Re: [OPE-L] status equality

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Feb 12 2005 - 12:34:21 EST

Jerry, perhaps first you (and hopefully others) can provide an
interpretation of Engels here:

...the equality and equal status of all human labour, because and in
so far as it is human labour, found its unconscious but clearest
expression in the law of value of modern bourgeois political economy,
according to which the value of a commodity is measured by the
socially necessary labour embodied in it.

From Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels 1877
Part I: PhilosophyX. Morality and Law. Equality

At 10:40 AM -0500 2/12/05, Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM wrote:
>Very briefly, on Rakesh's post:
>>  That abstract labor is invisible has a sociological implication as
>>  well.  People who intermarry or who dine together are already
>>  recognizing their status equality.
>No.  When Princess Diana and a young Prince William went to
>a shelter in London for the homeless and dined with the residents,
>the Princess was not recognizing status equality with the homeless.
>Despite dining together, she was a representative of the Royal
>family and those she dined with were her "subjects".

But perhaps so dining exposes the power over even royals  of the
bourgeois ideology that every man is an embodiment of humanity at
large and thus equal to every other man and free.

But I don't understand your point. You do not think that meal sharing
embodies struggles over relative social status or the dissolution
thereof. Sharing a lunch counter in the Jim Crow South?

I don't think your argument by example of photo op suggests much.

>   Hardly status
>equality.  Neither does "intermarriage" --  in the presence of patriarchy,
>and racism -- necessarily imply status equality.  Indeed, the status of
>men and women who are married to each other is not generally
>socially recognized as one of equality.  Separate is not equal:  where
>there are gender roles there can be no equality.

Umm. The relative status of groups may be maintained through control
over the exchange of women. For example, the higher status of a group
may be revealed in only its males being allowed to wed females from
another group while the females in the first group are disallowed
from wedding males in the second group (forgot the anthropological
name for this practice). The women in the first group may themselves
actively comply with such an implicit rule. There may be a struggle
to undo it which in turn calls forth a struggle to control the
sexuality of the women in the first group; the struggle will be over
group equality.

I am not getting your point.

Marx's point was not that struggle over group status simply
disappeared in bourgeois society but that any apologia of group-based
status hierarchy becomes normatively suspect insofar as it runs
counter to said bourgeois ideology that every man is an embodiment of
humanity at large and thus equal to every other man and free.

>>  Marx seems to be saying that it is
>>  difficult for people who are only in economic relationships to
>>  recognize their status equality, though by equating different objects
>>  to each other in exchange, they have all reduced (or elevated) their
>>  status to the level of bearers of the material integuments of the
>>  homogeneous human labor at society's disposal. Status equality is
>>  thus a resultant social relation concealed (and for this reason
>>  difficult to recognize) beneath a material shell.
>What is missing from this perspective is the recognition that
>there can be no status equality  if there is material inequality.

No, I think Marx's argument is that exploitation in the capitalist
mode of production is not only compatible with but in fact depends on
general (but by no means universal) status equality.

>Status equality is rather an illusion created in the marketplace
>but it is an illusion which is understood  to be an illusion by
>everyone in the market because all those who enter the market
>with commodities and/or money know that there is an unequal
>ownership of commodities and money.

there can be material inequality with status equality. In fact a
system of status inequality may be less materially unequal than one
of status equality. The anthropologists love to epater the smug
Westerner with this kind of thing.

>    It is not the bearers
>of money which are deemed to have status equality; rather
>it is money itself which has status equality -- e.g. the status of
>4 quarters is deemed to be equal to the status of 1 $.
>>  It is not the human bearers of money which establish status equality
>>  through the act of exchange.
>>  Marx seems to be arguing that commodities can be brought into
>>  relation with each other only as material forms of homogeneous human
>>  labour. And the status equality implicit in general commodity
>>  exchange makes a most fitting ideology of Christianity with its
>>  abstract cult of man.
>>  The other of such a society is implied to be none other than Hindu
>>  civilization with its putative cult of Homo Hierachicus. In fact I do
>>  not think Marx's analysis of the sociological implications of general
>>  commodity exchange makes any sense outside of this comparison.
>Where is the evidence that Marx's conception of the social implications
>of exchange were in reference to a comparison to Hindu civilization?
>I think you are really stretching here .... Simply because _you_ can't
>make sense out of Marx's perspective without referring to Hindu
>civilization does not mean that _Marx_  developed his perspective
>on equality with reference to the social norms in pre-capitalist Hindu-
>based social formations.

This is indeed a valid criticism to a provocatively stated point. My
point was that logically speaking an idealized type of status
equality implies an equally idealized one of status inequality. That
counter ideal type becomes implicit in the self understanding of
bourgeois society, and has been imagined to have been most closely
approximated in Hindu Civilization. At least that is what Louis
Dumont tried to argue who sought in India exactly those features that
were opposed to Western society.


>In solidarity, Jerry

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