[OPE-L:4855] Re: Four-cornered triangle

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Wed, 23 Apr 1997 22:08:56 -0700 (PDT)

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In message Wed, 23 Apr 1997 03:17:44 -0700 (PDT),
"andrew kliman" <Andrew_Kliman@msn.com> writes:

> A reply to Michael Lebowitz's ope-l 4644.

Andrew, I agree with Jerry's response to your note in his 4845 but do want
to add the following comment:

> Second, the quote above expresses one-half of a contradiction. As I'm
> sure Mike knows, the *immediately preceding* sentence reads "Hence
> commodities must be realized as values before they can be realized as
> use-values." Capital I, Vintage, p. 179.
>Then Marx develops a second aspect of this contradiction, exchange as an
> individual vs. social process. (p. 180)

I interpret the above statement simply to mean that before the commodity
can be a service to s/he for whom it is a use-value it must be exchanged. I
don't think this side of the relation in anyway diminishes the force of
Marx's subsequent statement (179) that commodities must stand the test as
use-values before they can be realised as values (which still to me conveys
that they are only potential values before exchange), and I don't think we
need to invoke money here.

> Then he solves the contradiction he has posed (pp. 180-81). More
> precisely, he says that the existence of money solves it. The articles
> are already values before they exchange, because they are already, and
> always, related to the equivalent. Otherwise they could not exchange as
> commodities: there would be nothing to equate them as values and allow
> the magnitude of their values to be compared.
> Marx thus distinguishes (p. 181) between "the simple expression of
> value", x commodity A = y commodity B, and barter ("direct exchange of
> products"), x use-value A = y use-value B. In the latter case, he
> writes, "articles A and B IN THIS CASE are not yet commodities, but
> become so only through the act of exchange" [my emphasis]. The
> implication, clearly, is that this is not so in the former case (because
> A is already equivalent to B, the socially recognized form of value.)

Despite your emphasis ("in this case"), I don't think Marx is saying that
once money exists (and commodities are measured in it) that a product is a
value at the very point of its production (without our knowing if indeed it
is a use-value). The equating of products of labour that converts them into
commodities is when they are equated "in fact", ie, in actual exchange
(181). I think his statement on p.179 that I quoted is inherent in the
definition of the commodity; and, what he proceeds to do subsequently in the
chapter is to demonstrate the necessity of the money-form.
in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 872-0494; Home fax: (604) 872-0485
Lasqueti Island: (250) 333-8810
e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca