[OPE-L:8225] Re: _dynamis_ and _energeia_ of commodity & surplus-value

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Sat Dec 21 2002 - 09:37:49 EST

Cologne 21-Dec-2002

Re: [OPE-L:8221] 

PS: Addendum re the concept of value and wage-labour
There is a further point to make about why the exchange relation between
wage-labourers and capitalists cannot be the "starting-point" for
analyzing what capitalism is, and that is that this relation is mediated
by money and therefore presupposes a concept of money to be thought

The concept of money is developed by considering the phenomenon of the
exchange of commodity products of labour. Value is first of all a
relational concept which conceives the abstract social relation between
commodity products and their exchangers. 

But this social relation precipitates its own substance and magnitude.
How? In that it becomes mediated by a customary thing, money. Money is
the social, customary thing that substantiates the abstract exchange
relation of value. Money itself is a custom, i.e. a usage, which serves
to link dissociated useful things. As this customary mediator, money
also provides the measure for the exchange of commodity products, and as
a thing it becomes the measure of the magnitude of value itself, i.e.
the quantitative measure of a social relation. 

The order of thinking in relation to the phenomenon and concept of value
is thus relation, substance, quantity.

As the embodiment of value, i.e. its precipitation, money as a
substantial thing is a reified social relation (from Latin 'res' for
thing), that is, a social relation that has become a thing. This thing
can take on a life of its own beyond the mediation of the exchange of
commodities in becoming a movement from money to more money, i.e. the
movement of capital M -- C -- M'. In this movement, money is able to
purchase labour-power (_dynamis_) in order to set it to work
(_energeia_) in a production process. As capital, money no longer merely
mediates exchange, but subsumes also the very production of the
commodity products of labour. The production process remains
dissociated, but mediated by the social thing, money-capital. The
production process has to prove itself as a social production process
through the commodity products being sold on the market, realizing the
return of the advanced money-capital. If a surplus-value is made (i.e.
advanced money-capital is augmented), the movement of capital has been
successful and the labour performed in the production process has proven 
itself post factum to be a successful portion of social labour as a

'Society' is constituted 'after the event' of production, although the 
social, sociating thing, money, has first taken hold of the sphere of

-------- Original Message --------
Betreff: [OPE-L:8221] Re: _dynamis_ and _energeia_ of commodity &
Datum: Sat, 21 Dec 2002 10:27:57 +0100
Von: artefact@t-online.de (Michael Eldred)
Rückantwort: artefact@webcom.com
Firma: http://www.webcom.com/artefact/
An: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu

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
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
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

Attention to what is prior and later in the order of thinking-through
has been
with philosophical thinking since Aristotle, who introduced the
_proteron_/_hysteron_ in his Metaphysics. Hegel and Marx are just two
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
special. It is not the exchange of the commodity products of labour as I
considering in my last two posts (which is the site where the concept of
is developed). Just two or three essential features of the exchange
between capitalists and wage-earners:

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

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
actualization, its being-at-work in the production process. Under the
terms of
the wage agreement, the worker submits (willingly or unwillingly) to
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
to the fleeting and changeable associations of buyer and seller of
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
command and control the workers, but this is not sufficient to guarantee
certain level of productivity, even given the kind of technology
(know-how and
associated means of production) employed in the production process. This
where incentives and motivation of the workforce also become important
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
latitude and fluctuation in what happens on the many different markets.
production process, on the other hand, is partly technical, which can be
controlled as in any _poiaetic_ process, and partly a process of social
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

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

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
http://www.webcom.com/artefact/ _-_-_-_-artefact@webcom.com _-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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