[OPE-L:504] Re: abstract labor

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Fri, 17 Nov 1995 13:25:55 -0800

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Andrew here.

In ope-l 498, (17-Nov-1995, 06:18:28.46), Mike Lebowitz takes me to task on
two grounds. First he says that "rather than reconcile his [Andrew's]
argument with this particular quote" from Ch. 2 of _Capital_ I, concerning
the need for a commodity to be "realized" through sale, I avoided the
question by saying that I have my own quotes.

I did say that, but earlier in the post, in a passage that Mike quotes, I
wrote: "This does not imply that I agree with his [Mike's] interpretation of
his quote--I think production of value is not the same as 'realization' of
value through sale." I believe this sufficiently reconciles Mike's quote with
my interpretation of Marx, according to which value is extracted from workers
in production and congealed in commodities at that time, prior to the
commodity's exchange.

There's also a somewhat different issue here--whether the realization of the
commodity's value must be accomplished by one commodity owner exchanging his/
her commodity with the commodity (or money) or a second, juridically different,
commodity owner. That is one way to interpret the kind of passages that
Mike quotes. But that runs counter to Marx's discussions in the Resultate
and in Vol. II, on the reproduction of constant capital, in which Marx holds
that some commodities can be realized _in natura_, through their direct use
in new production, without going through the market. Hence, to reconcile
such statements with those of the kind Marx quotes, I would simply say that
when Marx writes that the commodity's value must be realized in exchange, he
means that the production of the commodity itself is insufficient to
realize its value. He points to market exchange as the form of realization,
usually, and not direct use in reproduction, because it was and is empiricaly
of great significance (but so is direct realization, especially in the
period since Marx, when capitalism in a state property form has arisen and
transnational corporations sell their products to themselves [this also takes
place within countries]).

So I think those who have problems reconciling the texts are those who say that
the empirical act of exchange between juridically distinct owners is the
*exclusive* way in which commodities' values are "realized."

The other thing Mike takes me to task for--"mischievously"--is for being among
those (or is this a set of one?) "who substitute their 'interpretation' for
'Marx's view'." I'm not sure what this means. Any interpretation of Marx
by me is an interpretation of Marx's views. If Mike is implying that I'm
avoiding confronting apparently contradictory evidence, which is *one*
possible way of reading this phrase, I can only deny it, and point to the
present post, my earlier posts on abstract/physiological labor--BTW, I think
Mino Carchedi's recent post did an excellent job of explaining how abstract
labor can be both historically specific and physiological--, and my
writings which interpret Marx's work as evidence.

I have responded to Mike's post because it deals with the issue I did want
to discuss--making sense of Marx's view of this issue *as a whole.* What
I wanted to avoid was thus not Mike's quote as evidence of Marx's view, but
a sterile debate with market-centered theorists concerning their own
theoretical views (as distinct from their interpretation of Marx's texts).