(OPE-L) Re: the economic cell-form and form-analysis

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 09:07:50 EST

Hi Hans:

To the question:

> "Why does Marx identify the 'commodity-form of the product
> of labour' with the 'value-form of the commodity'?"

you (or so it seemed to me) emphasized:

 > [...] , 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.

This is a reasonable interpretation for that part of the sentence
that has the clause "the commodity-form of the product of labor,
or the value-form of the commodity" although I agree more
with Sayer and less with your explanation since the section in
question does not essentially refer to the historical becoming and
generalization of the commodity but to why _abstraction_ is
required to grasp the subject.  Like Sayer, I would highlight the
*conceptual* link between the commodity-form and the value-form.
I also agree with Sayer that commodity-form and value-form are
not synonymous but are rather (as I suggested previously) *linked*
to one another (and hence to write "identify" in your question
was slightly  misleading -- although it made for a good discussion

> 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.

(Query: you didn't mean to suggest that under capitalism "every
product of labor is produced as a commodity" did you?)

Interesting, but this doesn't really speak to the issue Andy and
I have been discussing which concerns the extent to which the
cell-form analogy is applicable to grasping Marx's method.

[The following is a summary of what we have discussed:
For Andy (I trust he will correct  me if I don't get his position
right) the reason why historical subjects such as the working day
and the primitive accumulation of capital were presented at length
in Volume I of _Capital_  stems from Marx's basic method which
can be grasped, at least in part, through the comprehension of the
analogy of the commodity-form to the cell-form.  In that reading,
Andy has suggested that cells go through stages (i.e. are born,
mature, and die) and hence -- by way of analogy -- the
commodity-form must be grasped as a  _historical_ form rather
than just being a conceptual form.   I have suggested, to the
contrary, that -- although the development of the commodity was
historically brought about -- this 'life-cycle' process of stages is
best grasped conceptually (i.e. commodities are conceived of in
the production process, fully brought into the world in exchange,
and 'die' when their use-value is exhausted) and that the analogy to
cells is mis-leading if taken too literally since cells are essentially
(and quite literally) organic  and it is this fact which determines the
stages of cell development  whereas the commodity (the economic
cell-form) is not composed essentially and necessarily or organic

Thanks for the feedback.  I look forward to what others on the
list will add.

In solidarity, Jerry

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