Re: [OPE-L] Marx's Form of Analysis

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sat Feb 19 2005 - 10:16:18 EST

Hi Hans,

yes, I see the distinction you make now.



----- Original Message -----
From: "Hans G. Ehrbar" <ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, February 17, 2005 9:55 AM
Subject: [OPE-L] Marx's Form of Analysis

> Howard,
> you wrote that, if love "is causally efficacious it gets
> manifested."  With value it is almost the other way
> around.  Value can only then be fully causally efficacious
> if it gets manifested in money.
> I meant the analogy with a love relationship as follows.
> Love relations are invisible, and wedding rings are the
> visible manifestation of love relations.  Lovers know what
> to do with each other whether or not they wear wedding
> rings, but one might argue that a wedding ring signals to
> *others* whether a given person is engaged in an invisible
> love relationship.  This gives information to those others
> about how to behave, and in this way also helps preserve the
> love relationship.
> The wedding rings, therefore, to some extent aid in the
> causal efficacy of love relationships, but they are not
> absolutely central.  Now for value relations the exterior
> form of appearance is much more crucial.  Value relations
> cannot properly exist without money, i.e., without their
> form of appearance.  This is why the development of the
> commodity form parallels that of the value form, as Marx
> points out both in sect 3 of chapter 1 and in chapter 2 of
> Capital.
> For those who have time and patience to read a longer
> passage, the rest of this email may help clarify some more
> the relation between the causal powers of value and its form
> of appearance.  What follows now is a slightly abbreviated
> excerpt from the file
> which is also part of the package of my Annotations
> Since in principle every use-value can be exchanged against
> every other (as long as the exchange proportions are
> right), Marx concludes that for the purpose of these
> exchange relations, each use-value is as good as any other;
> the only difference is a quantitative one.  In a manuscript
> published in MEGA II/6, p. 4, Marx writes:
> > One commodity looks now like any other.  All that remains
> > is the same ghostlike *materiality* of what?  Of
> > *undifferentiated human labor*, i.e., of *expenditure of
> > human labor-power*, without regard to the particular
> > useful determinate form of its expenditure.  These things
> > no longer represent anything at all except that in their
> > production human labor-power has been expended, human
> > labor has been accumulated.  As crystals of this social
> > substance which they have all in common they are --
> > *values*.
> This value materiality is rarely mentioned by modern
> commentators of Marx.  They are too embarrassed.  Even Marx
> himself got in trouble for it.  The first edition of
> Capital MEGA II/5, p. 30, described the quality of this
> materiality with the following words:
> > In order to fix linen as material expression of mere
> > human labor, one must disregard everything that actually
> > makes it an object.  The materiality of human labor that
> > is itself abstract, lacking further quality and content,
> > is, of necessity, an abstract materiality, a *thing made
> > of thought*.  Thus, cloth woven from flax becomes a
> > phantom spun by the brain.
> This vivid and memorable passage did not make it in the
> second edition, presumably because, at the GDR-editors of
> MEGA surmised, it might have ``raised doubts about the
> materialist character of value theory'' MEGA II/6, p. 23*.
> Ironically Marx was rejected where he was most realist.
> The apparatus of Critical Realism can clarify things, since
> it allows us to frame Marx's ideas in a more systematic and
> less metaphorical way.  This requires the following steps:
> (1) If people exchange their commodities following a
> consistent and predictable pattern of exchange proportions,
> then they respond to, and also reproduce or transform, an
> invisible network of social relations involving these
> commodities, which Marx calls the ``exchange relation'' of
> the commodities.  Of course, the decisions what to exchange
> for what are individual decisions, but the proportions in
> which these things can be exchanged are determined
> socially.  Critical realists are used to the idea that
> invisible social relations are real, they do not need to
> resort to words like ``ghostlike'' or ``phantom spun by the
> brain'' to refer to their reality.
> (2) These exchange relations, which prescribe the
> proportions to the individual agents in which they can
> exchange their wares, can be described by a metric or a
> numeraire.  One knows all there is to know about the status
> of these relations if one knows how many units of a certain
> fixed numeraire commodity can be exchanged for each given
> commodity.  (This step is expressed by Marx with his
> example of the polygons.)
> (3) Besides assuming that the exchange relations themselves
> are real and irreducible to the individuals, Marx also
> assumes that this abstraction of the many motley pairwise
> relationships down to a common denominator is a *real*
> abstraction.  This gives an interesting twist to the
> ontology of social relations.  Marx assumes that there is
> some real substance in each commodity which is measured by
> this numeraire.  This substance is the commodity's
> ``value.''  We know it is real because it has causal
> effects.
> (4) The next step is in tune with one central aspect of CR
> which tends to get overlooked.  In RTS, p. 14 (1997
> edition), Bhaskar says that generative mechanisms are the
> ways of acting of *things*.  We have found an obviously
> active generative mechanism, it is the value residing in
> the commodities, which generates the exchange relations
> between commodities.  But we still have to find the *thing*
> whose activity drives this generative mechanism.  Marx uses
> the word ``value materiality'' (Wertgegenstaendlichkeit)
> for this thing.  The expectation that such a thing exists
> is expressed in Marx's seemingly simple-minded utterances
> such as ``So far no chemist has ever discovered
> exchange-value in pearl or diamond'' in MEW 23, p. 98.
> (5) The search for such a value materiality has mixed success:
> o No common substance can be found in the physical bodies of
> the commodities themselves.
> o the production processes from which these commodities
> spring have a physical, tangible commonality: all such
> production processes are the expenditures of human
> labor-power.
> o But unlike the concrete labor, which is materialized in
> the use-value of the product, this other aspect of the
> production process is not reflected in the physical makeup
> of the commodity iself.
> This is why Marx concludes that this value materiality is
> purely social.  One might think that we did not make any
> progress, since we did not find an objective basis.  Marx
> says for instance that as value, the commodity represents
> nothing except that labor is materialized in it.  Although
> this is a social driving force rather than one connected
> with the body of the commodity, it is sufficient to explain
> the causal powers of value.  Somebody has produced this
> commodity, and that person will watch over it that he or
> she receives reward for the labor placed in that commodity.
> I.e., society remembers how much abstract labor was placed
> in that commodity, even if this fact is not inscribed in
> the physical body of the commodity itself.
> (6) This is not yet the end of the story.  Although the
> purely social value materiality suffices to provide the
> causal nexus which anchors the values of the commodities
> and therefore keeps their exchange-relations in place, it
> is insufficient for the practical activity of the commodity
> producers.  These commodity producers are in the following
> dilemma: they put their labor into a product which they
> cannot use, and go to the market in order to exchange their
> product for something they can use.  One might say that
> they try to pull the value materiality out of their product
> in order to make it useful for them.  Since this value
> materiality is purely social, they must hunt after it in
> the social relations of commodity to commodity, see MEW 23,
> p. 62.  In section three of chapter one of *Capital*, Marx
> shows that the inner dialectic of the value relations will
> not rest until an independent material form of existence
> has been developed for this social value materiality -- in
> money.  In this way, the search for a tangible value
> materiality, which is separate from the use-value of the
> commodities, comes to fruition.
> (7) With this independent body serving as center and
> reference point, the causal powers of value evolve into the
> overwhelming vampire-like self-activity of capital.  Marx
> describes here a process of emergence, in which the needs
> of circulation unwittingly activate a powerful generative
> mechanism, which previously lay disarmed for lack of a
> tangible value materiality.

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