[OPE-L] Smith and Marx on the materialisation of labour [was 'basics v. non-basics']

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Thu Sep 29 2005 - 09:25:04 EDT

> I think it is in Theories of Surplus Value, when critizicing Smith because
> of his conception of the productive labour that did not include productive
> labour performed outside the material (sensually tangible) production.


The reference I believe you are thinking of is from _TSV_, Volume 1,
Ch. 4 ("Theories of Productive and Unproductive Labour"), Section 4
("Adam Smith's Second Explanation: the View of Productive Labour as
Labour Which is Realised in a Commodity").  See ||313|, about a page
before ||314|

          "The materialisation, etc., of labour is however not to be taken
            in such a Scottish sense as Adam Smith conceives it.  When we
            speak of the commodity as a materialisation of labour -- in the
            sense of its exchange-value -- this itself is only an imaginary,
            that  is to say, a purely social mode of existence of the
            commodity which has nothing to do with its corporeal reality;
            it is conceived as a definite quantity of social labour or of
            money."  (Progress ed. -- Emile Burns translation -- p. 171).

To begin with, Marx -- at least in the above translation -- didn't use
the expression "too Scottish."   (but, I didn't check the _Collected Works_
translation or the German original for comparison).

When he refers to "such a Scottish sense"  it sounds to me, put within
the context of the above passage and Marx's time, that KM was
basically saying that Smith conceived of the materialisation of labour
in such a Scottish Enlightenment sense, e.g.  in a sense that  might have
been used by David Hume, who of course was a contemporary and
friend of Smith.

[It seems to me that this has a _very_ different meaning today -- and
for a long time historically -- than the expression "too Scottish."
"Too Scottish"  is  today a pejorative and a nationalist slur against
Scotts.  The stereotypes against Scotts -- which I won't repeat -- are
similar to many of  the stereotypes  against Jews.  Even in  Marx's time,
Scottish workers (and Scottish immigrants to the US)  suffered from a
culture of "Scottish jokes"   and the stereotypes that were created
(by English national chauvinists?) served as a pretext and ideological
rationalization for discrimination.  Of course, many other nationalities
were also negatively stereotyped --  e.g. consider the whole flood of
"Irish jokes" that continue to be spread in many places of the world
today.  It is certainly an expression that progressives should avoid --
even had Marx used it.]

*In any event*, I think I now grasp why you called attention to
part of Marx's critique of Smith in the context of your exchange
with Paul C.   In the passage above, Marx seems to be arguing that
the materialization of labor in a commodity should not be taken
too literally and "corporeally."   Thus, your criticism of the tables
constructed by Paul C  in which there were natural units (physical
quantities) such as "kilograms per annum say for iron and coal".

Do you and others think the above passage has any implications for
how we interpret passages which refer to "crystallized"  and
"congealed"  labor time?   Doesn't it suggest that these expressions
do not refer to "corporeal reality"  but rather concern a "social
mode of existence of the commodity"?  In that sense,  these terms
should not be taken too literally and are rather metaphors for
a social relation.

Note also in the quote above that a commodity is "conceived
as a definite quantity of  social labour or of money."    Isn't Marx
saying here that the  quantitative value of a commodity can be
expressed as so much labour time _or_ as so such money?
Should Marx have written _and_ instead of _or_?   In this passage
isn't there clearly a link between the commodity,  money and labor
time -- which is a very different understanding  than that of Sraffa.

In solidarity, Jerry

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