[OPE-L:7231] [OPE-L:756] Re: Re: abstract labour

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Thu, 25 Mar 1999 10:28:35 -0500 (EST)

Since everything here turns on the most exact phrasing, I should not say
the following off the top of my head, but here goes something of what I
learned from that Blake textbook (which in my opinion is the only one that
pays sufficient attention to the conceptual foundations of Marx's theory):

Labor by its very nature does not produce value; only abstract labor does.
The latter is not reducible to quanta of energy either. Abstract labor
produces value only due to the social reason of determinate class
contradictions, viz. production for private profit, such that the the value
of a commodity or the social labor that it represents can only be
represented by way of or in the use value of another commodity. There would
be no value if production were directly social; the value form of the
commodity is thus the stamp of a historically specific mode of
production--Marx makes clear that the classical economists had no sense of
this. The concrete labor that produces the latter commodity (the one in
the use value of which the value of other commodities is expressed) is thus
also immediately the incarnation of universal human labor. Marx analyzes
other peculiarities of the value form. The analysis of these peculiarities
or absurdities (as Robert Paul Wolff has put it) is doubtless intended to
produce some kind of alienation effect from the way we go about organizing
our social labor.

Marx also had no intention of proving the labor theory of value by
deduction. Only if the laws of motion he theorized on the basis of his
theory of value developed out of his analysis of the commodity are
empirically confirmed would Marx proven the labor theory of value.

Yours, Rakesh

>At 01:10 PM 22-03-99 IST, you wrote:
>>For me the interesting question is not what "Marx held it to be"
>>but rather what is this "distinct" "Abstract Labor Theory of
>>Value"? This is what I want to know. If you or Blake or anyone on
>>the list has an answer, then we can take it from there and see what
>>kind of theory it is.
>I must say that I am in agreement with you here.
>It is always difficult to avoid reading earlier authors with the
>benefit of hindsight, but it appears to me that the classicals
>like Smith and Ricardo appreciated that the labour that created
>value could potentially be allocated to different activities, and
>as such could be viewed in abstraction from any one activity
>in which it was expended.
>Marx's rabbiting on about his great discovery of the difference
>between abstract and concrete labour strikes me as just so much
>German academic conceit. It is just a difference in intelectual
>culture between Glasgow and Berlin Universities. If anyone is to
>be credited with developing the idea of abstract labour it should
>be Black and Watt.
>Paul Cockshott