Re: (OPE-L) I.I. Rubin on value, production and exchange

From: Howard Engelskirchen (hengels@ZOOM-DSL.COM)
Date: Sun May 11 2003 - 13:02:51 EDT

Hi Jerry,

The argument goes something like this:  Rubin rigorously distinguishes the
social from the natural or physiological.  This is a richly important
contribution.  But now the social needs to be located.  Rubin seems
sometimes to want to do so there where the social first becomes empirically
manifest, namely in exchange.  This would be unnecessary if he were
comfortable treating the non-empirical, and specifically the non-empirical
social, as ontologically real.  A consequence is that he seems sometimes to
characterize the labor that produces commodities as private labor (rather
than as private in form) because that is its empirical reality.  But this is
where we start with mainstream social theory -- social relations get
generated only by private individuals coming together in the market.  Marx
considered this to be a dissimulation of the real character of the value
relation in the sense that once the structure of the relation is given
(given as defined in my earlier post), then producdtive labor within that
circumstance is immediately social labor, though it takes the form of
private labor.  Anyway, this is hypothesis which at the moment I do not have
time to test.  A more comprehensive reading of Rubin may dispel such

Here are some quotes for examples:

p. 175 (Ch. 16):  "the transformation of individual into socially necessary
labor takes place through the same process of exchange which transforms
private and concrete labor into social and abstract labor . . . "  Exchange
is where the social character of labor first becomes empirically manifest,
but socially necessary labor is determined by the relationships of labors in

p. 127 (Ch. 13):  "Sale . . . places [commodity producers'] labor in a
determined relation with the labor of other commodity producers . . . ."
The determined relation is present in the relationships of labors in
production and becomes empirically manifest in sale.

p. 129 (Ch. 13):  "The labor of the commodity producer displays its social
character, not as concrete labor expended in the process of production, but
only as labor  which has to be equalized with all other forms of labor
through the process of exchange."  This can be read consistent with the
distinctions I've made, but I would not want to read it to say that the
concrete labor of the commodity producer expended in production is not
immediately social labor.  It is useless to its producer, after all.  So it
does not "display" its social character, but its social reality can be
grasped by theory.

But these are just snippets here and there.  Rubin gives supportive quotes
from Marx, particularly from the Contribution to the Critique, that need to
be evaluated.



----- Original Message -----
From: "gerald_a_levy" <gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM>
Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2003 8:47 AM
Subject: (OPE-L) I.I. Rubin on value, production and exchange

> Howard wrote on  Sunday, May 11:
> > I'm not sure Ruben, who has shaped so significantly
> > contemporary debate, is quite prepared to distinguish between
> > the empirical and the non-empirical real.  As a consequence
> > perhaps he tends to privilege exchange.
> I don't think that Rubin privileged exchange.  It only seems so
> because of a tradition in Marxism before and after Rubin of
> privileging production, IMO.
> What are some of examples of how he privileged exchange?
> In solidarity, Jerry

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