[OPE-L:5013] Re: ideal vs real value

Michael Williams (mwilliam@compuserve.com)
Wed, 14 May 1997 06:35:08 -0700 (PDT)

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I think our differences are both being refined, and reduced.

However, you write
> Yet, the abstract labor is valid only in the
> context of the unity of Pr and Ex. In your case, however, the abstract
> labour is valid only in the exchange in separation from the production.
> you replace the word, Exchange with Reproduction, then I would say OK.
> in your argument, the exchange is in separation from Production.

I am not quite sure what you mean by 'valid only in exchange in separation
from production'. But anyway, as I have always argued, abstract labour is
constituted in the circulation of products as commodities through
production and exchange. I have never attempted to separate them. It is the
necessary embeddedness of (potential) commodity production within this
circulation that lies at the heart of the (my) value-form approach.

> Chai-on:
> No, the skill characteristics do not refer to the category of concrete
> labor. If they do, they cannot be reduced to qualitatively equal and
> quantitatively different labors. The skills are in the transition from
> concrete labors to homogeneous labors. Once labors are seen as versatile,
> the concrete labors can be seen as the external diversities of abstract
> labor, and then the different skills and complexities as different levels
> of training, education, experience, etc.

Here we do have a significant difference of opinion. Your position seems
close to that of Paul C, to which I have recently written a brief response.
Marx appeared to hold both views: 1. that concrete labours where abstracted
from to constitute Abstract Labour in the production and exchange of their
products as commodities; 2. that as an historical tendency differentiated
labours become more versatile, flexible and so homogenous. the last 20
years of labour-market liberalisation of labour markets notwithstanding, I
am dubious about the existence of such a tendency. And anyway, the
theoretical category Abstract Labour is constituted systemically, as in the
first view.

> Chai-on:
> No. The content of value is not abstract labor but homogeneous labor. The
> producer of value is abstract labor. Specific labor is the producer of
> use-value. If you say money is the representation of homogeneous labor,
> then I agree. But, if you say, money is the representation of abstract
> labor, I disagree.

We do disagree again here, I think. Actual labour is, in general,
heterogenous. There may be an historical homogenising tendency, but I doubt
it (see above). There certainly is, however, an on-going abstraction
process of heterogenous concrete labours into a social 'substance' -
Abstract Labour - that is homogenous. (If it were not it could not be
quantitatively expressed in a single unit ($)).
However, I seem often to disagree less with you when I understand more, so
perhaps you could elaborate a bit more on your distinction between
homogenous labour and abstract labour? Thanks.

> Chai-on:
> Then in your position, even a virgin uncultivated land, since it is
> in exchange, can be seen as having a value. I disagree with this
> Only labor products have values, in my position.

I hope you will not think it a trick If I insist on agreeing with you that
only labour products have value (under capitalism), by reference to my
insistence on a systemic conceptualisation. Marx is concerned with an
account of the specifically capitalist way in which the products of labour
are valued - namely as commodities.

> Chai-on:
> If the above is rephrased as follows, I would say, OK. "The dominance of
> value-form (the
> commodity production) over the content of the value form (the allocation
> labour to the
> >production of socially useful objects) is superficial.

Come now, Chai-on, you cannot expect me to agree with that. This dominance
is, for me, the key critical characterisation of the alienated, fetishised
distortion of human creative powers under capitalism. If by superficial you
mean only something like 'on the surface', then I would have less problem
because I hold no truck for any 'underlying' metaphor for the structure of
social reality.

> Chai-on:
> Yes, it is. But a form of value is the commodity that is exchanged with
> value in question. Not the bearer of the value is the value-form.

You appear to be referring to the development in Chapter 1 of vol 1. Once
we have ubiquitous, ongoing commodity circulation, and we are talking about
Commodity, not any particular commodity, this distinction is doing no work.

Well, I must go and do some wage labour. I will come back to your other
points in a few days.

comradely ...
Dr Michael Williams
"Books are Weapons"

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