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

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Sun Feb 20 2005 - 10:09:40 EST

Some short comments on Jurriaan's message:

> Even before money existed, people
> obviously knew  quite well, that the products they made had value. And
> they also knew quite  well, that these products could be traded for other
> products.

They also knew quite well that there were objects -- "gifts of nature" --
that they did _not_ produce which could be traded.  One has to distinguish
between a customary, everyday usage of the term "value"  in both
pre-capitalist and capitalist societies and its more specific meaning in
Marx's political economy.

> But, the historical facts as we know them are, that commodity exchange and
>  trade have existed for thousands of years prior to the emergence of
> industrial capitalism.

The historical facts as we know them only tell us that long before the
rise of capitalism, in many  social formations products were often produced
in order to be exchanged and that those products came to have a
customary  exchange ratio which was sometimes expressed in the
form of barter and sometimes in the form of money.  There are some who
would say that this represents value; others would say that -- while these
historical developments were a necessary precondition for the
emergence of value -- they did not  _by themselves_ encompass all of the
_necessary_ characteristics of the value relationship.

> Commodities ("Waren", literally, "wares") are defined as objects having a
> "use-value" and an "exchange-value".

That is the definition that is frequently used by historians. Marx wrote
that "*Initially*  a commodity appeared to us as an object with a dual
character, possessing both use value and exchange value" (Penguin ed.,
p. 131, emphasis added, JL).  Yet, he goes on to write that "When,
at the beginning of this chapter,  we said, in the customary manner that a
commodity is both a use-value and an exchange-value, this was, strictly
speaking, wrong" (Ibid, p. 152).  Putting aside for  the moment the issue
of money, the common usage of the term commodity falls short of  Marx's
understanding on at least two grounds:

1.  Commodities are products [of labor] rather than merely "objects";
2.  Commodities represent value, rather than merely use-value and
     exchange-value. (Of course, in unpacking what he means by value
     we are led to understand other necessary social categories that
     constitute value.)

> The non-existence of money or a money-price
> for goods,  for example, has never stopped people from exchanging those
> goods, if it was  in their interest to do so.

Of course.  But, that doesn't establish that the goods which are traded
necessarily represented value.  I might, for instance, be willing to trade
ancient Native American arrowheads for a dinosaur tooth.  This doesn't
mean that the arrowheads or the dinosaur tooth represents value even if
I attach [personal] "value" to these two objects.

> (3) Value and exchange-value are not the same thing. The existence of
> value  does not presuppose exchange, even if the abstract thinking about
> value  emerges only in the context of more sophisticated trade.

You assert that the existence of value does not presuppose exchange
but fail to comprehend the flip side of the recognition that value and
exchange-value are not the same thing: namely, that simply because
there is exchange does not mean that there is value.

In solidarity, Jerry

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