[OPE-L:8668] Re: probabilistic approaches to the theory of value and philosophy

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Mon Mar 24 2003 - 12:07:04 EST

Cologne 24-Mar-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8662]

Phil Dunn schrieb Mon, 24 Mar 2003 03:25:06 +0000:

> Michael Eldred wrote:
> >Aristotle points out that things (_pragmata_; he uses the example of
> >shoes) have two
> >kinds of uses. A pairs of shoes can be worn. That is their primary
> >use. A pair of
> >shoes can also be used to acquire something else in exchange. This
> >is the origin of
> >the distinction between use-value and exchange-value as employed in
> >political economy
> >a couple of millennia later.
> >
> >Are these two kinds of uses essential to practically useful things?
> >If something is
> >intrinsically useful, i.e. useful _kath'auto_, then it has an
> >essential relation to a
> >use, i.e. a human practice or usage. The thing can only _be_ what it
> >is, a use-value,
> >within the category of relation (_pros ti_), i.e. use-value is
> >essentially relational.
> >
> >Similarly, for exchange-value -- in a society with markets, i.e. in
> >which exchange is
> >practised, useful things can be exchanged for other useful things
> >(or sold for money
> >and thus indirectly exchanged for other useful things). The 'second
> >order' use of
> >useful things in the practice of exchange is just as essential as
> >the 'first order'
> >use in some other practice (e.g. wearing the shoe).
> >
> >Even if the exchange of useful things on markets were banned in a
> >certain kind of
> >society (communism), this would only be a repressed truth of useful
> >things, i.e. that
> >they disclose themselves of themselves not only as useful, but as
> >useful and therefore
> >also exchangeable. The usefulness and the exchangeability are
> >_dynameis_ inherent in
> >the things themselves, i.e. _kath'auto_.
> Value as the power of exchangeability is good.  But is this
> exchangeability inherent in
> the useful thing or in the commodity?  I would say the latter.
> Use-value is only the
> material bearer of exchange-value

A thing is a use-value only in a world in which things are used in various
human practices. A thing is an exchange-value only in a world in which useful
things are exchanged one for the other in a social practice of exchange. Thus,
use-value is not just a "material bearer" of anything. Use-value itself is
relational, i.e. relative to the human practices of use. One can only say that
use-value is prior to exchange-value in the sense that only use-values have
exchange-value, and that the practices of use of useful things is
(ontologically) prior to the practice of the exchange of useful things.

Neither use-value nor exchange-value are "inherent" (_kath'auto_) in things.
They are both relational (_pros ti_). Note also that all _dynameis_ are

> >But the ontological structures of these two different _dynameis_ or
> >potentials differ.
> >These questions remain to be taken up -- to the present day. The
> >important thing to
> >notice at the outset and which must not be allowed to lost from
> >sight is that these
> >questions are _prior_ to any consideration of the quantities
> >involved (e.g. 1 pair of
> >shoes for 20 kg. potatoes -- notice that a single shoe has no
> >exchange value, because
> >it is generally useless). Marx saw this (Ricardian) fixation on
> >quantities, but his
> >thinking did not keep the phenomena themselves clearly in view.
> >Marx's thinking, too,
> >moves too quickly to the question of the quantitative aspect of
> >exchange relations.
> I agree that they have different ontologies.  Use-value has at best a
> very broad generic
> unity.  Value has a specific unity -- the value-form, the form of
> exchangeability,
> understood as the species of capitalist surplus labour extraction.

This is not sufficient, I think. The _dynamis_ of use-value is at work
(_energeiai_) when the thing is used in a practice, e.g. when  I wear the pair
of shoes, their use-value is at work.
The _dynamis_ of exchange-value has a more complex ontological structure. The
exchange-value of shoes is 'at work' when they are exchanged in the social
practice of exchange for something else, say. potatoes. Exchange therefore
requires at least four terms (as Aristotle himself points out in Eth. Nic.
Book V): i) the shoes as exchange-value, ii) the potatoes as exchange-value,
iii) the possessor of the shoes as exchanger and iv) the possessor of the
potatoes as exchanger.

The exchange-values of the shoes and the potatoes must be exercised
reciprocally and complementarily for the exchange to come about, and thus for
the shoes and the potatoes to switch places (_metabolae_). To underscore it:
there are always (at least) _two_ dynameis involved in the social relation of

This is entirely ontologically different from the use-value of shoes, which is
at work simply in me wearing the shoes. Only two terms are involved here --
the shoes and the wearer. The shoes have the potential (_dynamis_) of
transforming something else, namely, the possessor of the shoes, from a
non-wearer of shoes into a wearer, the wearing of shoes being a human

> I want to go back to the short but complex passage I quoted earlier.
> In it Marx does not
> say that an intrinsic exchange-value is a contradiction in terms.  He
> only says it
> _seems_ to be!  This poses the question: is value being distinguished from
> exchange-ratio, relative price and money price, all, including value,
> being considered
> as as exchange-value, or is it being distinguished _from_
> exchange-value?  I had
> assumed the latter.  But on the former interpretation all I said
> earlier about value as
> non-relational and purely quantitative is plain wrong.  An intrinsic
> exchange-value is not a contradiction in terms.

I think it is a contradiction in terms if "intrinsic"/_kath'auto_ is opposed
here "relational"/_pros ti_. Aristotle points out that knowledge
(_epistaemae_) is always essentially relational because all knowledge is
knowledge of something. Knowledge-of... has the categorial structure of _pros
ti_. The same applies to exchange-value, as well as to use-value.

> The first thing Marx does when he analyses the value-form is to set
> up, as polar
> opposites, the relative and equivalent forms of value.  Sometimes,
> however, he speaks
> of relative value but not once, as far as I can tell, of equivalent
> value.  He comes close:
> Whether the coat is expressed as the equivalent and the linen as
> relative value, or,
> inversely, the linen is expressed as equivalent and the coat as
> relative value ...
> But as soon as the coat takes up position of the equivalent in the
> value expression,
> the magnitude of its value ceases to be expressed quantitatively.  On
> the contrary, the
> coat now figures in the value equation merely as a definite quantity
> of some article.
> (Capital I ch 1 3(a))
> He cannot say 'equivalent value'; he would have to say 'equivalent
> use-value', since
> Marx says that the internal opposition is between value and
> use-value.  The problem
> here is that use-value, as matter and with all its heterogeneity,
> should not intrude
> into the value-form which, as a specific unity, confers homogeneity .

Marx is already trying to examine the magnitude of value in the passage you
cite above. The underlying, simple phenomenon is that a coat is worth
something in terms of linen (as a use-value), and linen is worth something in
terms of coat (also as a use-value). This is so because use-value is
ontologically a more basic relation than exchange-value, which is second-order
compared to use-value, i.e. exchange-value relies on and presupposes use-value
to be what it is. I do not agree at all that use-value can be characterized as
"matter". Use-value, too, is a social relation _related_ to the practices and
usages in a social world.

In a society in which the exchange of goods is generally practised, these
goods (which have to be conceived as good-for-practical-living) have many,
many exchange-values since, e.g. shoes can be exchanged not only for potatoes,
but also for coats or linen or some other useful thing.

These many, many exchange-values become unified only when money comes on the
scene as the mediator of exchange. Useful things are then not worth something
in terms of myriad other goods, but are worth something in money. What they
are worth is their price. Money unifies all the various use-values in a
uniform dimension of monetary value, and they all become equal.

Aristotle uses the example of the exchange of a physician’s services for a
farmer’s products which “have to be equalized” (_dei isasthaenai_ Eth. Nic.
1133a18). “Thus everything must be comparable in some way if exchange is to
be.” (_dio panta symblaeta dei pos einai, on estin allagae. 1133a19) And how
is this comparability achieved? Aristotle continues, “Money has resolved this
and is a kind of middle term, for it measures everything and so also too much
and too little and how many shoes are equal to a house or food.” (eph' ho to
nomism' elaeluthe, kai ginetai pos meson: panta gar metrei, hoste kai taen
hyperochaen kai taen elleipsin, posa atta dae hypodaeat' ison oikiai ae
trophaei. 1133a20)

Notice that here, too, it is important not to allow oneself to succumb merely
to the quantitative aspect of these phenomena. Rather, in money itself, it can
be seen how a unified measure of exchange-value comes about ontologically when
all the various use-values are "equalized" (_isasthaenai_) through the
generalized practice of exchange. Price itself is a relational phenomenon,
namely, the relation of a useful thing to money. This relation also has a
quantitative aspect, i.e. in money-price, exchange-values gain a uniform,
quantitative expression.

But the (qualitative) phenomenon should be seen here as the primary
phenomenon, namely, that all the countless practical things which are good for
living in a social world gain a unity in the monetary dimension in their
prices. What things are worth are then monetary in their social nature.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
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_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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