Re: (OPE-L) is value labour?

From: Claus Magno (cmgermer@UFPR.BR)
Date: Fri May 09 2003 - 16:20:19 EDT

Paul Zarembka, Friday, May 09, 2003 10:55 AM

> On Thu, 8 May 2003, Claus Magno wrote:
> > Paul Zarembka, May 07, 2003 6:17 PM:
> > >
> > > I find two phrases of your sentences contradictory: "the substance of
> > value
> > > is abstract labour, i.e., the expenditure of human productive effort
> > > irrespective of its concrete form" compared to "value is objectified
> > > labour".  Agreeing with the former, I don't understand how, then,
> > > 'abstract labor' could be 'objectified labor'.
> >

> > Imo there is no contradiction. A commodity is the natural form of a
> > kind of labour (concrete or useful) and a certain quantity of it
> > (abstract) - use-value and value.

It would be better if I had said that "a commodity is the natural form of
*the product* of a certain kind of labour", its value or social form being
its expression in a certain amount of the money commodity.  In the
Grundrisse (I don't have it at hand now) Marx distinguishes between labour
as the activity and as its result. In a cristalyzed form labour only exists
in its result, in the double form of natural form and social form. The
natural form of it expresses the particular useful labour and the money form
expresses the amount of social labour it represents.

> Abstract labor is precisely NOT materialized labor, the latter being the
> process of making a specific use-value.

Imo, since labour has the two characteristics - useful and abstract - labour
is not only the process of making a specific use-value, because it is also
the process of creating value, or of expressing the amount of time (in a
social average) required to produce the specific use-value, and labour
reduced to the productive activity (in abstraction of its useful form)
during a certain time is the amount of abstract labour, the substance of
value. Thus each commodity is the expression of both aspects of labour: the
natural form of the commodity is the palpable expression of both the
particular useful labour that produced it and of the amount of abstract
labour expressed in terms of the amount of time. I'm aware of the fact that
the amount of time does not appear as a palpable physical or chemical
property of the commodity and is a purely social entity (a social average of
the particular times spent by the several producers). But no doubt each
commodity requires a definite amount of time (as a social average) to be
produced and in this sense expresses this amount of time in its natural or
physical form. If the economy were planned, the average time of production
of each commodity would be a known element of the plan of production, its
determination being an essencial element for the distribution of social
labour in every form of society. In capitalism it has to manifest itself in
a way the meaning of which the society is unconscious: the value form or
money. When the commodities are equated as values what is done is that they
are equated as amounts of abstract labour time, although there is no
consciousness of it.

> > Claus:
> > On the other hand, abstract labour, the substance of
> > value, can be conceived both as the activity and the result.

> Abstract labor is not an activity; labor is an activity.

As I wrote above, IMO for Marx abstract labour is the labour activity
abstracted from its useful form. Labour is both a useful and a time-spending

> > As an activity
> > it creates value but is not value. It is value in the form of its
> > which is the commodity. Thus, it seems to me that one can say that
> > the commodity or its value are objectified labour, because in its
quality of
> > value the commodity *is* labour.
> I sense a empiricist problematique in your wording (but I'm not sure): a
> commodity contains value inside itself (e.g., in the computer monitor)?
> > In ch. 5 of Capital I Marx says that
> > "definite quantities of product ... represent nothing but definite
> > quantities of labour, definite masses of crystallized labour time. They
> > nothing more than the materialization of so many hours or so many days
> > social labour".
> Note 'represent'.  And 'materialization' is not the hours themselves.

I hope I have clarified my understanding of this point above. Since the
computer monitor requires a definite amount of social time, one can say that
it "contains" value (I think Marx uses the same concept), but obviously not
in a physical sense.

I don't understand the meaning of "'materialization' is not the hours
themselves". The monitor is obviously the product not of the hours but of
the labour, but it is clearly the product of a definite amount of labour in
the abstract, hours or days or whatever (as a social average).


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