[OPE-L:8098] Re: philosophy and political economy

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Dec 03 2002 - 09:10:01 EST

Hi Chris,

Re your 8085:

> Andy wrote 8052:
> >
> >> Labour
> >> time is the only possible material property of commodities that
> >> could be systematically related to  'prices'.
> >
> >Andy
> A commodity is a persisting physical object. Value as the relational
> property such an object has may conceivably be derived from the
> proportions in which it exchanges with others. But you would need to
> do a lot of conceptual work to explain how time could be a property of
> a physical object. Of course you could argue you are indirectly
> referring to a causal condition of its existence but you could only
> make that a property on a pretty strong internal relations view of the
> world. 

A commodity is a product of labour; an objectification or 
embodiment of labour; it is the 'product' corresponding to the labour 
'process'. You seem to want to divorce product and process. 
Anyway these basic propositions of materialist dialectics all seem 
more than enough to justify seeing (objectified) labour time as a 
property of the commodity (seeing that the commodity is an 
embodiment of labour). In my PhD chapter (p.136) I suggest that 
one reason why Hegel-inspired systematic dialecticians cannot 
follow Marx's argument is their rejection or miscomprehension of 
the notion that the product is an objectificiation or embodiment of 
labour. Consider, for example,  Reuten / Williams thesis that 
Marx's notion of embodiment is an illicit Ricardian hangover. Take 
also your recent 'spectral ontology' ch., where you suggest that 
Marx's ch.7 discussion of labour as 'form giving fire' etc. is 
misplaced, that it should apply only to the case of valorisation and 
not to the transhistorical case (CR and Marxism, pp.228-9). I 
disagree and instead suggest that it is your lack of materialist 
dialectics (indeed what I would call your idealism) that is the 
abstract reason for your rejection of Marx's argument.

>From my perspective at least, it is only given the *transhistorical* 
aspects of materialist dialectics that Marx's discussion of the 
*historical* peculiarities of value makes any sense. The commodity 
is indeed an embodiment of labour as we would expect given the 
transhistorical notion of labour. However, we have, in the peculiar 
case of value, embodiment without a 'body' -- an absurdity!! This is 
apparent from the fact that all *natural* material properties of the 
commodity are abstracted from in exchange, the only determinate 
property left being *social* labour time. This is the root of the 
peculiarities of value to which Marx constantly refers. It is the 
motivation for the notion of abstract labour as itself a substance.

Another way of looking at my position above is to say that you are 
absolutely right that a lot of conceptual work must be done to see 
a commodity as having the property of 'labour time' (to see that the 
commodity is an objectification of labour). This work has been 
done; it is the philosophy of materialist dialectics. A philosophy 
that was, imo, transparently Marx's own. Even more work must 
then be done to grasp the ('spectral') peculiarities of value, the 
abstract basis of capital and capitalism.

Finally, it always astonishes me that CPE and KM assume the
> dimansion of labour is time. It would be more intuitive to a theory
> based on the notion that 'a lot of work has gone into it' to measure
> labour in energy expended with some coefficients to cover
> pleasant/unpleasant work. IMO the  only way to justify the time
> measure is through VF theory via the capital form. greetings

I do not want to pursue this point further at this stage. But, once 
more, I suspect that the abstract reason for your astonishment is 
the fact that your philosophy is very different to Marx's and to my 

Many thanks,


> Chris A
> 17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Dec 04 2002 - 00:00:01 EST