Re: measurement of abstract labor

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sat Jul 10 2004 - 19:53:14 EDT

Hi Fred,

Thanks for the question, and sorry for the delay in responding to it.

You ask whether money as a measure of value must be a commodity today.

Briefly, I'd want to start with the causal tendencies set in motion by
established structures of social relations.  Where the social relation that
generates the product as a commodity exists, then the product of labor is
constituted by value, and value, which is not presented empirically like
texture or other physical qualities, must find a vehicle for its expression.
It finds its means of expression in the body of another commodity and this
process in turn generates the money commodity.  I don't know any way to
supercede or transcend this process other than by transforming the
generative social structure responsible for the existence of products as
values in the first place (the transition to socialism).  So my answer to
your question would be yes.

Now that said, some qualifications are possible.  First, "commodities" might
serve better than 'commodity'.  In talking about world money, Marx says gold
and silver can serve as the money commodity simultaneously without either
chasing the other out.  It may well be that a small oligarchy of commodities
could together function as world money today.  I don't know this, but it
seems theoretically possible.  Second, the thing that makes commodities
commensurable is labor time measured by duration, so it is the reciprocal
net work of pro rata proportions of total social labor that must be measured
and given expression.  Sophisticated mathematics no doubt helps.  Third,
symbols such as inconvertible paper can stand in for money if the coercive
tools of the state ensure their efficacy and a roughly stable relation to
the set of value relations requiring expression is maintained.  Such symbols
could also then tend to function as units of measurement.  Finally, I doubt
there is a barrier to the currency of a particular nation serving as
something pretty much approximating world money in a particular social
historical conjuncture so long as it is supported by an appropriate relation
of force.  In other words, just as with forced currency within a nation, if
the paper money of a nation is to function in that way, there must be
guarantees, legal and otherwise, that if someone accepts paper they will in
fact be able to turn it into real values.

Anyway, underlying it all, Marx reminds, there lurks always potential for
recourse to nothing but hard cash.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Fred Moseley" <fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU>
Sent: Friday, July 02, 2004 9:45 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] measurement of abstract labor

> On Sun, 27 Jun 2004, Howard Engelskirchen wrote:
> > Hi Paul,
> >
> > You wrote:
> >
> > Metrologists want a standard of weight that does not itself
> > 'contain' weight.
> >
> > My understanding is that the standard for measuring length is the wave
> > length emitted by an isotope of krypton.  I haven't read the issue of
> > Science you refer to, but my guess would be that if meterologists are
> > to define weight in terms of something that is not weight it will be
> > they can reduce weight to that property.  You might be able to avoid the
> > problem of a mass absorbing mass from the atmosphere, but you won't
> > the problem that in comparing two things they must be comparable under
> > common aspect which they share.  Two things are distant from one another
> > because they both have existence in space (Marx's critique of Bailey).
> > things are comparable in the property of what we now call weight because
> > e.g. they both resist acceleration or whatever other common aspect turns
> > to solve the  kilogram problem.
> >
> > Howard
> Howard, are you suggesting that money as measure of value must be a
> commodity today?
> Comradely, Fred

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