.  Why? Because labour is in no way homogeneous 
before money.  This is what I took to be the main point of Riccardo's 
original request that I explain the equation: Y=mL.  I want to insist 
strongly that the quantitative relations  between time and money must be 
expressed in a monetary form.  One of the problems of the first chapter of 
Capital, in my view, is that Marx confuses this issue by jumping at once 
from value to the idea of SNLT, immediately expressed in the money 
commodity (an argument I find unconvincing).

> >>"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".
> >NT:
> >For me content does not give birth to the form.  Form determines the
> >character of the content.  Nothing desperate about that.
> >RB:
> >>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?
> >NT:
> >Agreed!
> >
>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.
> >NT:
> > 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).
> >RB:
> >>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')

Thanks for a VERY interesting discussion!

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Sep 09 2002 - 00:00:00 EDT