Re: [OPE-L] Ricardo and Marx on embodiment

From: Christopher Arthur (arthurcj@WAITROSE.COM)
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 06:58:13 EDT

Leaving aside translation issues (where I agree with Riccardo) and
exegetical questions about Smith/Ricardo and Marx (though I believe
there is a huge gulf between them as the TSV passage shows) there is a
definite problem about the term 'embodiment' which has a place in two
incommensurable  discourses.
`on the one hand, following a naturalistic reading one can say of a
product 'a lot of work has gone into it'; this then is made into a
substantive attribute alleged to ground value relations; given this
reading terms like 'embodiment' 'congealation' 'crystallisation' are
not metaphors  but literally what value is , namely a physical result
of labour. Such a reading tens towards an ahistorical  concept of
value, and necessarily involves the consequence that the inefficient
worker produces more valuable commodities than the efficient one; and
hence the formation of a social value determined by SNLT must mean a
transfer of value.
On the other hand Riccardo is absolutely right to draw attention to the
necessity for value to take a bodily form. (I stress this myself in a
paper on 'the concept of money' to appear in Radical Philosophy 134
Nov/Dec 2005.) Just because there is no natural basis for value, and
its 'purely social reality', and just because the universality of
social labour overcomes dissociation only via exchange, the universal
concept of value cannot be abstracted from a given range of instances
but has to be presented to commodities as a thing beside them, i.e.
money. Gold (or some stand in) must be seized by the value form and
transubstantiated so as to incarnate value; commodities then have
particular amounts of value imputed to them in pricing. Thus although
value has a purely social reality it takes bodily form; if a factory
burns down a sum of value disappears from the books. If one holds that
the sole determinant of value is abstract labour then this labor is, at
one remove, socially presented in money. As Rubin argued, lacking
immediate social commensuration of living labour, we do it via treating
products as if they embodied expended labour.

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