[OPE-L:8062] the 'starting point'

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Tue Nov 26 2002 - 09:59:35 EST

Re Tony T's [8054]:

> Please excuse me if I am resurrecting issues that you have settled in
> prior  exchanges (on measurement, quantification of labor, etc), but
> we shouldn't  underestimate the versatility of "the commodity", as the
> Marx's choice of a  starting point for analysis.

This issue has certainly not been 'settled' on-list.   Indeed, while the
alternative starting point of Geert and Mike W  in _VFS_ (self-production
and its further determination as sociation)  has been mentioned before
on OPE-L (usually be me trying to stir things up) it really hasn't been
discussed at length, defended, or subjected to critique.  I, for one, would
very much like to see a discussion of the differing starting points of R-W
and Marx -- but, to be most successful, I think it would require the
participation of the authors themselves -- excluding Marx of course.

> It is surely the case that the manifestation
> of labor in market prices does play an important (historical) role in the
> actual, dynamic development of capitalism (and is therefore an important
> part of the picture).  But other, qualitative aspects  (love, family,
> housework, spiritual conditions) are also vital to the reproduction of
> labor  power, and therefore cannot be excluded from the analysis.

Agreed.  The issue, as I see it,  is *how* these qualitative aspects are
unpacked and, along with quantitative aspects, systematically developed
as part of a reconstruction in thought of  capitalism.

The *question* is whether all of these aspects can be developed from the
starting point of the commodity.  One difficulty here is that while Marx
indicated a  framework in which all of the essential aspects of capitalism
could be developed (i.e. the 6-book-plan), he didn't  systematically
develop all of  these aspects and connections himself  and no Marxist since
has really attempted to do this either (although there are certainly some
like Mike L and Geert/Mike W who have attempted to extend an analysis
into the realm of Wage-Labour and The State respectively).  A *problem*
is the following:  isn't the 'success' of a given starting point to be
'measured' in relation to what it allows us to comprehend?  In other words,
isn't the success of a starting point only revealed by what it allows us to
comprehend about the subject _as a whole_?  Yet, unless the presentation
is complete we can't say what the 'ending' is and therefore what the whole
is in its richest determinations and therefore we are only very incompletely
able to access the merit of the starting point.  We thus know what the
'ending' of  _VFS_ is and can evaluate the starting point in terms of how
it does or does not allow for a richer, systematic comprehension of the
subject matter. But, what of Marx and his starting point of the commodity?

A _further_ question, then, might be:  do these differing starting points
to differing conceptions of  'what is to be done'?  I.e. are there
in terms of praxis?  If so, what are they?

> Diane Elsen has a couple of essays in a book that she edited, e.g,  "The
> Value Theory of Labour", Elson, Diane (editor) VALUE: THE
> Books, 1979). that provides an 'analytic'  ordering of qualitative and
> quantitative aspects of labor, that attempts to  delineate four sets of
> conditions under which each is dominant.   Now  "dominance" (of so
> qualitative aspects) does not exclude other aspects --  they are still
> necessary.

Hmmm.  I assume you are referring to "social and private, abstract and
concrete" which Elson referred to as "aspects of labour".   Where is
the part of her article where she provides the 'ordering'  and 'conditions'
that you refer to above?

In solidarity, Jerry

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