on money

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Sun May 23 2004 - 22:49:33 EDT

>Because the product is not produced as an immediate object of
>consumption for the producers, but only as a bearer of value, as a
>claim, so to speak, to a certain quantity of all materialised social
>labour, all products as values are compelled to assume a form of
>existence distinct from their existence as use values. And it is
>this development of the labour embodied in them as social labour, it
>is the development of their value, which determines the formation of
>money, the necessity for commodities to represent themselves in
>respect of one another as money--which means merely as independent
>forms of existence of exchange value--and they can only do this by
>setting apart one commodity from the mass of commodities, and all of
>them measuring their values in the use value of this excluded
>commodity, thereby directly transforming the labour embodied in this
>exclusive commodity into general, social labour.
>TSV III, p.144-145

Since commodities are produced in order to be claims on social labor,
one commodity  comes to count in the exchange relationship not in its
concrete form as a use value but as an incarnation of social labor,
as itself value. Marx then specifies the peculiarities of the
equivalent form.

So say on a tropical island where only fruit is exchanged and people
become allergic to the fruit that they can themselves grow, then all
fruit is produced for exchange. Say mangoes come to be the general
equivalent. Then mangoes are valued not for their concrete
characteristics but because they incarnate Fruit itself. So we are
back to Marx's critique of Hegelian hypostatization as Colletti and
Robert Paul Wolff see so clearly.

Of course the three fold three-fold peculiarity of the mango then is
that it is the immediate incarnation of value; the concrete labor
expended in the production thereof becomes the form of appearance of
abstract human, fruit producing labor; and private mango farming has
turned here into its opposite, to labor in immediately social form.

  In supposing that abstract labor can be such a thing, we seem to
have been led to a mistaken ontological commitment. It is indeed as
if the generalization fruit existed not merely in the mental act of
abstracting from bananas, papayas, coconuts, etc. but was rather
incarnated in, say, mangoes.

The central problem here seems  to be a category mistake. As if the
confounded visitor who asks to be finally shown the university after
having already been taken to the philosophy, physics, biology, etc.
buildings could actually find what he is looking for in a visit to,
say, the mining department alone; abstract labor which seems merely
to be a general heading comes in fact to be incarnated in a single
concrete kind of commodity (mango).

As a real hypostatization of fruit, mangoes paradoxically lose for
all practical purposes the sensuous, concrete attributes of their
fruitiness, for their use value has become exchange value, pure and
simple, since mangoes serve as the embodiment of fruit as such in the
circulation of commodities. Mangoes just as they come off the tree
seem to be forthwith the visible incarnation, the social chrysalis
state, of all fruit. The abstract-universal of fruit, which ought to
be a predicate-i.e. a property of concrete or the sensate-, has
become in mangoes the subject, a self-subsisting entity. The concrete
sensate of the mango moreover now counts merely as the phenomenal
form of the abstract universal-i.e., as the predicate of its own
substantialized predicate.  The sense qualities of mangoes have been
reduced to the attributes or, to use Marx's Hegelian terminology,
forms of appearance of fruit in the abstract.

Routinely accepted as a means of payment, mangoes are money; however,
what appears to happen is, not that the mango has become money in
consequence of all other fruit commodities expressing their values in
it, but, on the contrary, all other fruits express their values in
mango, because it just is money.

In effect, Marx has attempted to demonstrate how mangoes  as money
are qualitatively different from fruits  as fruits ; yet mangoes are
born as fruits, as a fruit (commodity) itself, and only under the
pressure of the exchange of great quantities of fruit does the mango
ascend from earth to the economic heaven to become not merely a
measure of value and a standard of price, but in virtue of its
functions of universal equivalent and exchange medium, Fruit (Value)


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