Re: [OPE-L] status equality

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Feb 12 2005 - 18:23:06 EST

At 4:57 PM -0500 2/12/05, Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM wrote:
>  > 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
>My interpretation is that Engels is confused.
>To begin with,  all human labour under capitalism does not have an
>equal status.

There is not unique to bourgeois society a well developed ideology of
equality and a cult of the abstract man? Does this not have to
explained? What is wrong with Marx's attempt at socio-genetic
And you don't say why all commodity producing labor does not have an
equal status.

>Next, the _clearest_ expression of  equality of human labour
>produced under the bourgeois mode of production is to be found
>in bourgeois political doctrines, e.g.  in "The Rights of Man" or
>"The Declaration of Independence".

Engels said that clearest expression of the equal status of all
labor, not the clearest expression of the equal status of all humans.
And in terms of the former it was indeed implicit in the classicals'
law of value.

>Next, the "law of value" as stated above is not that developed by
>"modern bourgeois political economy" but that developed by none
>other than Marx and Engels themselves. Note especially the reference
>to "socially necessary labour."

Well it was originated by bourgeois political economy. Why exactly is
Engels wrong?

>>  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?
>My point is that, contrary to your earlier claim,  *dining together does
>not establish status equality*.

Sure, once people who would not dine together begin to do so, they
may well be accepting that they are of a more or less equal status.
Why the heck are you denying this?
    Why else would members of one group avoid sharing a dinner,
extending or accepting a dinner invitation to members of another
group? What is your point? Why would you deny that there has been at
least a partial dissolution of a status order when say dalits and
caste Hindus dine together. For example, my great grandfather never
shared a thali with my father after he had shared one with a so
called untouchable. That kind of caste consciousness has now
weakened. Was there not a partial dissolution of caste when lunch
counters were integrated?

So when groups allow themselves to dine together, they may be
accepting, resigning themselves to, or even actively creating a rough
status equality. This equality in status in such cases is easier to
see than the equalization of the status of all labor brought about by
equating commodities in exchange. I think this is Marx's point.

That was the point I made in my post, and I don't see how you are
responding to it.

>   In tens (perhaps hundreds?) of millions of
>households, parents dine together with children.  This does not establish
>status equality between parents and children.  In many of those same
>households, men dine together with women.  That does not establish
>status equality between men and women or between husbands and
>wives, etc.

Women dining with men may well indicate a change in status! Again I
could give you the history of my family.

But the point I was after was not status within the family but
between groups, which has often been indicated by implicit
inter-dining prohibitions.

>  Indeed,  this *lack of equality* is reflected in many
>culturally-specific customs associated with the meal: e.g. who does
>the cooking and 'serving',  the size of portions,  who eats first, etc.  At
>many of those same meals, brothers and sisters dine together. That
>does not establish status equality between brothers and sisters. That
>also is reflected in many customs associated with family dining.

But again if women were prohibited from eating with men, sharing the
table may well indicate at least a partial dissolution of male status
superiority. I think you are simply wrong that women and men sharing
a meal has not indicated a partial dissolution of superior male

However, the question of why patriarchy (and racism) continues
despite the bourgeois ideology of equality and the bourgeois cult of
the abstract individual is a very important question. In some ways
such practices are unstable exactly because of the way in which
bourgeois ideology of the equality of abstract man. In fact, the
instability is managed to the extent that oppressed races and women
are imagined not to be of abstractly equal human race. Hence,
bourgeois thought is given to the naturalization of sub humanization.

>Also outside of the family, dining together does not establish status
>equality.  When 'dating' there are customs in different social
>formations that reflect the different statuses of those who are
>eating together. (E.g. Who pays? Who picks the spot to eat? Who
>orders?, etc.)  We as faculty  can dine with students, e.g. in a
>school cafeteria.  No student would be so naive to think that this
>establishes status equality between students and faculty.  We as
>faculty also have the misfortune of  sometimes dining with college
>presidents and deans.  Neither administrators nor faculty would be
>so naive to  believe that the act of dining together establishes
>status equality  between college administrators and faculty.

If this were to happen socially, i.e. outside of professional duties,
it may well indicate an equalizing of status. I am imagining that you
don't have many Friday night dinners at your president's home.

>  If
>a worker dines at the same table in a plant cafeteria with her or
>his supervisor, this does not establish status equality. Etc.Etc.

This is argumentative, and silly.

>>  I am not getting your point.
>Status equality is not implied by marriage.
>I'm tiring so I'll leave it at that for now.

I really don't know what you are trying to prove.

>In solidarity, Jerry

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