[OPE-L:5029] Re: ideal vs real value

Michael Williams (mwilliam@compuserve.com)
Thu, 15 May 1997 15:27:56 -0700 (PDT)

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Paul C
> Use Value - according to Marx is properly the domain of technology
> and relates to the useful physical properties of things

I am generally not keen on quote battles, but I wonder if Paul can indicate
support for this narrowing of the characterisation of Use value to the
technical and the physical? Are not the mysterious properties with which
consumers are led to endow various commodities by marketing an aspect of
use-value? Of course, if we attempt for purposes great or small to
establish some datum of transhistorical, human social usefulness, then we
might of course advert to nutrition science etc. But one purpose of such a
calculation would be to flesh out the alienated and distorted nature of
use-values and capitalist expressions of human social usefulness.

Paul C
> This usefulness
> exists independent of the commodity character of the object.

To the extent that it does, it has escaped the distortions being forced to
take the form of the use-value of a commodity. None of this seems very
germane to,the assertion I wish to defend: that it is the on-going process
of commodity circulation through production and exchange that constitutes
Value under capitalism. Part of this process is the mode by which social
labour is socially systematically socially validated under capitalism.

Paul C
> What validates
> use value is putting something to use and seeing if it works.

Which one cannot generally do until one has bought the thing. I do not see
the point of Paul's digression into marketing theory, but if we are to
continue it, then we need to introduce their distinctions between
'inspection' commodities (whose fitness for purpose can be ascertained
before purchase); 'experience' commodities (whose fitness can be
ascertained only in use - preferably before the guarantee expires); and
others, the term escapes me (whose fitness can never in fact be discovered
by the consumer - often because belief in it was an advertising-induced
leap of faith - that Marlborough fags turn you into a macho cowboy, for

Dr Michael Williams
"Books are Weapons"

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