Re: Exchange, value and money

From: OPE-L Administrator (
Date: Fri Apr 11 2003 - 07:48:41 EDT

-------- Original Message --------
Betreff: Re: [OPE-L:8723] Exchange, value and money
Datum: Thu, 10 Apr 2003 17:51:47 +0200
Von: Michael Eldred <>
Cologne 10-Apr-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8723] schrieb Wed, 09 Apr 2003 13:17:47 -0700:

> Dear Michael,
> That grounds shift and that such may not become obvious gradually but
> only catastrophically does not mean that there is groundlessness.
> Moreover, I don't find that one day a commodity (say a piano) may have
> an exchange value many times another (a cup of coffee)and the next day
> that this is reversed. But if exchange were groundless, shouldn't
> there be just that kind of arbitrariness in exchange?

Hi Rakesh,

I do admit that if I sat down today in central Cologne, ordered a cup of
coffee, and was finally presented with a bill with a piano price tag, I
would be surprised and somewhat put out. So the lack of ground I am
about cannot mean arbitrariness. Prices have an observable regularity.

It is not even that we cannot provide reasons (grounds, causes) for why
price of a given commodity in a given market suddenly rises or falls.
a strike by harbour workers can cause steep rises in certains
because they have to be flown in instead.

But the reasons provided are ad hoc reasons discovered by _hindsight_.
this is what I mean by groundlessness with regard to commodity exchange.
The paradigmatic contrast has to be with production, since production
has a
ground, and this groundedness has been investigated ontologically since
ancient Greeks. In fact, one could even claim that the whole of Western
metaphysics is based on the ontological paradigm of production, but
another angle.

Production in Greek thinking is _poiaesis_ or _technae_. Aristotle
these phenomena with the help of the concept of _dynamis_. (Or one could
even say, conversely, that Aristotle gains his key metaphysical concept
_dynamis_ from considering the phenomenon of _technae_.) _Technae_ is
_dynamis meta logou_ (a power guided by the logos, understanding), and
_dynamis_ is _archae metabolaes en alloi ae haei allos_ (the governing
point of origin for a change in something else or insofar as it is
something else).

The crucial point here is that _archae_ is a _governing_ point of origin
which _governs_ the change that proceeds from it (in the future), and
in the case of _technae_ as _dynamis meta logou_, this governing point
origin is guided by the _logos_. What does that mean? It means that the
_logos_, i.e. understanding. has fore-sight, fore-knowledge which
the changes that take place in the materials in order to finally
bring forth (pro-duce) the product. E.g. a house can only come about
because of the fore-knowledge or know-how of housebuilding residing in a

It is certainly true (and Aristotle analyzes this in detail in
Theta) that all sorts of accidents can happen in realizing a production
plan. The essential point, however, is that the technical fore-sight is
able, from the start, to knowingly counter and correct these accidental
influences so that, finally (_telos_), after all, the product is indeed
produced. The guidance of fore-sight is a control.

With the phenomenon of commodity exchange, this paradigm of _technae_ as
governing point of origin in which the 'government' or control is
by fore-knowledge, breaks down. There is no fore-knowledge of selling
prices. Even if selling price is fixed in advance by the producer, the
sales revenues cannot be predicted with certainty (but the product
can be engineered with certain fore-knowledge).

The producer certainly aims to at least cover costs, but this can fail,
despite all fore-knowledge of the market. With hindsight, the reasons or
grounds for this failure can be discovered and explicated, but that is
the _archae_ of fore-knowledge which is _essentially_ precalcuative,
it is knowledge which sees into the future and insofar can govern future
happenings within the ambit of its fore-sight.

Why the breakdown of paradigm? Because exchange is a social relation in
which there are (at least) two governing points of origin (_archae_).
can be seen clearly by considering the extreme phenomenon (extreme
phenomena are often very enlightening in ontological investigations) of
monopoly. Monopoly means that the producer controls the market and can
dictate the price. The buyers as the other _archae_ have been put out of
action (they no longer work _energeiai_). They have no alternative but
accept the price dictated by the monopolist, who can very well engineer
prices with foresight, and systematically overcome hindrances to this
as, in production, problems can be systematically, knowingly

This is why I put so much emphasis on exchange as the paradigmatic
relation, i.e. as the foundation for an ontology of social being. A
theory of value must fail here because, from the outset (i.e. a priori),
has already set its sights on finding an _archae_ for the exchange
and must overlook all those variant phenomena which don't fit. (They
to be explained away like the epicycles in the Earth-centred Ptolemaic
theory of the solar system -- but that's another story). The search for
"law of motion" of capitalist society is a pre-casting adopted from the
modern natural sciences which, in turn, have a Cartesian ontological

One could object that the multiplicity of _archai_ essentially involved
commodity exchange does not amount to groundlessness in the
of price, but only to multiple grounds or causes. Let us entertain this
objection. What would have to be known beforehand to foresee and
(predict), i.e. precalculate a (market) price? This question goes beyond
that of mere regularity (e.g. statistical correlation, which is the
version of Aristotle's _epi to poly_, i.e. what happens 'in most
and asks for the grounds, causes for a phenomenon. I don't see anything
here resembling a multiplicity of _dynameis_ or forces 'adding up' to a
resultant force (as in Newtonian mechanics). E.g. consumer 'desire' for
product, consumer 'confidence' to spend money feed into the price-play
the market. The decision to actually buy comes also from the groundless
ground of human decision, of human freedom.

> I am still not sure
> whether you are referring to partial or universal gluts. Nobody denies
> that there can be partial overproduction and in a universal glut
> exchange ratios do not become totally arbitrary. That a commodity has
> to have a social use value does not mean that the latter determines
> its exchange value or that exchange value is arbitrary.

I am not at all saying that use-value quantitatively determines
exchange-value, since use-value itself has no intrinsic quantitative

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

> Quoting Michael Eldred <>:
> > Cologne 09-Apr-2003
> >
> > rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU schrieb Tue, 8 Apr 2003 15:51:37 -0700:
> >
> > >
> > > What kinds of regularity in quantitative price collapse? Are you
> referring to a collapse in the absolute price level, i.e., a bout
> > of
> > > deflation,  or a collapse in the relative stability of exchange
> > ratios?
> >
> > Rakesh,
> >
> > I am thinking, say, of gluts which come out of the blue and lead to
> a
> > collapse in prices. A recent highly visible example is the collapse
> in
> > prices for optic fibre networks. But you only have to open your eyes
> to see
> > it happening all the time on a smaller scale -- market
> > precalculations are
> > constantly going wrong (perhaps even for the better -- winfall
> profits).
> > Suddenly, all that labour embodied in optic fibre cable is
> worthless. Why?
> > Because there is no _use_ for it. (Exchange-value is derivative of
> use-value, and use-value means that things are useful in social
> practices.)
> >
> > There were around 47,000 bankruptcies registered in Germany last
> year. Here
> > in Cologne I see more and more shops empty, the premises unlettable.
> Just
> > two further ontic examples for how products of labour do not gain
> sufficient value-form validation in price to recoup capital
> > advanced.
> >
> >
> > Michael

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