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

From: Christopher Arthur (arthurcj@WAITROSE.COM)
Date: Fri Sep 30 2005 - 09:08:08 EDT

The Scots are sesitive on matters of terminology in ways I forget (Scotch
whiskey but the Scottish people) but for sure they are 'Scots' not
descendants of Walter Scott
>> 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

17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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