Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Oct 17 2005 - 01:29:42 EDT

Hi Andrew,
1. I took the category of virtuality not from quantum mechanics but
post-structuralism in which the possibility/realization couplet has
replaced with the virtuality/actualization one. I am not wedded to
this idea at all.
2. I am not trying to derive a positive ontology from quantum
mechanics; only to weaken our institution that measurement has to be
of a thing independently existing of the measurement.
3. The general point is of course ontological. Mine would tend to
emphasize relations, i.e. things have the properties they do as a
result of the relations in which held, not as a result of their
inherent properties. This is an old point made by by the neo Kantian
Cassirer, the austro marxist Max Adler, the sociologist bourdieu, and
(as Chris Arthur has put it), Ollman with his idea of inner-actions.
So I do not think the relative form of value can be said to possess
value outside of its relationship to the general form of value. Value
is brought into existence at the level of the system of relations.
And not outside of it.

Value is after all a social relation.

Yours, Rakesh

At 7:00 PM +0100 10/15/05, Andrew Brown wrote:
>Hi Rakesh,
>You wrote:
>"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."
>I reply: Perhaps we are talking past each other somewhat since you
>are trying out your interpretation whilst I am trying out mine. Your
>view seems to look to quantum physics for help and deals in
>'virtual' value akin to the virtual existence of Schrodinger's
>infamous cat prior to being observed. One way of proceeding would be
>to ask whether your view applies to the individual level, or the
>system-wide level or both? Here you apply it to the individual
>level. You are right that I wouldn't want to be burdened with this
>notion, whether for the inividual or system-wide levels. I wouldn't
>go anywhere near quantum physics for help on ontological matters -
>as far as I can see it is in an ontological mess, just like the poor
>My view, at the *individual* level, is that both commodity and money
>are indeed actual forms of value. One is not somehow more real than
>another. Possession of a newly produced commodity is possession of
>value just as much as possession of money. Any one single commodity
>need not be transformed into money to be a value. What is potential
>for the individual commodity owner, prior to sale, is the possession
>of the power conferred by value (generalised purchasing power), not
>the possession of value itself. No doubt this makes the owner
>anxious but such anxiety should not lead us to question of the very
>existence of value in commodity form (leaving aside fictitious
>At the *system-wide* level, on the other hand, we can rightly say
>that value 'gains existence' only through its reflection in money
>(you say 'comes to exist' below). For such reflection to occur value
>must continually actually transform from commodity to money form,
>across society as a whole, i.e. there must be generalised commodity
>exchange through money.
>In sum, (1) any one indiviudal commodity need not exchange for money
>to be a value but;
>(2) a large proportion of commodities across society must do so in
>order to be values (in order for value and capital to continue to
>exist at all).
>Many thanks,
>>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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