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

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 14:00:30 EDT

--- Christopher Arthur <arthurcj@WAITROSE.COM> wrote:

> 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.
> Chris
Chris, let me ask you two questions, which i keep
asking everyone but never get a satisfactory answer.

(1) Why exchange of commodities must represent
exchange of labor? Commodities are produced with
commodities, land and labor usually and they exchange.
What is the problem with the above proposition. Keep
in mind that you do not establish the proposition that
exchange of commodities emply exchange of labor. You
impose this proposition as a given fact and create
problems where no problems exist.

(2) Money does not solve the problem you raise. If
money is a commodity then it is also produced with
direct and indirect labor as other commodities. Hence
to get to the value of money you will need to have a
measure of the indirect labor in the production of the
money commodity, which brings you back to the first
problem you were trying to solve by bringing money
into the equation. Have you seen my paper, 'Some
Critical Reflections on Marx's theory of value' in
Value and the World Economy Today, (eds.) R. Westra
and A. Zuege, Palgrave, 2003? It shows that the money
rout leads nowhere.

Cheers, ajit sinha
For those out there who may be interested: I'm
visiting College de France for a year from this
September. My current address in Paris is:
8 Rue Neuve Des Boulets, 75011 Paris.

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