From: Hans G. Ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Fri Feb 11 2005 - 17:48:36 EST
Jerry, here is an answer to the two questions you asked on Monday. First an answer to your second question: > ... would you like to take a position on whether the > expression "actualization of surplus value" is a better > rendering in English of what has generally translated been > as "realization of surplus value"? Answer: the term "actualization of surplus value" uses the Critical Realist definitions which I consider appropriate when studying Marx. Critical Realism distinguishes between the real, the actual, and the empirical. According to Critial Realism, something is real if it has causal powers, i.e., if it can cause things to happen. Even if these causal powers rest unexercised, or if their exercise is blocked by other influences. This is a very deep concept; things which are invisible and which are by their nature unperceivable can be real. Society is real, it consists of relations (not of people, as Marx famously remarked). Relations cannot be seen, but they certainly have effects. Actual things and events are those things and events which do exist and happen, and which are produced by the real generative mechanisms. The empirical consists of those actual things and events which are accessible to human sense experience. Applying this paradigm to Marx, the value of a commodity is real as soon as the commodity has been produced. This production has used up human labor, and its producer needs compensation for this. This has potential social effects. But only potentially. Maybe, due to the anarchy of the market, this labor was not socially necessary; in such a situation the social causal powers of the abstract labor invested in this commodity, which the producer intended since he produced the thing for sale, will never be exercised. On the other hand, when the good is sold, then the value of it is not only real but by the act of sale it has become actual or, one might say, effective (wirklich). Because now, in the form of money, this value has the power to buy everything. Now your first question: > How do you translate Verwirklichungsform? Marx uses this word for instance in the three peculiarities of the equivalent form. He says that the concrete labor producing the coat is the Verwirklichungsform of the abstract labor producing the value of the linen. To explain what is going on here I'd like to start with Adam and Eve, i.e., with the double character of labor. Labor has a concrete useful aspect and also, being expenditure of human labor-power, a general abstract aspect. The concrete useful labor objectifies itself in the use-value of the product, but the abstract labor, which creates the value of the product, nevertheless does not leave a trace in the body of the product itself. Its only outward sign is that this product can be exchanged for other products. This is why Marx says the value materiality (Wertgegenstaendlichkeit) of the linen is purely social. Now for the practical purposes of the exchange, this invisible value materiality needs to become something real and tangible which people can interact with. This is the money. Money is the independent physical existence of the value of the commodity. Therefore one can say that the useful labor producing gold is the Verwirklichungsform of the abstract labor producing the value of the linen, i.e., the form in which the abstract labor producing the value of linen springs into a tangible existence. This is the form in which something that is real but not material becomes material and in this way becomes actual. Here is another stab at it: Abstract human labor can be said to be real but not actual: it is the expenditure of human labor-power and in this way very real, and as such it is the source of value. But unlike the concrete labor it does not leave a trace in the product; therefore one might say the abstract labor is invisible, while the concrete labor is visible. Now as soon as the linen weaver expresses the value of the linen in the use value of the coat, it gives the invisible abstract labor which created the value of the linen a visible representation in the concrete labor producing the coat. This is why the concrete coat labor is called Verwirklichungsform of the abstract linen labor. Here is Marx's sentence in German: Gilt der Rock z.B. als blosse Verwirklichung, so die Schneiderei, die sich tatsaechlich in ihm verwirklicht, als blosse Verwirklichungsform abstrakt menschlicher Arbeit. Marx certainly didn't make it easy for the reader; this sentence is short for: Gilt der Rock z.B. als blosse Verwirklichung abstrakt menschlicher Arbeit, so die Schneiderei, die sich tatsaechlich in ihm verwirklicht, als blosse Verwirklichungsform abstrakt menschlicher Arbeit. In other words, when the linen weaver expresses the value of her linen in the coat, she turns the coat into the tangible reflection or actualization (Verwirklichung) of the congealed abstract labor in her linen. By doing this she at the same time turns the concrete labor producing the coat into the form in which the abstract labor producing the linen becomes actual or finds a tangible existence. Therefore I would translate "Verwirklichungsform of abstract human labor" as "the form in which abstract human labor becomes actual" or use one of the other similar expressions I used above. Hans.
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