[OPE-L:8212] Re: Marx's Notes on Wagner available on MIA

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Wed Dec 18 2002 - 18:52:55 EST

 Marx denies that labour is the common social substance "of exchange
value". You give a lot of quotes designed to show that labour is the common
social substance "of value", as your conclusion puts it. But that is not
the issue Marx is addressing. Your summary of marx is generally accurate
except where you  write as follows
">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.  "
This repeats Wagner's error; if labour is not the common social substance
of exchange value, a fortiori it is not the substance of money. Money is
the necessary form of appearance of value. We need a three place scheme if
we are to give proper weight to both 'substance' and 'form' of value - I
repeat "of value" - labour as "substance" has in sec 1 and 2 taken the form
of value, but value itself has forms, of which exchange value is the most
general. That last is what Wagner failed to see and what Marx reminded him
of, pointing him to sec 3. Most unfortunately, as both Geert and I have
pointed out, 'Wertform' is ambiguous between something that takes
value-form as well as material form, and value that takes various forms
e.g. money. But close attention to the text allows us to see the
distinction, and hence the impropiety of going straight from exchange value
(inc. money) to labour.
That Marx states this unambiguously in On Wagner is very significant for
these interpretive issues.
On my Hegelian reinterpretation the value/exchange value dialectic is
parallel to the essence/appearance dialectic in Logic while the
representation of labour in the social form of value is parallel to the way
Hegel presents the real as principled by logical forms. The suspicion
(well-founded IMO) that hegel does not reach Nature but only the abstract
notion of Nature is parallel to the way the value form cannot recognise
labour in its concrete richness but only in abstraction.

>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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