[OPE-L:391] andrew on abstract labor

ECUSER (ECBURKE@scifac.indstate.edu)
Thu, 2 Nov 1995 11:25:50 -0800

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I think Andrew's point #5 in his last post (on the abstract labor
issue being discussed by Paul C. and Paul B.) is very interesting.
Andrew interprets the specifically capitalist character of abstract
labor from a subjective point of view of workers in general (if I
understand him correctly), in order to argue that when Marx said
'purely physiological' he did not mean transhistorical. I need to
think about this more, but my first reaction is to say that
Rosdolsky's discussion is looking at the same phenomenon from a
different angle: that of the specifically capitalist social
abstraction of labor time in general in the straightforward sense of
the total labor time available to society regardless of how it is
used, its purpose, etc. In short, I don't see any necessary
conflict between Rosdolsky's and Andrew's arguments---especially
since there might still be a necessary transhistorical condition for
the specifically capitalist phenomenon of 'purely physiological' that
Andrew refers to: namely the physiological character of all labor in
all societies (this physiological character taking on a specific
PURELY physiological form under capitalism, in Andrew's view). But
perhaps I am not understanding Andrew correctly.

Meanwhile, the response from Paul C. might be: well, then, how
could Marx talk about the need of pre-capitalist society's (or post-
capitalist ones) to allocate their labor time if the abstraction
'total labor time of society' is specifically capitalist? My answer,
partly in the new terms introduced by Andrew: total labor time of
society is not abstracted from its concrete purpose(s) (based on the
fact that the laborers are not formally separated from necessary
conditions of production including natural conditions as they are
under capitalism) in these non-capitalist societies the way it is
under capitalism. Hence it is a different form of total labor time we
are talking about here, quite different from its value form under

I can't think of anything to disagree with per se in Andrew's

Paul Burkett