[OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon Aug 20 2007 - 15:26:08 EDT

Thank you for the comments, but we seem to be on different wave-lengths, and
my critics fail to recognise what Marx himself says about this topic in many
different places. All I can really do is to reiterate:

- that Marx drew a sharp distinction between "value" and "exchange-value",
and between the "substance" of value and the "forms" of value
- that, for Marx, value in the economic sense exists NOT because of
commodity-trade (as many political economists and Marxists believed) but
because products are produced by social labour.

In regard to the latter, as I quoted, Marx writes that the "secret" of value
is "that all kinds of labour are equal and equivalent, because, and so far
as they are human labour in general". Specifically, a use-value "has value
only because human labour in the abstract has been embodied or materialised
in it". He then poses the question of how this could be measured, and his
answer in the first instance is that it can be measured in terms of the
(average) labour-time it took to produce.

When he subsequently discusses the development of the value-forms through
trade, however, he shows that value can be measured ALSO in quantities of
other products of labour offered in exchange, and ultimately in a universal
equivalent, namely money. In that case, value becomes objectified, in the
precise sense that the value of a product is expressed in terms of a
quantity of other objects (products, or money tokens). Assuming regular
trade, then that value will be fixed as an objective trading "norm"
regardless of what the trading parties may think.

In concluding his analysis, he states explicitly:  "Our analysis has shown,
that the form or expression of the value of a commodity ORIGINATES in the
nature of value, and NOT that value and its magnitude originate in the mode
of their expression as exchange value". He could not be any clearer than
that - the social existence of value is independent of, and prior to, the
existence of exchange-value.

If, as Marx says, the value of a product exists only because it is produced
by an aliquot of social labour ("human labour in general"), it should be
obvious that the value of products does not require commodity trade for its
existence - since social labour can also occur within a community of
producers without any commodity trade. Social labour means labour performed
for someone else (if I perform labour only for myself, that labour has a
value for me which I can compare with similar labour-efforts by others,
unless my name is Paul Bullock, but that is not the value Marx has in mind,
Marx has in mind social labour).

Another way of putting all this, is that for Marx, a use-value which is a
labour-product can, in principle, have a value WITHOUT an exchange-value,
insofar as the use-value itself is not traded as a commodity. In that case,
its value is measurable only in terms of the (average) labour-time it takes
to produce, in the given context, and not in terms of other labour-products
or money for which it might exchange.

This view of the matter explains exactly why Marx states at the end of Cap.
Vol. 3, in a critique of Storch:

"...after the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, but still
retaining social production, the determination of value CONTINUES TO PREVAIL
in the sense that the regulation of labour-time and the distribution of
social labour among the various production groups, ultimately the
book-keeping encompassing all this, become MORE ESSENTIAL THAN EVER."

If, in other words, commodity-trade is superseded by a different form of
resource allocation, this does not mean at all, that the products of labour
cease to possess value. That is just a Marxist fiction. It only means that
this value may be directly socially recognised (the "law of value" is a law
governing exchange, a law applying to commodity-trade, and if
commodity-trade is abolished, the law of value no longer applies; the law
states that exchange-value is ultimately governed by value, but if we
conflate value and exchange-value, this obviously becomes gibberish).


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