[OPE-L] Kuruma on value detour

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Apr 25 2007 - 10:09:36 EDT

sorry if multiple copies come through.

Kuruma writes:

Rather, the linen posits the coat with form of value by
>  saying that the coat is equal to itself, so that the natural form
>of the coat, as is, expresses value. The value of linen is thus
>expressed for the first time in distinction from its use-value,
>using the natural form of the coat.
This is what Marx calls the  $B!H (Jdetour $B!I (J of

Marx writes in a perplexing and often ignored footnote:

"In a sort of way, it is with man as with commodities. Since he comes
into the world neither with a looking glass in his hand, nor as a
Fichtian philosopher, to whom "I am I" is sufficient, man first sees
and recognises himself in other men. Peter only establishes his own
identity as a man by first comparing himself with Paul as being of
like kind. And thereby Paul, just as he stands in his Pauline
becomes to Peter the type of the genus homo."

So rephrasing this in Kuruma's language:

Peter posits Paul as typical of the genus homo by saying that Paul is
like himself, so that Paul, as is, expresses the human essence. The
human Dasein or esse or identity of Peter is thus expressed for the
first time in distinction from his corporal existence, using Paul as
the natural form of the human Dasein or esse or identity.

What's the point of this apparent word play? First, I think Marx
wants to establish that gold becomes the general equivalent because
commodities express their respective values in it. Several steps are
needed to both to establish the nature and implications of Marx's
critique of monetary fetishism.

Secondly, Marx wants to show as Hegel did in Philosophy of Right that
though civil society seems to be individualistic such that each only
pursues his own interest, value is nonetheless only expressed by way
of social relation (the magnitude of value is also socially
determined). Existence is socially mediated; it is not direct. The
meaning of detour here suggests mediation, another Hegelian category
of course.

Again several steps are needed. No time now. Of course unlike Hegel
Marx did not think that once we became aware of our social
interdependence the behavior of bourgeois man could then simply
change to reflect his new dialectical understanding of his sociality.
Marx was not an idealist as he makes clear in the section on
commodity fetishism.

In short, to tease out the meaning of the above footnote which is
what Kuruma is importantly doing we have to understand which
illusions about money and the apparently absolute subjective freedom
of civil society Marx was critiquing.

Needless to say, even most Marxists don't understand  what was
important to Marx. Kuruma is of course an important exception.


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