Re: [OPE-L] Overdetermination & Science

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Wed Jan 04 2006 - 14:38:22 EST

I am indeed saying that you can't separate the way things work (e.g.,
market exchange, and hence the 'law of value,' etc. ) from the way we (I
don't mean you, or I singly, but 'broad collections of people') think.
You say I didn't explain the point: I mean simply that something like
Marx's law of value, or market exchange in general, does not exist
without there being general cultural patterns (Jack Amariglio and I
wrote an article some time ago on commodity fetishism where we
identified some such patterns:
private property, a culture of quantification, a notion of
individuality; there has been a lot of other pertinent work done by
anthropologists on exchange as well; and both Jack and i could probably
expand on the earlier work now).

Paul Cockshott
You are right that commodity exchange is associated with 'cultural
but the question in dispute is the causal priority to these.
Classical Marxism treats the base as prior and the superstructure as a 
necessary derivation from these. This position is perhaps most
thoroughly expressed in the work of Pashukanis who derives the entire
juridical superstructure and mode of thought associated with it
from the commodity exchange relation.

Ian has shown that the law of value can emerge from a very bare formal
system indeed, ie, that the ideological presuppositions required of the
social actors are very minimal.

I would argue that the primary determinants of the existence of
exchange rest at the level of the productive forces. The structure of
units of production must be such that they are incapable of self
reproduction - that is, a unit of production requires inputs that it
can not itself produce if it is to continue simple reproduction.
This only arises at specific levels of development of the productive
forces - the condition is absent in horticultural and simple 
agricultural societies.

Beyond this one can say that the scale of the unit of production and
its typical level of integration must be below that of the social
as a whole - once it rises to that level commodity production can no
longer be sustained.

On these technical bases, commodity production becomes possible.
It then demands certain ideological and juridical forms for its


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