Re: [OPE-L] The HM [Haunted and Mysterious] Conference

From: Andrew Brown (A.Brown@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Oct 27 2005 - 06:35:54 EDT

Hi Jerry,

Chris is basically right that metaphors always have limitations but it
does no harm, of course, to tease out exactly what these are, which is
what, in effect, you are doing. The key point is that that both in terms
of non-sensuousness existence and what should be inactive becoming
active, then this is *not* a metaphor, it is the perverse reality of
capitalism. This makes it all the more important to ask the questions
you are asking

You wrote:

"In the analogy that we are discussing, vampires (capital) suck value
(blood) out of workers.  As anyone who is familiar with vampire
legends is aware, the blood that is sucked and the sucking itself
has an utterly sensuous quality -- hence the erotic themes in many
modern vampire films and literature.  Blood is certainly not
non-sensuous for vampires!"

Correct. This is where the ghost analogy is apt and is a disanalogy with

You go on:
"Consider next the sensuousness of ghosts.  Those who believe in
ghosts will tell you that,  although lacking in a material corpus,
ghosts can be sensed and ghosts themselves have senses (a spirit
which can manifest itself to the living in various forms)."

So can value. Unlike the fictitious ghost, moreover, value *has* to
reflect itself in corporeality. That is, value has really to overcome
the contradiction that it is immediately non-sensuous if it is to gain
ontological status at all. This is why essence must appear. It is why
essence (value) can only appear by mediation (ultimately via price).
Patrick Murray offers by far and away the best exposition of this point
that I know of (but then makes all the conclusions about magnitudes)

You go on:

"Even in pre-capitalist modes of production, means of production
had an "active existence" in the sense that -- together with living
labor -- they could be combined to produce new goods and services."

I reply: Yes, 'in a sense' they do. But the key point is that 'in a
sense' they don't. In the sense of the Marxist analysis of the labour /
nature relation, then labour is active, nature passive. Means of
production are just that: passive means employed by active labour.
Labour is the 'form giving fire', setting the labour process in motion
and guiding the result, the product. All this then gets horribly
inverted in capitalism (social labour takes leave of the labourer
becoming thing like and dominates the labourer in the form of capital)
giving rise to the need for the metaphors we are discussing

You wrote:
"This is hardly a relation unique to capitalism and value.  Those who
control means of production and labor likewise even in pre-
capitalist modes of production are able to "feed on" living labor,
i.e. use labor to produce a surplus product which makes possible
the continued existence of the ruling class. Again, one sees the
parasitic trans-historical analogy."

I reply: here it is plain old people that do the feeding, not the
undead! Yes - capitalists are people too but they exploit workers via
capital as such. Capital as such isn't a person and it is in the grasp
of capital as such that the metaphors we are discussing arise.

You also wrote:

"PS: Previously I wrote,
> "those who advocate "embodied" and/or "congealed"
> interpretations of value and others who resist those interpretations,
> including value-form theorists."
Andy replied (in part):
> If you have in mind my own rendition of 'congealed' then the above
> statement is incorrect because you can no more lump my view in with
>embodied labour view than with value-form theory.
I reply:  That's why I put 'and/or'."

I reply: No, no, this is still an entirely incorrect statement since it
somehow presupposes the same sort of 'tension' exists between these
theories. No such similar tension exists. I don't think it can exist
because I don't think my sort of view is generally *recognised* by value
form theorists. Thus I have a hard job of actually explaining my view -
what tends to happen is exactly the mistake you make which is to somehow
lump me in with embodied labour theories (sometimes the term 'abstract
labour embodied' is used) as if the same sort of tensions exist (or,
conversely, I am perceived as just another value-form theorist). If and
when I actually succeed in explaining clearly what my view is, in a way
such that others understand it, then you can start to talk about
'tensions' but at the moment I can't see any because my view simply
isn't recognised at all. I say my view: I see it as an elaboration of
the strand of work stemming from Ben Fine etc. but this work (especially
Ben's stuff) contains philosophical and abstract theoretical absences
which I am trying to fill (e.g. not much specifically detailing the
distinction between 'embodiment' and 'congealment' in that work, though
such distinction is implicit within it, I think)

Many thanks,


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