Re: [OPE] question re published letters Engels

From: howard engelskirchen <>
Date: Sat May 09 2009 - 22:42:32 EDT

I think he was quite deliberate in what he said Paul -- it is value that is
at issue, not exchange value. Notice in section 4 of Chapter 1 Marx wants
to explain what the riddle is that causes the products of labor to appear as
values. He explains how social relations appear as relations of things and
observes that to appreciate how mystifying this all is you have to have
recourse to misty realm of religion. Then as if to cut through the crap he
immediately says what the starting point is for what is really going on --
the qualitative character of the relationship with which analysis must
begin: "Objects of utility become commodities only because they are the
products of labour of private individuals who work independently of each
other." Now this observation recalls the first half dozen paragraphs of
section 2 (which are seriously neglected): "Only the products of mutually
independent acts of labour, performed in isolation, can confront each other
as commodities." This social relation underlies value and the commodity
form. At the point it is introduced, we are not yet at Section 3. Our
acquaintance with exchange value has only been as a springboard to get us to
the analysis of the social relation that is the source of value. Thus
although mutually independent acts of labor performed in isolation
necessarily imply exchange, the analysis is of a structure of activity in

That is, what Engels is saying is that before people produced independently
and after they produce independently, the value form will simply not be a
relevant category for conducting a social and economic calculation. Part of
the transition to socialism rests in overcoming the prevailing autonomy of
separate enterprises.

Also, Engels has not said that capitalism is necessary for the emergence of
the value form, though it fully develops only where labor power itself has
value. The point, I've come to realize, is critically important to the
transition to socialism debate. By saying that value is specific to
capitalism then if workers own factories or you 'abolish' the wage relation
(however that is understood), you no longer have value. Engels, I take it,
would disagree. If mutually independent acts of labor are performed by
enterprises acting autonomously, then commodity categories will persist.

For the rest, Engels letter to Kautsky seems very powerful on another front.
He criticizes Kautsky for his use of abstraction, saying: "[Marx's]
abstraction therefore only reflects, in the form of thought, the content
already reposing in the things." By contrast Rodbertus stands things upside
down -- he has a conception of true capital to which present day capital
must be made to conform. I haven't been able to find the letter online --
does anyone know whether it is available? The important methodological
point appears nicely captured.


howard engelskirchen
----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Cockshott" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Saturday, May 09, 2009 6:55 PM
Subject: RE: [OPE] question re published letters Engels

Ok , take the full quote
 "In der Tat aber ist der ökonomische Wert eine der
Warenproduktion angehörige Kategorie und verschwindet mit ihr (s.
'Dühring', S. 252-62), wie er vor ihr nicht bestand. Das Verhältnis
von Arbeit zu Produkt drückt sich vor der Warenproduktion und nach ihr
nicht mehr in der Form von Wert aus"

I am in accord with the 2nd sentence, but I think that in the first sentence
Engels confuses value with the form of value when he uses the ambiguous
phrase ökonomische Wert. What he should say is that
"In der Tat aber ist der Tauschwert eine der
Warenproduktion angehörige Kategorie und verschwindet mit ihr (s.
'Dühring', S. 252-62), wie er vor ihr nicht bestand."

As he says this is essentially the same formulation that he gave in Anti
Dhuhring, the substance of the policy recomendations there I agree with, but
his terminology is not as precise as that used by Marx.
From: [] On
Behalf Of Gerald Levy []
Sent: Saturday, May 09, 2009 11:00 PM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: Re: [OPE] question re published letters Engels

[Paul C wrote:]
> I dont see that this is inconsistent with what I am saying.

Hi Paul:
See below.
In solidarity, Jerry

> But in fact, however, economic value is a category specific to
> commodity production, and *disappears* with the latter, as it likewise did
> not exist prior to commodity production.

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