Re: [OPE-L] salto mortale

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Mar 03 2007 - 13:13:06 EST

>On Sat, 3 Mar 2007, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:
>>>In socialist society gold will remain more valuable than copper or
>>>lead. Society may be able to
>>>afford to roof halls with copper, but not gold.
>>>Paul Cockshott
>>A bit misleading, I think. Our social relations of production seem to
>>be established only if the things we exchange happen to possess
>>value--so dependent are we on things--but in fact the things we
>>possess only appear to possess value because the nature imposed
>>necessity of our social relations of production are mediated by
>>things which seem to have acquired this property of
>As I read Marx on fetishism, the "fetish" is the idea that
>commodities somehow possess value as a sort of intrinsic property.
>I agree that's fetishistic, and I find Marx's analysis of the
>phenomenon intriguing, if obscure.

I agree that this is obscure in that as Elster has argued it's not
clear that anyone actually thinks that value is an instrinsic
property such as weight. Exchanging things that have value,  we are
able to develop a division of labor. Marx seems to be reversing that
by saying that because we have developed the division of labor
through commodity exchange things appear as if they do intrinsically
possess value in that value varies independently of the knowledge,
will and foresight of actors who are reduced to representatives of
these commodities in exchange.  Yet it seems that modern actors
realize that value does vary without believing that value is an
intrinsic property of goods. In fact it so varies exactly because
value is not intrinsic to goods.
I am not at all clear as to what Marx is arguing. John Torrance has a
stimulating discussion of reification/fetishism in his Karl Marx's
Theory of Ideas, but I am still thinking about it.
I just wanted to suggest that there does seem to be a relation
between Marx's theory of value and his theory of fetishism.
Yours, Rakesh

>However, what Paul's saying above (and what Ricardo said, for that
>matter) is simple and non-fetishistic: gold is valuable because it
>takes a lot of labour time to extract it.  The value of gold is
>not inherent in the gold itself, but in the relationship between
>our technology and the thing itself.  (If we found a cheap way to
>create gold atoms, the way we can now create diamond, the value
>would fall.)

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