[OPE-L:2150] Re: Chapter 5 and before

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Fri, 10 May 1996 15:25:26 -0700

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A response to Bruce's ope-l 2127.

I'm sure he already knows my response, but others may be interested.

Ch. 1 of Capital doesn't deal with exchange. Ch. 2 does. Except in
incidental remarks, or derivation of other conclusions, exchange ratios
are not analyzed in Ch. 1.

20 yds. linen = 1 coat is, in Marx's view, an expression of the value
of the linen in the coat. He sometimes refers to this as the
"exchange relation." He does not say, and I don't think he at all
implies, that they exchange in this ratio because they have the
same value, or that, because they have the same value, they exchange
in this ratio.

Note that in the passage Bruce himself quotes, Marx is dealing with
*cost of production*, not *ratio of exchange*.

Marx's foremost purpose in analysing the exchange relation in Ch. 1,
especially in sections 1 and 3, is to show that what commodities have
in common is that they are values (this is thus a qualitative discussion)
and that they exchange AS values. In other words, their commonality is
not created, determined, or whatever IN in act of exchange, but rather
the reverse. The act of excahnge depends on and presupposes their
commonality. (This is NOT true of all exchanges, in Marx's view. He
says in Ch. 2 that in early noncapitalist societies that begin to
exchange, especially externally, exchange ratios depend on chance, the
whims of exchangers, etc. And he notes in Ch. 1 (section 4) that
in such socities, goods acquire the *form* of commodities only through
the act of exchange, which in his view is not true of capitalism.
Now they are commodities already in the process of production, since
they are produced as commodities.)

This discussion of Marx's is directed especially against Bailey's and
others' view that value is the same as exchange-value.

Does the assumption of exchange of equal values first come in Ch 6? Yes,
it is first employed here. The assumption, however, is first stated and
explained at the end of Ch. 5.

If one examines the language that marx uses in making this assumption, it
is exceedingly clear. So what? Well it shows that when he WAS making
such an assumption, there is no ambiguity that he was doing so. In
stark contrast are the passages in Ch. 1 that Bruce (and others) read
as somehow implying exchange of equal values. Why, if Marx *could*
state the assumption clearly, is the language used in making this
assumption so murky in Ch. 1??

My answer is: Marx's language in Ch. 1 is also exceedingly clear,
extremely precise. That it seems to be assuming exchange at equal
values to some folks, although it doesn't say so, reflects an
incomplete understanding of and/or appreciation of, the problematic
of Ch. 1. The root of it is, I think, that very few people have
ever appreciated why Marx wanted to analyze "the commodity." So
the analysis shifts in their thinking into an analysis of exchange.
But the purpose of examining 20 yds. linen = 1 coat is to see what
is so very peculiar about the 20 yds. of linen (or "the linen")
ITSELF. It is here NOT a use-value, but a value, although the
exchange relation itself mystifies this, etc., etc.

Andrew Kliman