[OPE-L:8717] Re: Exchange, value, money

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Sun Apr 06 2003 - 16:28:12 EDT

Cologne 06-Apr-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8710]

Christopher Arthur schrieb Fri, 4 Apr 2003 19:51:02 +0100:

> Michael E writes
> >
> >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.
> >
> >Chris,
> >
> >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
> >things.
> >
> >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.
> I agree up to here tho' I would like to understand more how one makes a
> transition from the ontological to the ontic.

Examples are always ontic, but they have to be read ontologically.

> >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
> >groundlessness.)
> Uncertianty is different from sheer groundlessness if by the latter the
> FORM is undertood to be empty of 'ontic' content.

Groundlessness does not mean "empty of 'ontic' content". The form itself is not in
doubt -- what things are worth assumes a definite form or 'look', namely, the
price-form of value. The groundlessness pertains to the quantitative determination
of this form, i.e. quantitative price, which is groundless in the sense that no
intrinsic causes can be named on which to 'blame' price quantitatively. The causes
remain those which just 'happen', i.e. _kata symbebaekos_, those which just 'go
along' with and influence the actual event of sale. Such causes may exhibit a
regularity which can be ascertained, but such regularity _epi to poly_, i.e. 'in
many cases', does not amount to a causal ground. Indeed, the regularity can and
does 'regularly' collapse, often unexpectedly.

The groundlessness of quantitative price determination becomes plainer when one
compares the situation with technical production. Technology is a knowledge, a
know-how, which fore-sees the product that is to be brought forth and knows how to
reliably reach its end, namely, the finished product. Accidental factors that just
happen accidentally may indeed have to be countered, but the guiding knowledge
knows how to deal with such accidents which could divert the productive action from
its end.

Production itself can be knowingly, reliably engineered, the prices at which the
product is sold cannot be engineered, despite the wish of entrepreneurial planners
to do so.

> My view is that the
> simple search for grounds of observed phenomena by us the theorists is too
> simple for this case because there is here an inversion in which to put it
> poetically the form is itself seeking to ground itself and has difficulty
> keeping a footing in anything stable,. However amid the uncertainty one
> crucial aspect of the development of form gives us a useful thread, namely
> the structure of  return on captial p.a. - this means cet par capitals will
> be interested in how each of them valorises P A i.e. time will be 'of the
> essence' because capital in its form is set up to take it into account.
> Then since industrial Cs are produced the key time will be production time.
> And the main obstacle  here is the need to 'pump out L and SL' so the main
> drive will be captured in a kind of form driven 'negative' LTV.

The aim of industrial capital is to pump out products that are sold at a profit,
and the success of this action is measured by how much profit is made p.a. Whilst
production and even projected selling prices can be planned, the realized prices
remain essentially beyond the scope of a precalculating fore-knowledge. To conceive
of this (attempted) profit-production as production of something resembling
surplus-labour presupposes the validity of the disputed LTV.

> The complexities I spoke of were not the trivialities of the vegetable
> market but the way the different organic compositions means that this LT
> will be shrunk or expanded according to its apparent value productivty (
> compare the Einstien time paradoxes due to different inertial frames of
> reference. the organic compositions gives the LT different frames of
> reference for its 'measure').

The vegetable market and production for such a market may be relatively simple, but
one should not disdain trivial examples. Simple examples often allow the simple
ontological aspects to be seen more easily. Moreover, market gardening is a
capitalist enterprise with a relative compositions of capital, etc.

If you mean that what performed labour turns out to produce in terms of profit
depends on the productivity of that labour and thus also on the organic composition
of the capital employed, then I agree. It is always advantageous for capital to
produce more productively, where productivity is measured ultimately by unit costs.
But using Einstein's relativity theory to elucidate this I find very problematic
because the fundamental concepts of relativity theory itself still require a
philosophical investigation. One cannot rely on what the science of physics itself
thinks about its basic scientific concepts such as mass and time.

> >> 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.
> I did not mean to rely on the truth of Kant, but to use the analogy which I
> think holds at the level of ch 1, which is that what sec 3 shows is that
> money is an apriori form of synthesis of the 'things in themselves'
> apparently lying beyond it but cognised thru it.
> I am currently toying with the idea that this 'Kantian' moment is then
> supplemented by the Hegelian one in which the circuits of K  claim to
> 'idealise' the things in themselves, producing Cs as values, and capital by
> means of capital; and then the Marxian moment is the above mentioned stress
> on the otherness of living labout notwithstanding the imposition of these
> forms on its activity and its subsumption by them.
> This is all a hopelessly condensed account of my reserach program!

This is indeed a bit dense for me to follow. If you mean that money as value-form
synthesizes things, i.e. puts them together under a unified form, a uniform
value-look, I agree. All ontological forms have a kind of a priori character in the
sense that they are prior to any ontic instances. E.g. the categories of what, how,
how much, when, where, etc. already stand prior to particular, concrete experience
and come into play variably according to the situation at hand. The peculiar thing
about the money-form is that it is a 'look' of practically useful things brought
about by the practice of commodity exchange itself.

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

Cheers from sunny, cool Cologne,
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