[OPE-L:8206] Re: Re: Marx's Notes on Wagner available on MIA

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Tue Dec 17 2002 - 23:50:22 EST

On Mon, 16 Dec 2002, Christopher Arthur wrote:

> By far the most important thing for us because it goes beyond Wagner's
> idiocy and helps us with Marx's final thoughts is when he denies that 'the
> common social substance of exchange value is labour'. (MECW p. 533). Marx
> is here rather duplicitous because this would not be an unfair reading of
> the 1859 critique, nor even of the first edition of Capital. It was quite
> late on that Marx realised the fundamental importance of inserting 'value'
> betweeen 'exchange-value' and 'labour' and thus fully developing the
> concept of form of value. (See Rubin's excellent account)
> Chris Arthur

Chris, I think you are misinterpreting Marx's cryptic remarks on Wagner
and also Chapter 1 of Volume 1.  

Marx is saying that Wagner misrepresented his argument in Section 1 of
Chapter 1 - labor is not the common social substance of
EXCHANGE-VALUES.  Marx said a few sentences later that the subject of
Section 1 is not exchange-values, but rather COMMODITIES.  Labor IS
derived in Section 1 as the common social substance of commodities that
determines their exchange-values.  Wagner's mistake was thinking that the
argument has to do with the common substance of exchange-values, when it
is really about the common substance of commodities.

The following is the well-known conclusion of Marx's derivation of
abstract human labor as the common substance of commodities in Section 1:

"Let us now look at the residue of the products of labour [i.e. of
commodities].  There is nothing left of them in each case but the same
phantom-like objectivity; they are merely congealed quantities of
HOMOGENEOUS HUMAN LABOUR, i.e. of human labour-power expended without
regard to the form of its expenditure.  All these things now tell us is
that human labour-power has been expended to produce them, human labour is
accumulated in them.  As crystals of this SOCIAL SUBSTANCE, which is
COMMON to them all, they are values - commodity values."  
(C.I.: 128; emphasis added)
In other words, what makes commodities values is the common social
substance contained in them - abstract human labor.  More succintly, 
the substance of value is abstract labor.

In the next paragraph, Marx previewed his later derivation of money as the
necessary form of appearance of the substance of value (abstract human
labor) in Section 3, as follows:

"The progress of our investigation will bring us back to
exchange-value as the necessary mode of expression, or form of appearance,
of value.  For the present, however, we must first consider the nature of
value independently of its form of appearance."  (C.I.: 128)

Toward the end of  Section 1, there is a similar summary of the argument
thus far and another preview of Section 3 on exchange-value as the
necessary form of appearance of the substance of value (abstract labor).

"Now we know the  SUBSTANCE OF VALUE.  It is LABOUR. We know the
measure of its magnitude.  It is labour-time. The form, which stamps value
as exchange-value, remains to be analyzed.  But before this we need to
develop the characteristics we have already found somewhat more
fully." (C.I.: 131; emphasis in the original)

Section 2 of Chapter 1 goes on to "develop the characteristics that we
have already found."  These characteristics already found are of course
abstract labor as the "substance of value" and labor-time as the
"magnitude of value". 

As previewed in Section 1, Section 3 derives money as the necessary form
of appearance of the substance of value (abstract labor), as derived in
Sections 1 and 2.  

The key point to emphasize is that, throughout Section 3, commodities are
assumed to possess the common property of value, i.e. objectified abstract
labor (the "substance of value"), in definite quantities, as derived in
the Sections 1 and 2.  This is the basic presupposition of Marx's
derivation of the necessity of money in Section 3.  

Marx expressed this basic presupposition in the introduction to Section 3: 

"We may twist and turn a single commodity as we wish; it remains
impossible to grasp it as a thing possessing value.  However, let us
remember that commodities possess an objective character as values only is
so far as they are all expressions of an IDENTICAL SOCIAL SUBSTANCE, HUMAN
LABOUR, that their objective character as values is therefore purely
social.  From this it follows self-evidently that it [the objective
character of commodities as values] can only appear in the social relation
between commodity and commodity.  In fact we started from exchange-value,
or the exchange relation of commodities, in order to track down the value
that lay hidden within it.  We must now return to this form of appearance
of value."  (C.I: 138-9; emphasis added)

So I don't see how there can be any doubt that, in Marx's theory, abstract
labor is the substance of value.


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