[OPE-L:4676] RE: use-value of money

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Tue, 8 Apr 1997 22:03:16 -0700 (PDT)

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In response to Michael Williams' ope-l 4673,

(Hi Mike)

I of course do not think that a stopwatch makes labor abstract.
I do think that Marx said labor has a dual character, and that
abstract labor is the same "real work" that concrete labor is.
*Because* the labor is abstract, it can be measured with a

I think the splitting of labor into abstract and concrete is one
of the most profound things Marx ever did. It is certainly
something about which a "fuss" should be made. The
separation/antagonism between abstract and concrete labor shows
that workers are alienated, not just from the product of their
labor, but from the labor itself. And the linkage of this to
value indicates that the system is built on this alienation.
Moreover, abstract labor increasingly acquires a technical,
palpable reality as production becomes more rationalized, and
along with this the very concept of "labor" gets divorced from
the concrete capabilities of the individual, as in time-motion

Still, abstract labor can be measured with a stopwatch, as in
time-motion study. When the time-motion specialists go around
with their stopwatches, they aren't measuring Mary's labor or
Joes's labor, composing-labor, theorizing-labor, but just plain
old *labor*, labor-as-such, abstract labor.

The suggestion (by Michael L., ope-l 4644) that a concept is not
profound if the thing it refers to can be measured easily strikes
me as wrong. It is like saying that Marx shouldn't have gone to
the trouble of analysing the commodity, because we can easily
measure commodities in tons, liters, etc. Just like the
commodity, "labor" appears at first sight to be an obvious,
trivial, easily understood thing, precisely because it is easily
measurable, and we all experience it. It took a Marx to
understand that "there is nothing simple about a commodity," and
nothing simple about the labor that produces commodities. It is
complex, self-divided.

Andrew Kliman (AX)