[OPE-L:8705] Re: Exchange, value, money

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Thu Apr 03 2003 - 04:40:22 EST

Cologne 03-Apr-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8704]

Christopher Arthur schrieb Wed, 2 Apr 2003 17:46:09 +0100:

> Michael writes
> "It is money which imposes (through the practice of exchange itself) a
> quantitative form on commodities and thus, indirectly, also on labour
> performed -- not the other way round: amounts of labour performed do not
> determine (ontically, causally) quantitative monetary prices."
> IMO there is a non-sequitor here since I agree with the first half but not
> the second half. OK it is money which constitutes commodities as values and
> allows them to stand in abstract quantitative relations. This is a point
> about the value FORM. but once this form IS established the question then
> arises of what determines these magnitudes in particular cases. IMO it is
> time of production in the first instance although this time is itself
> differently 'cognised' according to the complexities of the value form
> context.


I agree with the emphasis on FORM if this is the term that points to the
ontological nature of the question of value ("form" being a standard
translation of _eidos_ and _morphae_). The question of value-FORM refers to the
'look' or 'face' which valuable use-values present to us when they are
habitually exchanged in generalized commodity exchange. It is a question of the
being of beings, i.e. an ontological question. Exchange-value derives from
use-value, i.e. things valuable in use can also be exchanged for other
valuable, useful things. There is no difficulty in understanding this from the
context of everyday life, and if we have become too silly and theoretical in
our thinking, we can always be brought back to earth by Aristotle, who points
out the nature of value very simply and plainly.

Money is to be understood in the first place as mediator of exchange. Instead
of things being exchanged higgledy-piggledy for each other, they are generally
sold for money. Once such a practice of mediation of exchange is estabilished
we can see that money itself serves to unify all the different commodity values
in a single monetary dimension. Useful things are now worth an amount of money,
no matter what this amount may be, instead of various amounts of diverse useful

The question of what causally determines price is an ontic question, not an
ontological one. In asking what determines price we are asking for what price
can be 'blamed' (_aitios_) on quantitatively. The amount of toil expended on
making the useful thing is an obvious candidate, but only among many others.
Sale on the market has many different influences in a given situation or
_kairos_ (what you refer to as "the complexities of the value form context"). A
situation is defined by many different categories, including time and place,
e.g. the prices of vegetables generally rise before a long Easter weekend and
drop back again thereafter, the prices in restaurants in Florence and Venice go
up dramatically (and the quality of the food gets much worse) once the tourist
season begins.

If one adopts the viewpoint of return on capital p.a., then one could say that
the prices of produced commodities _to that extent_ are 'determined' by costs
p.a. plus a return, the major cost generally being that for labour-power. But
whether costs invested turn out to be actually (_entelecheiai_) covered is
another matter. This is where the phenomenon of capitalist risk appears. The
uncertainty of markets should be recognized for what it is, namely, as an
essential groundlessness in price determination. This groundlessness means that
there is ultimately a lack of ground, a lack of cause, on which price could be
blamed. (The phenomenon of capitalist crisis has its germ in this

> Compare: gravity gives things weight but the magnitude of weight is a
> function of the given masses.

I don't think such comparisons are helpful because they presuppose the entire
question of the validity of the Cartesian (incl. Newtonian)
mathematical-theoretical casting of the world. One needs to go back to simple
phenomena as they occur in the everyday world, without relying on theoretical
constructs such as f = ma or matter being constructed from molecules, etc.

> Compare: we have no experience without forms of intuition but there is
> something out there to be intuited under these forms.

Again, this comparison relies on the Kantian transcendental constitution of
subjectivity, which has its own philosophical problems (constitution of the
objectivity of the object in subjectivity). We need to keep the simple,
everyday phenomenon of value in view when thinking about it. We exist in the
midst of such phenomena out in the world. That provides a firm guide.

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

> Chris A
> 17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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