Re: on money

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Wed May 26 2004 - 00:23:00 EDT

Hi Paul,

First, I make no claim to independent interpretation; if I misinterpret, I
err.  In my work on law I do claim to have extended Marx's analysis, but
then if my underlying interpretations are wrong, such extensions are at

Two things might be helpful upfront.  In Chapter 1, I understand Marx to
analyze a relation of production, not a mode of production.  But it is a
relation of *production*, not of circulation or exchange.

Second, there seems to be a large potential for a confusion of theory and
reality here.  I mean this:  if it is the case that a scientifically
adequate theory of the value form can only be presented once there has been
the full development of the capitalist mode of production, it doesn't at all
follow that the reality of value itself is only possible once there is

The excerpt you quote from Marx's letter to Engels in 1858 invites that
confusion.  The abstraction is the concept or defintion of value, and this,
it is quite clear, Marx considered could not be developed before Petty and
Ricardo.  It is not that Aristotle didn't grapple with the phenomenon of
value in Book V of the Ethics; it's that because he knew only pre-bourgeois
modes of production he couldn't get to the bottom of it.  Thus for me the
destruction of pre-bourgeois modes of production is necessary for a
scientific understanding of value, but not for the real operation of value's
causal tendencies.

Incidentally, the sentence that "value as such has no other 'material' than
labor itself," is important.  What I said in my recent posts is that the
value relation as a form of social labor is a structural form which is not
predicated of this or that act of weaving or tailoring or brickmaking or
even of the generality of such concrete activities, but is only predicated
of labor itself, that is of the general material activity common to any
instance of labor.  One way of saying that is exactly, "value as such has no
other material than labor itself."  In other words, the social form that
constitutes the product of labor as a commodity is not set over against any
particular form of concrete labor, but only against the activity of labor in

On the other hand, each particular product of labor produced as a commodity
does instantiate value, or tends to, because it is constituted by the
particular social form that generates value, or tends to.  This does not
require capital or the buying and selling of labor power.

The second sentence of your response to me seems to assume that labor in the
abstract necessarily presupposes the buying and selling of labor power.  I
don't agree.  I think what is necessary for abstract labor is what is
presented in the first pages of Capital -- a social form that constitutes
the products of labor as commodities.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 2004 12:53 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] on money

> On Tue, 25 May 2004, Howard Engelskirchen wrote:
> > Yes and no.  We can give an independent verbal account of the social
> > that constitutes the commodity as Marx does at the beginning of Capital,
> > this does not require an account of the buying and selling of labor
> Howard,
> The first use of the word Value in Volume 1 comes right after describing
> labor in the abstract.  So where do you find in Marx that Value goes
> beyond a context of labor in the abstract (is indepedent of the
> commoditization of labor power, thus buying and selling of labor power
> which he will discuss a bit later)?  How can you justify Value within a
> C-M-C context within Marx (of course you may not explicitly find it and
> still interpret Marx as such or even offer an independent interpretation
> of the capitalist mode of production)?
> Recall that, before he had developed the concept of labor power, Marx
> wrote Engels in 1858:
> Value. This is reduced entirely to the quantity of labor; time as a
> measure of value.... Value as such has no other 'material' than labor
> itself. This definition of value ... is only the most abstract form of
> bourgeois wealth. It already presupposes 1. the destruction of natural
> communism (in India etc.); 2. the destruction of all undeveloped,
> pre-bourgeois modes of production which are not governed in their totality
> by exchange. Although it is an abstraction, it is an abstraction which can
> only be assumed on the basis of a particular economic development of
> society.... (Marx and Engels, 1948, p. 58).
> N.B.: "it is an abstraction which can only be assumed on the basis of a
> particular economic development of society", in this case, complete
> destruction of pre-bourgeois modes of production.
> Paul

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