Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sun Mar 11 2007 - 20:07:26 EDT

Hi Riccardo you wrote:

> I can only refer you back to my prior mail, and my writings. The
> point however refers to this: abstract labour is only a capitalist
> notion. Useful labour, it is not. Useful labour in capitalism is
> concrete labour, that is a part of capital, indistinguishable from
> it. It does not produce ANYTHING, if not as a part of capital.
> Abstract labour is concrete labour seen as surplus money producing
> labour.

Abstract labor is the kind of labor which produces in the form a commodity
transubstantiated into  money, qua a social mediation, a purely
quantitative claim on abstract social labor time, as a divisible and
homogeneous substance. Capitalism produces historically specific kinds of
abstractions and homogeneous substances. Sohn Rethel of course had such an
Abstract labor is unique to capitalism in that
i.the dominant function of labor is abstract,
ii. against say the physiocratic fetish of agricultural labor social labor
time as such comes to be understood and shaped in the image of money, i.e.
as homogenous and abstract.
iii. Moreover,   labor proves itself abstract as barriers to its mobility
in and out of branches are radically reduced
iv. the reduction of those barriers, along with the mobility of capital
itself, results in the price of commodities becoming a function of the
abstract social labor time required for their reproduction.

I am sure one could strengthen the arguments for the historical
specificity of abstract labor as a practical abstraction and of social
labor time as an homogeneous and divisible substance and of the strict
regulation of price by value...

but my point is that it does not follow from the historical specificity of
abstract labor that labor is exploited under capitalism. Or perhaps it
does, but I don't see the argument.

It must be extracted from "labour power" of free subject (a
> ONLY capitalist notion) AFTER the labour market, extracting living
> labour from workers. All this is very specific. No work, no value
> and surplus value. Before capitalism you could have said: well,
> technology is stationary, so more output more effort.

I don't understand the importance of the stationary nature of technology
in your argument.

 Not so in
> capitalism, which is quite "dynamic", so there is no reason to
> attribute the surplus to workers. Actually, the surplus as such, as
> a use value dymension, is due to capital, not to labour!

Due to capital goods given the scientific knowledge embodied therein or to
capitalists in their supervisory rather than coordiation functions? Not
following the argument.

Leave it there for now.
Yours, Rakesh

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