[OPE-L:645] Re: Ric's reply to Chai-on

Riccardo Bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Mon, 4 Dec 1995 01:36:17 -0800

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Some replies to Chai-on.

"1.Bellofiore made a crucial mistake; he does not distinguish between
value on one hand and abstract labour on the other hand. I should read
"Marx says, a few paragraphs after having stated that abstract labour is
physiological labor, that the commodity as a value is purely social".
Value is one thing, abstract labour is another. But he confused the
distinction and then argued for the different perspectives. So, the
Mino's statement "abstract labour is a category of both production and
exchange, where production is determinant" should be read "value is a
category of both production and exchange, where production is

I have nothing against the distinction of value and abstract
labour. In fact to produce in a satysfying manner this distinction is my
*aim*. In any event, it does not appear to me as strange as Chai-on seems
to imply. Let me spend some autobiograph ical notes. Who really introduced
me to Marx was Claudio Napoleoni, and as anyone can see in _Smith,
Ricardo, Marx_, his 1975 book, there Napoleoni defines abstract labor
*both* as *result* (abstract labor deduced from exchange, i.e. dead
abstract labor) and as *activity* (abstract labor as the living labor of
the wage workers). Now, I have the impression that Chai-on reserves the
word value for the first, and the word abstract labor for the second. This
is exactly what, *in the end*, I want to do, becaus e from my poit of view
the Napoleoni's identification of the two meanings of abstract labor was
*too* immediate. Chai-on, that this is my aim I think can be seen by any
dispassionate reader, because it is *already* hinted to in my writings at
least from 1 989, if not from the 1985 C&C article. BUT, from my point of
view, the dissociation of value and abstract labor (as the living labor
etc.) cannot be seen as already there in Marx's chapter 1, nor is clearly
there in Marx - as I understand you imply.

I think the difference among us here is mainly on method. In
chapter 1, I said this many times already on this list, Marx presupposes
commodity and the general exchange; and this presupposition could be shown
to be a posit of capitalist production, when we go on reading Capital.
Yes, but if we stick at chapter 1 we have *only* general exchange without
capital. Why that? Because capital is a category which must be
*constructed*; and that requires the categories of money(-capital) and
labor-power, an d both of them need the category of the commodity, because
the two are very special commodities. Thus, when we are in chapter 1, we
have only abstract labor deduced from exchange, where society arises only
at the level of dead labor. From this perspective , abstract living labor
is only latent (=potential) abstract labor, where abstract labor = value.

When the analysis develops - and especially when we turn from the
formal to the real subsumption of labor to capital - it is possible to see
the more fundamental process of abstraction of labor (the
'other-directness' nature of labor in production) as process of
abstraction behind market-exchange abstraction: the process producing a
*social* homogeneity, in a capitalist market society already in
production, taking as 'given' and non-problematic the
realization/actualization on the market. It is wha t happens in Capital
vol. 1since Part Two. Thus, at this point in the argument, it is possible
to reserve the word 'abstract labor' for the living labor of the wage
worker, and 'value' for the dead labor concealed in the commodity as the
result of the exp loitation of labor, actualized in exchange,and follow

But note: here the 'social' homogeneity of the living labor in
production to which I refer in reality means only the *pre-validation* of
labor relative to the market (the point, present in my all articles on
Marx in English, is also affirmed by Reu ten and Williams). Also note that
the living labor does not reduce to the physiological labor expended (this
is, in fact, recognized also by Chai-on in one of the following quotes) .
And finally note that Marx was not very clear on the issue: (i) because
for him there was no problem in going from dead labor to living labor, and
return (for me, after Boehm-Bawerk and Sraffa, this *is* a problem): he
could then well use abstract labor for both (for me, on the contrary, the
labor theory of value holds if we strenghten the road from labor to value
at the expenses of the road from value to labor); (ii) because of his
money-commodity theory (see my previous posts).

"2. Bellofiore's money is a mere symbol (in points 7-9). Yet, symbol is by
definition a purely social one, not a private one. How could then the
symbol be privately owned? And privately produced?"

Good questions. I can only give a bunch of replies which would open
at least three diverse battlefields: (i) in fact, in Marx there is a
problem in ch. 1, fully recognized by Marx himself, in passing from the
relative expression of value to the tot al, expanded form of value - this
is one of the points, Mike P., in which history 'comes in' in Marx's
logical argument; the other is the 'making' of labor-power; in my opinion,
the strenght of Marx's method is that it says *where* the totality could
not hold together alone, without recourse to history; (ii) the logical
difficulty raised by Chai-on is one of the reasons because a monetary
economy is an unstable one; (iii) it is then also one of the reasons
supporting central banking against free banking. (ii) would lead us in
the PKT list; (iii) at a very hard fight in the Austrianecon list.

"3. In his point 10, Bellofiore says, Marx's value is a category that
arises at the meeting point of production and circulation. Well, where
does production meet circulation? What is the meeting point? Day and
night meet at dawn or at dusk. Do the production and circulation have
such a meeting point? Storage and transportation are also a part of
production, cannot be such a meeting-point. IMO, value arises neither in
production nor in exchange. And not at the meeting point of production
and exchange either. Value is created by labour, this does not mean value
arises in production. Value signifies a social relation and the social
relation is not in production only nor in exchange only, but in the unity
of both... Value is a potential existence in the sphere of production and
is realized in that of exchange. This means ... neither potential value
nor realized value is a complete existence. Both are partial. Why?
Because its receptacle (it cannot exist as an independent existence for
itself but can only exist in a container, the use-value) passes through
the two phases of production and exchange. The use-value is social only
latently before exchange. In exchange, its social character is realized.
But value itself does not pass through such two phases. In circulation,
it is not value but use-value that is exchanged. Value is not exchanged
but simply remain in the same hands in the exchange, and simply changes
its form from a commodity form into money form or from money form into a
commodity form without changing hands. Value is created as a potential
one in production and is realized in THE CHANGE OF VALUE-FORM, ie. in the
exchange of use-value. Elsewhere, it is just a latent existence.

Frankly, I do not see *so much* difference from my picture of the
living labor of the wage workers as *latent* abstract labor eventually
*actualizing* in value. BTW, value, as Chai-on says, is not changing hands
but only changing its form in exchange. Thi s 'changing of form' is
however for Marx of the highest relevance - the neglect of form is what he
reproaches to Ricardo and the classical political economy. Am I wrong?

"4. Yes, Bellofiore says in his 12b, "it is living labour which makes
value come to life in a capitalist economy". I should develop this
further. Since the living labour creates value, and abstract labour is
the creator of value, ABSTRACT LABOR is living labor. This is my point.
The living labour is not alive in exchange but in production, and so it
should not be an exchange category! ... But the creator of value is *not
every living labour* but the living labour only that produces a commodity.
(1) An individual labourer's labour in a capitalist economy does not
produce a commodity unless as an organ of a collective laborer. This
means the individual labourer's labour cannot count as the abstract labour.
It should not be counted in the one-to-one correspondence between value
and use-value, on one hand, and, on the other hand, abstract labour and
concrete labor. But it can be in simple commodity production, though.
(2) How can we say **the living labor that produces a commodity** has
the character of abstract labour? In commodity production, the living
labour can do any job in accordance with the direction of social demands."

Chai-on, this is *exactly* what I'm saying, if you allow for the
difference - which, as I explained, is mainly a methodological difference
in the way we read the logical development of Marx argument, and would
disapper at the end - between your liv ing labor as abstract labor, and my
living labor as potential abstract labor. Anyone can check reading my
paper with Finelli for the Bergamo conference in the marxism-list
archives. Why not looking also on what are the agreements, without always
emphasizi ng the diveregences, on this list?

"5. Then, someone might ask, "To define abstract labour as the living
labour that produces a commodity is to derive the abstract labour from the
category of the commodity value. If then, is it not circular to explain
the abstract labour that derived from the commodity value as the substance
of value?" My answer is no. The logical anteriority runs from abstract
labor to commodity value, not from the commodity value to abstract labor."

I fully agree on this - as I remarked before, going from commodity
value to abstract labor raises many problems, and I do not think
Boehm-Bawerk criticisms raised against this sequence were so off the
tracks. Differently from Chai-on, maybe, and wi th I.I. Rubin, I maintain
that in Marx we see both roads at work, the one from commodity value to
abstract labor, and the one from abstract labor to commodity value. And
with Rubin I prefer to stress the latter.

I have not the time to edit this letter, which I hope could be of
help for the list (but I'm not so sure). I apologize because this week I
am not able to reply to others who intervened on my post - and I'll be out
the next week-end, so you can 'bre athe' for a while.

In solidarity


Riccardo Bellofiore e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
Department of Economics Tel: (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2 (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo Fax: (39) -35- 249975