Re: measurement of abstract labor

From: Paul Bullock (paulbullock@EBMS-LTD.CO.UK)
Date: Sat Jul 17 2004 - 11:46:36 EDT


do I  take it that you are not an historical materialist? How doe structures
form if not historically? Our understanding would be incomplete and so
inadequate, with little clue as to further development.

Paul Bullock.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Howard Engelskirchen" <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM>
Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2004 1:19 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] measurement of abstract labor

> Hi Paul,
> As I said in my response to Claus, I'm more than willing to learn on this.
> I did not pitch the comments I made on the priorities of emergence at the
> level of historical development, so I'm quite happy to accept your points.
> I think there is a real contribution critical scientific realism can make
> here.  If we study the real causal structures of things, that doesn't mean
> we study their historical development.  So I can speak of causal
> without having to map that also as historical priority.  As an analogy, I
> can study the way the lungs function in mammals and what their
> are for other parts of the body structure without studying the historical
> evolution of lungs in mammals.  In fact there's a way in which being able
> do the latter depends on a good grasp of the former.
> Also, I think we need a concept of ontological stratification here -- if I
> put a litmus paper in acid, I produce the events that turn the litmus
> pink; I'm causally responsible for that.  But I don't produce the
> of nature responsible for the change.  So I have to distinguish between
> events actually present themselves and the underlying generative
> that account for how they present themselves.
> I want to think about the relation of commodity production and force the
> same way.  At the level of the generative structures of social life, I can
> show how relations of force are emergent from and broadly determined by
> relations of labor.  Relations of force are emergent.  So I can say that
> order for commodity exchange to be generalized, goods must exchange for
> promises and in order for that to happen force must secure promises.  The
> relation of force is derivative and shaped by the relation of commodity
> exchange rather than the other way around.  But I haven't spoken about how
> this happens historically.  I quite agree with you that in order for any
> such historical evolution to occur, stable relations of state power must
> in place.  There was an enormous difference between the exchange of goods
> medieval fairs on a particular day where goods pretty much exchanged on
> spot and the general enforcement of promises in 16th century England.
> England's lead in that respect depended very much on the centralization of
> state power which then occurred.
> The theoretical point is that I can consistently say that the events which
> characterize widespread commodity exchange presuppose the existence of
> stable forms of state power and at the same time say that the forms of
> power that secure those exchanges are shaped by the relations of commodity
> production and exchange.  These two propositions are at different levels
> ontological depth.
> I think this explanation also responds to your point about "taking force
> away" leading to the collapse of commodity production.  Without doubt this
> is correct at the level of actual historical events.  But if I am pursuing
> the simplest determinations in the sense of the "Method of Political
> Economy" I can take force away by means of abstraction and uncover the
> simpler determinations of the underlying relations of production and
> exchange.
> I'm interested in your point that I have portrayed state money as on a par
> with private bills of exchange.  Can you give a fuller explanation of the
> problem you see here?
> Howard
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Paul C" <clyder@GN.APC.ORG>
> Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 2004 5:37 PM
> Subject: Re: [OPE-L] measurement of abstract labor
> > Howard Engelskirchen wrote:
> >
> > >Hi Clyde,
> > >
> > >That you find tension and contradiction in my suggestions opens the
> > >possibility that there is dialectical hope for them.
> > >
> > >Here is my response to the problem you pose as I understand it:
> > >
> > >Suppose you have something I want -- say cases of wine.  If stable and
> > >appropriate relations of force are presupposed, I can give you a
> > >which is not a commodity, in exchange for the wine.  If a stable and
> > >appropriate relation of force does not exist you will insist on real
> value
> > >and ignore my offer to exchange a promise for wine.
> > >
> > >Force is an emergent necessity of generalized commodity production --
> unless
> > >you have the former you don't get the latter.  But it is commodity
> > >production that generates force as an emergent social relation, not the
> > >other way around.
> > >-------------------------------------------
> > >
> > >
> > I think that the above formulation is highly questionable historically.
> > Force in the shape of the state clearly preceeded generalised commodity
> > production.
> > The state existed in pre-capitalist modes of production and
> > states levied taxes which they collected in the form of money. It is
> > certainly
> > arguable that it was the need to obtain coin to pay taxes that
> > the penetration of commodity relations into pre-capitalist modes of
> > production.
> > As I understand it that was the explicit objective of for example
> > monetary policy in Africa in the early 20th century.
> >
> >
> > >The fact that force makes it possible to substitute a promise for
> commodity
> > >value doesn't mean the exchange of embodied value is no longer a
> > >presupposition of the exchange.  (If A gave B a horse in exchange for B
> > >giving me a cow in exchange for me giving A a flute lesson -- we're
> speaking
> > >hypothetically here -- you wouldn't say there was no longer an exchange
> of
> > >commodity for commodity because B gave A a piece of paper in exchange
> > >the horse, would you?)
> > >
> > >
> > Where I think you go astray here is portraying state money as simply a
> > private
> > promise on a par with private bills of exchange. Such private bills of
> > exchange are
> > always denominated in the money of the state.
> >
> > >Take force away, which in particular conjunctures can happen, and you
> will
> > >see the necessity of commodity money again exposed.
> > >
> > Take force away, taken the requirement to pay tax state money away,  and
> > you get the collapse of commodity
> > production. You do not get a market economy based on private barter -
> > that is
> > just a fantasy of the bourgeois economists.
> >
> > Look at the generalised collapse of commodity production in the 5th
> > century with the
> > removal of the roman imperial tax system and the consequent devaluation
> > of the
> > denarius.
> >
> > >Why didn't Marx say instead -- you see, money as means of payment shows
> that
> > >non-commodity money is perfectly compatible with capitalism?  Instead
> > >shows that non-commodity mechanisms work as long as they are supported
> > >relations of force.
> > >
> > >
> >
> > You tell me Howard?

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