(OPE-L) Re: Is value labour?

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Thu May 08 2003 - 08:40:12 EDT

Michael E wrote on Thursday, May 08:

> What I find strange, not to say eery, in such discussions of the labour
> theory of value is that the question, What is valuable about labour?, is
> not posed. What does it mean for something to have value, to be
> valuable?

What makes (wage-) labour 'valuable'  (for capitalists)  is its use-value
-- namely, the capacity of labour to create value.

I  do not use the terms 'value' and 'valuable' synonymously.  Objects
can be valuable even if  those objects are non-produced 'gifts of nature'
or are not produced by wage-labour.  Value refers to a more historically
specific social relation.  A corresponding distinction is that between value
and wealth.

> It is presumably no accident, that the notion of the "creation" of value
> by labour necessarily arises, a Judaeo-Christian term. Furthermore, it
> is only labour under a certain qualification that is said to "create"
> value, namely, "socially necessary labour". The crucial conceptual
> determination that value is a social relation thus is accorded the
> linguistic (i.e. _logos_, logical) status of an _adverb_, not that of a
> substantive (noun). This necessary quirk of language has ontological
> significance perhaps for the ontological status of value?

It is a consequence of the ontological commitment to explain the
subject matter (capitalism) rather than develop, for instance, a theory
for all societies.  From that perspective, the commitment is to draw out
the necessary social forms particular to the subject matter.  It should
not be a surprise that conceptions of value, rather than just social
wealth,  developed alongside modern society.

> An ontological commitment can only mean a sensitivity to the question of
> being embedded in these questions. The term "form" in value-form or form
> of society must ring ontological bells, being as it is one of the
> translations of the ontological terms _morphae_, _idea_, _logos_, all of
> which on occasion are rendered in English as "form".

Yes, "form" should ring bells.

> What can we make of
> the resonance of this heavyweight metaphysical carillon today with
> regard to the question of bourgeois society, the society of burghers?

Well, that's a good question: what is there about the intrinsic nature of
capitalism that requires an analysis of its social forms?    How do
others on the list answer that question?

In solidarity, Jerry

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