Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Oct 15 2005 - 11:16:39 EDT

At 3:32 PM +0100 10/15/05, Andrew Brown wrote:
>Hi Rakesh,
>No doubt I haven't expressed myself clearly enough, for I seem not
>to have made clear the distinction between system-wide and
>individual perspectives. This is the key distinction - if it is not
>made clear and so overlooked then indeed we have just 'old
>You wrote:
>"you mean potential or anticipated value destroyed? Or actual value
>First take a system-wide perspective. From this perspective, we are
>considering 'the commodity' as representative of the typical form of
>the product of labour across capitalism. We are effectively
>considering millions or billions of commodities, not just one. From
>this point of view then value essence ('contained in' the relative
>form of value) is not yet 'actual' because it is necessary for a
>large proportion of commodities continually to be actually exchanged
>for money across the system in order for money to retain its social
>validity and therefore for the value of diverse commodities to
>continue to be socially recognised and hence for value to exist at
>all. Capitalist society would quickly collapse if exchange through
>prices did not regularly occur on a large scale.
>But now take an individual perspective. To be precise, the
>perspective of any one individual commodity produced in a capitalist
>society. Any one individual commodity may or may not be exchanged
>for money but this has no (or a negligible) effect on the existence
>of capitalism and hence of the existence of value as such. Assuming,
>therefore, the continued existence of the system, then the value
>'in' any one individual commodity (assuming it is produced by SNL,
>i.e. it is not a fictitious commodity of any kind) is actual, this
>commodity is an actual form of value. What must be realised
>(actualised) at the individual level is the existence of the *power*
>that the commodity potentially possesses and confers to the owner,
>in virtue of being a value, viz. purchasing power. Purchasing power
>is actually possessed by the commodity owner only through sale
>(transformation into money).

Andrew, it seems to me that you are saying that at this individual
level the commodity is more than potential value though not yet quite
actual value. Perhaps in this state it is virtual value? So existence
then has three states--potential, virtual and actual??
I am sorry that I am not following. And perhaps you don't want to be
burdened with this idea of virtuality.

>Turning to your further remarks. Clearly, I take a different line to
>TSS. Your account of Roberts is interesting.

Oh please don't hang most of what I wrote on Roberts. I just took a
single idea and then pursued what I thought are its implications.

>  I think the system-wide perspective / individual perspective
>distinction is adequate to address this account.

Not quite sure how it dissolves dualism of value and price accounts.

>I did in fact use this distinction in a previous exchange with you
>regarding slavery.

Don't see how individual/system distinction speaks to question of
whether wage labor is sometimes disguised as slavery.

Yours, Rakesh

>You seemed unimpressed by it then - I fear you will remain so!

Not at all unimpressed. Where I don't agree with VFT is I think
simple: I do think value only comes to exist in and through exchange;
however, I think value has some kind of existence before that and I
think it's meaningful to speak of labor being abstract before that,
to speak of total social labor time and its homogeneous parts. In
fact I think that talk is meaningful even before generalized
commodity society. The discovery of that aspect of social labor as an
aliquot of abstract social labor time in fact allows objective
investigation of precapitalist formations. I had always thought
abstract labor must be conceived in a historically specific way in
order for capitalist itself to be so conceived. I am now not
convinced of that position.

Yours, Rakesh

>Many thanks

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