[OPE-L:7202] [OPE-L:721] Re: Re: Re: Use and abuse of mathematics [OPE 574]

Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Tue, 23 Mar 1999 09:06:40 -0500

Rakesh writes:

>Gil wrote:
>>Alternatively, if one *restricts* the field to commodities, i.e. products
>>of labor, as a pre-condition, then one need not talk about exchange at all
>>to conclude that all bundles have in common the fact of being products of
>>labor. The conclusion was assumed already.
>Only the conclusion you state is thereby assumed. It is not Marx's
>conclusion. Marx's whole point is the correction of the classical labor
>theory of value, viz. the idea that labor was the cause of the value of
>commodities. To return to Blake: "they {Smith and Ricardo] did not know
>that labor produces two values, one a use value that is antecedent to the
>product becoming a commodity and which does enter into a commodity
>relations, or into value itself, which is the labor time socially required
>in production and which we recognize only as it appears in exchange. If
>there were no social contradiction, that is, if goods were produced by
>labor in direct social relations, there could no such two fold character of
>labor. The reason for this twofold character is social, the division of
>classes, and the realization of value by exchange, that is, the recognition
>of the value of one commodity by way of another. THE CRITICS OF THE LABOR
>COMMON WITH THE MARXIST. Marx neither holds (as nearly everyone believes)
>that labor creates all wealth, nor that labor creates all value. Only
>*abstract labor creates all value*, and then only for a definite social
>reason." (capitalisation mine)

I don't see any evidence in the quoted passage that Blake is referring to
what Marx *actually wrote* in Chapter I of Capital, V. I, the focus of this
Beginning atop p. 127 (Vintage or Penguin edition), Marx begins with the
fact of exchange value, infers from this that "the valid exchange-values of
a particular commodity express something equal", infers from the "equality"
he sees expressed in exchange that "a common element of identical magnitude
exists in two different things", and then asks what that "third thing"
could be. Noting that it can't be a "geometrical, physical, chemical or
other natural property of commodities", he *concludes* that as exchange
values commodities are "merely congealed quantities of homogeneous human
labour", and in this sense commodities are "crystals of this social
substance", i.e. "values."

This is the argument I'm criticizing, not any "SMITH-RICARDO HYPOTHESIS" or
some notion that "labor creates all wealth."