[OPE-L:4868] Re: Four-cornered triangle

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Thu, 24 Apr 1997 21:40:15 -0700 (PDT)

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A reply to Michael Williams' ope-l 4866.

I didn't mean to "shout." *Putting a long clause between asterisks doesn't
really emphasize anything* and _putting a long clause between underlines
doesn't really emphasize anything either_, and CAPS ARE THE ONLY OTHER THING

Michael writes: "... this passage ... makes quite clear that products of
labour become commodities only when exchange is ubiquitous, and that it is
only then 'that their character as value etc...'. My gloss on this is that it
is only then that the producers take the character of products as values into
consideration during production. And how do they 'take this into
consideration'? IMO, by precommensuration, which they are able to do because
they can see all around them (in the exchange relations that have 'acquired
sufficient extension') the money form of value of all the various means of
production that they have to take into consideration."

"What do you think of that, Andrew?"

I agree with almost everything, and perhaps everything, depending on what
"precommensuration" means. I agree fully with the first two sentences.

"Precommensuration" might mean that the products are already commensurable
before they exchange, because they are already values, and that this
commensurability attains actual existence by means of money's existence as a
universal equivalent, so that the means of production are regarded as values
by virtue of being equivalent to certain sums of money. If so, then I agree
with this interpretation, i.e., with everything Mike has written here. This
conception is spelled out rather clearly, I think, in the Resultate (see
Capital I, Vintage, pp. 952-53).

On the other hand, "precommensuration" might mean that the firms are guessing
at what the value of the product *will be*, but that the product is not a
value (or is a mere "potential" value) before it is sold. If so, then I do
not think Marx agreed with this, in light of the evidence and more like it
that I have noted.

Let me make two distinctions that might help advance the discussion.

(1) On the one hand, Marx held that the circulation process is necessary for
products of labor to be values. Without the existence of the circulation
process, value could not attain actual existence (it would lack a "form of
appearance"). On the other hand, he maintained that labor-product A,
produced at time t, is a value at time t, and does not need to traverse the
circulation process sucessfully in order to become a value.

(2) On the one hand, Marx held that the circulation process is necessary for
products of labor to be values. On the other hand, he maintained that value
is not *created* in circulation.

Is this hairsplitting? I don't think so. Rather, both distinctions concern
the difference between the coming-into-existence of the *category* "commodity
and the coming-into-existence of an *actual, particular* commodity. I think
the distinctions are essential to Marx's successivist outlook. All kinds of
things must be present simultaneously for value to exist (production,
circulation, the Sun, ...), but that doesn't mean that this particular quantum
of value is simultaneously determined by all the conditions of its existence.
It must *first* exist *before* it is exchanged with another value. (In this
regard, the commodity exchange relation, x commodity A = y commodity B,
differs from the direct exchange of products, x use-value A = y use-value B.)

Andrew Kliman