[OPE-L:8221] Re: _dynamis_ and _energeia_ of commodity & surplus-value

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Sat Dec 21 2002 - 04:27:57 EST

Cologne 21-Dec-2002

Re: [OPE-L:8220]

gerald_a_levy schrieb Fri, 20 Dec 2002 13:59:16 -0500:

> Re Michael E's  [8217]:
> I think we agree more than disagree on these issues.  A few comments:
> > The more complex structure of the exchange relation (in comparison to the
> > relation of using something) can be seen more clearly in going back to the
> > exchange of one good for another. For two commodities, such as toothbrush
> > and  cloth, to be exchanged, there are "at least four" terms involved (as
> > Aristotle  points out): the two products and the two exchangers. The
> > exchangers  themselves must enter in a social relation with one another.
> > This is the very sense of exchange as a _social_ relation -- it
> > as-sociates  (at least two) exchangers with one another. Each must offer
> > on a market a  potential use-value which they do not want to realize for
> > themselves. For an  exchange to actually take place, the two _dynameis_
> > of toothbrush and cloth  (i.e. their respective exchange-values) must be
> > reciprocally exercised.
> A potential use-value that they do not "want" to realize for themselves?
> This suggests that "wants" and "choice" determine exchange relations.

"Determine" to my mind is too strong, but wants and choices certainly do play a
role on markets, even when the exchangers are also under practical compulsions
arising from their respective situations.

> > This shows that the ontological structure of the exchange relation, which
> > is a  genuine social relation involving another (social relations are
> > always  _pros  heteron_, i.e. "toward another"), is more complex than
> > that of the simpler  relation of use-value.
> I agree with this conclusion.
> > The reason for this is that the very category of _dynamis_ in Aristotle's
> > ontology/metaphysics was thought along the lines of the paradigm of
> > production, of _poiaesis_. In Books Delta and Theta (V and X) of the
> > Metaphysics, the lead meaning for _dynamis_ is gleaned from the paradigm
> > of  production. This lead meaning of _dynamis_ is _archae metabolaes en
> > alloi ae  haei allo_ (X 1046a10), i.e "starting-point governing a
> > transformation  in  something else or insofar as it is something else".
> > Thus e.g. with the art of building, the starting-point governing the
> > transformation of stone and wood into a house lies in something else,
> > namely,  the builder, in whom resides the know-how of building.
> > The qualification "or insofar as it is something else" is necessary to
> > cover as the art of medicine when the doctor treats him/herself. The
> > doctor does not treat herself as a doctor, but insofar as she is herself
> > her  own patient.
> The 'starting point'  of  commodities and value is in the exchange relation
> between wage-laborers and capitalists, i.e. in the 'employment contract'.
> This is the starting point because without wage-labour, capitalist
> production can not commence.

I don't agree with this kind of argumentation, since it confuses causal
interrelations with a conceptual ordering required to think through the
phenomena. On the level of causal interrelations, one could just as well say
that without commodity markets, capitalist production could not commence, but
such causal interrelations and the kinds of causes they are (e.g. effective
cause, final cause, material cause, formal cause) are all intertwined and depend
on each other. Capitalist society is an interdependent whole with many causal
interrelations. In thinking through capitalism, Marx starts by first considering
first the exchange of the commodity products of labour in order to work out the
first concept, value, which will be used to formulate the essence of capitalism.
The focus is first on the simple relations of commodity exchange. How the
commodities are produced is bracketed to start with. In particular, Marx
explicitly brackets wage-labour in considering value (see the footnote on
wage-labour in Chapter 1 on MEW23:59 "The category of wages does not exist at
all on this level of our presentation.") I agree with Marx's way of proceeding

Attention to what is prior and later in the order of thinking-through has been
with philosophical thinking since Aristotle, who introduced the distinction
_proteron_/_hysteron_ in his Metaphysics. Hegel and Marx are just two thinkers
who respect this ordering of concepts. They are both system thinkers.

> This starting point itself presupposes a
> set of conditions including the existence of  "free" labor (in Marx's double
> sense of the term) and hence the creation of a class that is characterized
> by its ownership and control of the means of production and another class
> that is forced to sell labour-power on the market in exchange for a wage
> because of its non-ownership and control of the means of production.
> In this sense, the meeting in the marketplace of capitalists and
> wage-earners as buyers and sellers respectively forms the 'starting point'
> for capitalist production.  Yet, it remains dynamis until first labour has
> actually been performed and commodities result and then again in the
> market when/until/if  the commodity is sold.  Consequently, if we look
> at the circuit M-C-M' we can see in the first movement M-C the
> 'starting point' as a set of specific class relations that is required for
> C-M'  and hence surplus-value to materialize.   In other words, by
> focusing on the exchange relation between capitalists and wage-earners
> we see that there is more to exchange than "wants", choice and
> equality.

I agree that the exchange relation between capitalists and wage-earners is
special. It is not the exchange of the commodity products of labour as I was
considering in my last two posts (which is the site where the concept of value
is developed). Just two or three essential features of the exchange relation
between capitalists and wage-earners:

i) it is not an abstract exchange relation equating two different products

ii) the use of the _dynamis_, labour-power, requires the worker to work in some
sort of hierarchy under the capitalist's control, if not express command. I.e.
the capitalist as purchaser of the worker's labour-power also directs its
actualization, its being-at-work in the production process. Under the terms of
the wage agreement, the worker submits (willingly or unwillingly) to control
being exercised over him/her in the production process and agrees to obey work
instructions. Thus

iii) the relation between capitalist and worker is an enduring one, in contrast
to the fleeting and changeable associations of buyer and seller of commodity
products on the market.

> > So, a toothbrush or a ship are indeed each potential exchange-values, but
> > the  actualization of this potential exchange-value depends also an
> > _another_.  This  condition of reciprocity is the reason why
> > exchange-value is quantitatively so  variable and uncertain.
> Yes, there is a degree of uncertainty.  This uncertainty also stems from the
> capital/wage-labour relation since capitalists can not know in advance
> what the productivity of workers will be.

Insofar as capitalists command and control the production process, they also
command and control the workers, but this is not sufficient to guarantee a
certain level of productivity, even given the kind of technology (know-how and
associated means of production) employed in the production process. This is
where incentives and motivation of the workforce also become important to
enhance productivity, including overcoming demotivation and resistance among the
workers. Where there is rule there is also resistance to rule.

> > The experience of what can usually be had for a
> > certain commodity on the market can suddenly turn out to be no reliable
> > indicator.
> Agreed.
> > The advance sales revenue calculations and hence profit
> > calculations of a capitalist can turn out to be very wide of the mark,
> > either  up or down. Surplus-value can turn out to be nought or
> > abnormally great. The  reason for this lies in the essence of the
> > market, i.e. that it consists of   myriad 'starting-points', i.e.
> > myriad dissociated market participants --  despite all efforts to
> > control the market.
> It also depends on what happens in the production process.   There is
> uncertainty in _all_ phases of the circuit.

I think these uncertainties are of different kinds, since commodity exchange is
the association of otherwise dissociated exchangers and this allows for great
latitude and fluctuation in what happens on the many different markets. The
production process, on the other hand, is partly technical, which can be
controlled as in any _poiaetic_ process, and partly a process of social control
in the sense that capitalists and workers are sociated with one another in the
wage-labour relation in a specific kind of (again: money-mediated) power
relation (the capitalist is _archos_, leader, ruler, starting-point governing

The uncertainties inherent in a power relation are of a different kind than the
uncertainties inherent in the abstract kind of (fleeting) associating which
takes place on the market.

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_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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