From: OPE-L Administrator (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 07:24:54 EST
----- Original Message ----- From: "Hans G. Ehrbar" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Friday, April 02, 2004 2:35 AM Subject: (OPE-L) the economic cell-form and form-analysis Gerald, thank you for picking up on one of the questions in my Annotations, > "Why does Marx identify the 'commodity-form of the product > of labour' with the 'value-form of the commodity'?" I would have been curious to hear how others on OPE-L would have answered this question. Derek Sayer, in Marx's Method, p. 19/20 of the first edition, gives the following answer: > Commodity form and value-form are in fact not > synonymous, though Marx frequently elides the two terms. > The value-form is, strictly speaking, only one aspect of > the commodity form, the other being use-value. But the > elision is quite comprehensible because the problem of > explaining the commodity form ultimately resolves itself > into one of explaining the value form. Use-value, as an > attribute of the product of labor under all conditions, > cannot be used to explain that which differentiates the > commodity form, whereas exchange-value expresses exactly > this *differentia specifica*. My own answer is different than both Gerald's and Derek's. Before going to the remark with the cell form in the preface, it may be useful to look at the following passage in section 3 of chapter 1, MECW 35, p. 72. The Fowkes translation is a little botched up here, I recommend the Moore-Aveling translation from MECW, which reads: > Every product of labour is, in all states of society, a > use-value; but it is only at a definite historical epoch > in a society's development that such a product becomes a > commodity, viz., at the epoch when the labour spent on the > production of a useful article becomes expressed as one of > the objective qualities of that article. In this long sentence, Marx says (without putting sufficient emphasis on it) that the historical conversion of the product of labor into a commodity is driven by the exchange. First, people exchange their goods, and then they modify their production relations in order to produce for the exchange. I.e., those relations on the surface, which the whole section 3 has identified as the form of value, historically precede and stimulate the creation of that of which they are the form. From this follows Marx's next conclusion: > It therefore follows that the elementary value form is > also the primitive form under which a product of labour > appears historically as a commodity, and that the gradual > transformation of such products into commodities proceeds > pari passu with the development of the value form. In other words, history did not proceed in such a way that the products of labor first developed into commodities and then, after some time lag, the form of value of these commodities went through its own development, but the evolution of the product of labor into a commodity and the development of the form of value of that commodity went hand in hand. This is why Marx so often "elides" these two developments. Going back to the preface, these two forms share the honour of being called the economic "cell form" of capitalist society. I.e., this cell form is not only that every product of labor is produced as a commodity, but also that the agents on the surface of the economy consider the labor in these commodities as objective properties of these commodities. The following passage from the commodity fetishism section comes to mind here (MECW 35, pp. 84/5, but I am using here my own translation from the Annotations) > People do not therefore bring the products of their labor > in relation to each other as *values* because they regard > these objects as *the mere material shells* of homogeneous > human labor. They proceed in the reverse order: by > equating, in the exchange, the different *products to each > other as values*, they equate their own different labors > as human labor. They do this without knowing it. H. E.
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