chaion lee (conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr)
Thu, 30 Nov 1995 06:31:37 -0800

[ show plain text ]

Re: Historical approach

As regards M. Perelman [OPE-L:591], J. Levy [OPE-L:602] & P. Cockshott
[OPE-L:600], etc.

POINT 1: In the sense that abstract labor, labour-value, etc. can only
possess a reality in a highly developed capitalist economy (a generalized
commodity production), they say, capitalism is presupposed in labor-value.
The presupposition is, however, in the danger of a circularity.

POINT 2: To obviate the circularity, one should proceed from simple
commodity production and then to the capitalist production. But, in this
case, abstract labor (the versatility of labor, a living labor must be capable
of taking any form of concrete labor at will) seems highly unrealistic.

I think the two points are both right and wrong. I should like to recall the
dialectics of theory and practice. For Marx, a truth does not mean an
identity between theory and reality. Neither theory nor actual world is true
and perfect. Both are finite and partial, one-sided. The actual world is
changing, and so the theory that coincides with the actual world is
incessantly becoming false. A true theory, therefore, must describe the
process and the direction of the change of the actual world. Abstract labor
is in that sense indicating the ultimate image of the commodity producing
labor. In a highly developed commodity society, our labor can produce any
kind of commodity, so the many kinds of concrete labor may be seen as
certain amounts of homogeneous labor. Otherwise, it is impossible to see
concrete labours as homogeneous labors in different quantities (for more
details on this, please refer to the Section 5 of my CJE paper, 1993, 17:4).
Because the abstract labor is oriented towards such a highly developed
society, the development or the evolution of the intrinsic contradiction of the
commodity is able to unfold the historical development of the commodity
producing society. The finitude and the one-sidedness of the objective
world can only be superseded by this sort of our theoretical activity.
On the other hand, as Paul says "The structure of value relations are
best understood in the context of socialist economy. I/O tables could not
have been thought of without the socialist revolution of this century" (Paul
Cockshott, 600), the finitude and the one-sidedness of our theory can only
be superseded by that sort of practical activity.
The backgrounds of the unfolding process of the intrinsic contradiction
into the capitalist world economy from the category of the commodity is
the very Marx's analytical method (from the commodity to abstract labour).
I should insist once again that his analytical method needs to be
differentiated from his synthetic method (the unfolding process from the
commodity to money, capital, wage-labor, etc.).

Comments should be appreciated. In solidarity.


Chai-on Lee