Re: [OPE-L] Enrique D. Dussel's writings online

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Apr 06 2005 - 11:52:38 EDT

At 5:22 PM +0200 4/5/05, Riccardo Bellofiore wrote:
>Whatever Marx said or wrote or thought, I guess 
>it is true that the notion of living labour is 
>fundamental, and underrated in most Marxian 
>thought (at least before the Grundrisse came to 
>be known).

OPE-Lers Ernesto Screpanti questions the 
over-rating of living labour in Marxian value 
theory in his response to Carchedi in the latest 
Review of Political Economy. Carchedi also 
provides a further reply in that issue.

Ernesto raises the question of why animals cannot create value.

This seems to me a strange question, but I am not an economist.

Social labor has to be carried out, and to this 
practical necessity people must submit; the way 
in which social labor is organized is related to 
particular conceptions about and actual 
characteristics of agents. For example, the 
juridicalization of persons is joined to the 
universalization of the commodity form. The 
person understood in any substantive sense is 
thus very much a mode of appearance of a 
determinate social whole, though the social whole 
has no existence outside its modes of appearance. 
It exists only in its effects. Marx does away 
with Man but not with agents.

  In a society in which the traditional division 
of labour and sovereign authority recede in the 
face of the economy in which relations are 
mediated through things, the determination of 
what counts as social labor and its organization 
have to happen through the imputation of value to 
those things (i.e. commodities) by which people 
alone relate; value thus representing that the 
labor objectified in that thing proved to be 
socially necessary.

Marx's value theory is radically anti Robinsonade 
in character. There is a similarity to Kant's 
critical anti empiricism divulging radically anti 
individualist, transcendental conditions of 
experience. The commodity, qua commodity,  is 
thus proved by Marx to be a mode of appearance of 
social labor, not a simple privately owned 
objectification of personal concrete labor or 
embodiment of personal toil and trouble. That 
simple object is in fact abounding in theological 
niceties and metaphysical absurdities.

If Marx had a truly social theory of value,  what 
possibly could animals have to do with value 
(except in the indirect way that Carchedi 
mentions)? Before animals are used, social labor 
itself has to be organized.

Two more quick points: just as for Weber the 
state has a monopoly over legitimate violence, 
money for Marx has a monopoly over the 
representation of abstract social labor time. The 
state and money are forms of social power. What 
crisis brings out is full force of this 
monopoly--the state as an instrument of 
legitimate violence and money as the sole 
objective of production. All this is not to say 
that money simply re-presents social labor time 
which is already homogenous and divisible. Money 
shapes social labor time in its image; it  makes 
possible the ontological levelling of social 
labor time as homogeneous--skilled labor for 
example is actively reduced to smaller multiples 
of simple labor over time.

Second quick point: No one needs to remind Marx 
that things do not in fact possess or have value; 
the question is why in this form of life--to use 
Wittgenstein's expression--people have to involve 
themselves in this distorted way of speaking and 
acting. Simply put, it is because before anything 
else--including the use of animals--social labor 
has to be organized, and if relations are 
dissolved into commodity ones then commodities 
must be imputed with properties needed for that 
organizing.  Nothing could be more absurd than 
dismissing Marx's labor theory of value as 


>  The distinction would have helped to articulate 
>better the notions of abstract and concrete 
>labour themselves.
>The real problem is another one, that Dussel, 
>who is a very serious scholar, equates living 
>labour with the pauper ante festum, the worker 
>as "poor", basic in being creative outside 
>capital, and this is an error. In my view, he 
>loses the crucial notion of labour as the 
>"internal other", to quote Chris Arthur.
>This is why he has to go back (in all the 
>meaning of this back: that is, it a 
>retrocession, a step back) to Schelling.
>Riccardo Bellofiore
>Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche
>"Hyman P. Minsky"
>UniversitÓ di Bergamo
>Via dei Caniana 2
>I-24127 Bergamo, Italy
>direct   +39-035-2052545
>secretary +39-035 2052501
>fax:     +39 035 2052549

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