[OPE-L:5067] Re: question

Michael Williams (mwilliam@compuserve.com)
Sun, 18 May 1997 12:12:28 -0700 (PDT)

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Most of what Riccardo says is interesting and persuasive. I look forward to
giving it some close attention. But perhaps before I start, I should throw
another stone into the rapidly calming pond:-

IMO, no more than Money can logically be a Commodity can Labour-Power be
one. It is, of course, systematically exchanged for Money on ubiquitous
markets. However, it lacks several other essential characteristics of
1. The partial truths of human capital theory notwithstanding,
Labour-power, as an inseparable capacity of all human beings in the
bourgeois epoch, is produced, not under capitalist relations of production,
but in the private sphere. What is more it is not 'produced' with a view to
exchanging it. It is my reading of the 'domestic labour' debates of the
1970s that they concluded that whatever goes on in the family, it is not
value creation, and certainly not valorisation.
2. It has no Value related to the Abstract labour needed for its
reproduction. (This of course is in disagreement with the 'linear
production' view that underlying the wage is a bundle of subsistence
commodities, that do indeed have a labour value.) Rather it is the creator
of value
3. It has no use-value, rather both its social and its individual
usefulness is that it can create value. To the worker that bears it it is
the income source ('of last resort', before welfare), for those who are
wage workers just because they do not have property in non-labour means of
4. Unlike means of production in the Commodity form, Labour-power can not
just be 'switched on' at the command of the capitalist (as Jerry as
elequently evidenced on a number of occasions recently).
5. It is, of course, and therefore, grasped by the Value-form, in the shape
of the wage.

As Suzanne de Brunhoff long ago arged, both Money and Labour power are, at
best, very peculiar Commodities.