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

Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 21:25:05 EDT

On Tue, 4 Oct 2005 11:00:30 -0700
  ajit sinha <sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM> wrote:
> --- 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?

By the way--and just for the sake of accuracy-- Marx's question is the ex
act oppostie of yours: why do the social relations
of labor appear as the exchange of commodities, as the buying
and selling of things? The simple answer to your question
is that there is no other way for the social relations of labor
to appear in this system as other than than exchange of inanimate
things. You have read the famous letter to Kugelmann?

Commodities are produced with
> commodities, land and labor usually and they exchange.
> What is the problem with the above proposition.

The way in which Robinson Crusoe will allocate his time to different
tasks will depend on the nature and quality of land at hand, on the tools
he has its disposal and the total labor time that he has. Here the problem of value
is already present. How does society determine the allocation of its labor time. Obviously
it depends on the nature of the land. Just as with Crusoe, if the land is of poor quality, more
labor time will probably have to be devoted to farming. The allocation of social labor time
and claims on it are a nature imposed necessity on the human species which lives alone among
all animals through social labor and transformative activity. No natural law can be done
away with. Social labor has to be allocated with the given constraints at hand (the land
the draught animals at hand, the tools which have been inherited--these have to be taken
as given at any one point in time); with those givens, the allocation of social labor time
and the claims thereon  can only
be accomplished through the buying and selling of commodities, qua values.
Only obsurantists would deny the relation between value and social labor time, once it has
been disclosed. The critique of Marx's value theory is advanced by obscurantists or
at least by those who refuse to understand him.
Value is not a measure of scarcity vis a vis need; it is a representation of the aliquot
of labor time which society allocates  for the reproduction of that commodity.

> in mind that you do not establish the proposition that
> exchange of commodities emply exchange of labor.

Again this misses Marx's point. If the relations between people
are commodity relations, their social relations of labor will have
to be organized through the relations which they do have, i.e. their
commodity relations.

> impose this proposition as a given fact and create
> problems where no problems exist.

What Marx begins with is a nature imposed necessity, i.e. a fact

> (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.

However difficult it may be to quantify that indirect labor, the money
commodity still represents a fraction of social labor time. I don't
get your point.

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.
> __________________________________
> Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005

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