[OPE-L:6242] Re: value and the transformation of work

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Tue, 3 Mar 1998 15:17:13 -0500 (EST)

Leda wrote: "What Marx puts on in these same pages is something linked to
the force of value as a social form, i.e., something linked to fetichism
(this form would insist to remain despite the loss of its "material"

I find this a provocative formulation. As suggested by William J Blake,
perhaps the history of humanity can be understood as the history of
overcoming anachronistic fetishisms (it provides a better basis for
speculative history than Adorno and Horkheimer or Kracauer after all): from
the fetishisms of the savage; to the mercantalist fetish of gold; to the
physiocratic fetish of agricultural labor; to the bourgeois fetish of the
value form.

Do you know Moishe Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination: a
reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory. (Cambridge University Press,

"The difference between material wealth and value becomes an increasingly
acute opposition according to Marx because value remains the essential
determination of wealth in capitalism even though material wealth becomes
ever less dependent on the expenditure of direct human labor. Hence, direct
human labor though it has become superfluous in terms of the potential or
the forces of production that have come into being. The enormous increase
in productivity under capitalism, then, does not result in a corresponding
reduction of labor time and a positive transformation of the nature of
work. The basic contradiction in capitalism, seen thus, is grounded in the
fact that the form of social social relations and wealth, as well as the
concrete form of the mode of production, remain determined by value even as
they become anachronistic from the viewpoint of matieral wealth-creating
potential of the system. In other words, the social historical possibility
of its own determinate negation--a different form of social mediation,
another form of wealth, and a newer form of production no longer based on
fragmented direct human labor as an integral part of the process of
production. On the other hand, this possibility is not automatically
realized; the social order remains based on value."

p. 232