[OPE-L:4745] RE: use-value of money => concrete->abstract labour

Michael William (mwilliam@compuserve.com)
Sat, 12 Apr 1997 13:26:45 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

Thanks for your patience. I would like to pursue this (note the change in
the subject-line) a bit further.

In response to:
> Mike W.: "what they wrote down on their clip-boards would surely be
> like:
> 'sharpening one pin-point: 7.2 seconds'. This surely does *not* abstract
> from concrete/specific labour?"
Andrew wrote:
> Yes it does, because the particular operation is abstracted from (i.e.,
> considered in abstraction from) the customary labor process as a
> whole*.

I think we have here a conflation of two different (kinds of?) abstraction.
In my understanding, the move from Concrete to Abstract Labour involves
abstracting from the particular characteristics of different specific kinds
of labour - not only butchering, baking and candle-stick making, but also,
for example, from flour-sieving, dough-mixing, kneading, and oven-baking.
Thus in Adam Smith's eg, what has to be abstracted from is pin-point
sharpening rather than its location within the collective labour-process of
pin-making. This the T-M lackey does not do.

> The concrete is a complex of many determinations, right?

Yes, but... . Here we have a problem with Marx's uses of concrete wrt
labour and the methodological opposition between Concrete and Abstract. The
'immediately empirical' (eg pin-point sharpening activity) is abstract, in
being taken in isolation. The Concrete is then the empirical understood as
the complex product of many abstract determinations (eg the pin-point
sharpening activity understood as an element of the collective labour of
pin-making, as capitalist commodity production, and thence as abstract
socially necessary labour, etc ... ).
If I may speculate, our differences here may manifest our differences about
Abstraction, in particular your scepticism about the, to my mind
necessarily, hierarchical structure of abstractions. To do what the T-M
operative does is to abstract pin-point sharpening from its context. To do
what Marxist dialectics does is to abstract in order to find the abstract
determinations that *locate* (eg) pin-point sharpening within the systemic
whole that is capitalism.

> time-motion study, they get abstracted into their simplest elements. It
> not pinmaking-labor that is being measured.

So yes, but that is just why T-M abstraction is not dialectical

> Moreover, the measurement of the individual's labor is only one step in a

> bigger process. The time-motion study people are not ultimately
> in how much time Joe or Mary actually took to sharpen the pin, but in how
> time is *needed* to sharpen a