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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Feb 21 2005 - 05:32:24 EST

At 10:16 AM +0000 2/21/05, Andrew Brown wrote:
>Hi Jurrien,
>We are agree on 'value-added'.
>Of course 'price' is a more complex category than 'exchange value'.
>This initial question Marx in fact poses is 'why do commodities have
>a socially given (set of) exchange value(s)?': answer, because they
>are commensurable as values.

Yes, I agree.

Marx argues that as commodities of every different kind can be
exchanged against each other in the market, it is slowly recognized
that this can only obtain if they all embody measurable quantities of
the same substance--the human labor that produced them.

Of course since in a bourgeois society capitalists are in a position
to demand social recognition for what they imagine to be their their
own efforts, commodities do not exchange at value as socially average
abstract labor time but rather at value as prices of production which
allow for social validation of the bourgeois self understanding that
capitalists, too,  have contributed to the fund of labor power which
is  society's common resource in all dealings with its environment.

That is, exchange at price of production does not undermine the
thesis that human labor is the common standard which allows for the
equivalence obtaining among varying proportions of the  the most
diverse commodities. The human labor that any commodity represents is
perforce socially mediated; in bourgeois society it is just further
mediated and distorted by the power of the capitalist class.

Perhaps the capitalist understands the value of the commodity as
given not by its embodied labor per se but rather by the more general
sacrifice embodied therein, as both waiting and labor are understood
as sacrifice. But then the bourgeois common sense is not so different
from the classical Marxian theory of value in that general commodity
equivalence seems to imply a common substance--abstract human labor
or embodied human sacrifice.

We know from the beginning  of Marx's Capital that commodity exchange
implies a common substance; yet from the outset we are led to
understand that the human labor that a commodity represents is
socially mediated as sense certainty is in Hegel's dialectic--that
is, value is a social result and a result of human activity. Value
can only be understood in terms of a social and activist
epistemology, not through an an individualist and passive view of the
human mind in lonely struggle with a hostile external world.  We
realize in the third volume that the value of a commodity-- that is,
the abstract labor that it embodies in a bourgeois society--is
distorted by the power of the capitalist class. But this does not
mean that a commodity does not exchange in terms of abstract labor
that it socially represents. It just means that the abstract labor
that it represents is mediated in and through a determinate kind of
society, bourgeois society.

Marx never leads his readers to believe that anything other abstract
human labor is the common substance in terms of which the most
dis-similar goods can be equated in exchange.

I don't understand why Bohm Bawerk recently praised on this list
thought there was a great contradiction between volumes 1 and 3.


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