[OPE-L:7270] [OPE-L:798] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: abstract labour

Ajit Sinha (sinha@cdedse.ernet.in)
27 Mar 99 14:25:11 IST (+0530)

Rakesh writes:
> Ajit wrote
> >_____________
> >Rakesh, Blake has said absolutely nothing here. He seems to be
> >asserting statement after statement in the name of Marx.
> However,
> >it is not even clear what he means by either *value* or
> *abstract
> >labor*. What sense do you make out of such passages?
> >cheers, ajit sinha
> OK, tough guy, let's see what you have to say.
So you agree with my comments on Blake? Now, we can get to what I
have to say. I thank you for reading my paper somewhat carefully.
> You argue that Colletti coquetted with Hegelian Marxism just
> because he
> argued that the theory of value is identical to the theory of
> fetishism.
> But this is just a dogmatic adherence to an Althusserian
> definition of what
> Hegelian Marxism is without any concern for the fact that
> Colletti is a
> fierce critic of Hegelian Marxism on different terms.
I said Colletti for a brief period coquetted with Hegelian Marxism.
This has nothing to do with Althusserianism. Even Martin Jay, who
is far from an Althusserian, believes so.
> You make the fantastic claim that Marx initially attributes to
> the market
> the same equilibriating properties that Walras does.
I don't understand what is "fantastic" about it. As a matter of
fact, what I say is that the theoretical problematic of Part One is
compatible with Walrasian problematic. If you disagree, you should
present an argument to demonstrate why my point is false. I have
made an argument for my limited claim there, haven't I?
> You make the near incomprehensible argument that since the law of
> value
> does not apply in the case of labor power (for reasons quite
> difficult to
> follow) and since the concept of labor power as a commodity is
> untenable in
> theoretical structure of the latter part of *Capital*, then the
> theoretical
> relevance of part one of *Capital* vol 1 collapses.
I don't know why you find it so incomprehensible. The point I have
made is that from both consumption as well as production point of
views labor-power in Marx's analysis does not behave like a
commodity. This is the longest part of the paper, and I do take
pains to make the argument step by step. Moreover, I give
enough quotations from Marx to show that even Marx is verbalizing
exactly the conclusion I'm drawing from his analysis found in the
later part of *Capital*.

The reason I declare that the theoretical
relevance of *Capital* part one collapses is that the
strongest argument for the relevance of part one put forward by
both Marx and other Marxist scholars is that exploitation in
capitalism can only be understood on the basis of the law of value
developed in part one--the specificity of capitalist exploitation
lies in the fact that exploitation results from the rule of law of
value itself, and this is because labor-power becomes a commodity
in capitalism. Now, once it is shown that analytically speaking
(and not ideologically speaking) labor-power is not a commodity,
then the theoretical relevance of part one collapses is a logical
conclusion. What's so difficult about it?
> Let's be clear. Your problem is not with Blake per se but with a
> meticiculous concern with Chapter I of Capital, in which (you
> think) the
> almost fully evolved Marx still shows the gill arches of his
> humanist
> youth.
I'm not much interested in biological divides of an individual such
as young and mature etc. I would rather analyze a book and forget
the author. In this particular book, *Capital*, I find two economic
problematics conflicting with each other. There is an attempt to
bring harmony between the two problematics through the concepts
of value and labor-power as a commodity. This attempt does not
succeed, and so the two problematics be separated out for the
development of Marxian political economy. *Capital* can be read
from various perspectives as asthetic writing, as a literary piece
of work, as a play, as a philosophical discourse, etc. My claim is
only from the political economy perspective. Nothing more.
> Yet it is obvious to most that Chapter I can be read as a
> critique of
> bourgeois individualism, of Robinsonades.
As a matter of fact I have given page numbers from *Capital* where
you can find Marx drawing a direct parallel of his early
problematic with parable of Robinson Crusoe. So I don't know how
things become "obvious" to other people.
> Moreover, in your haste to write off that first part of *Capital*
> for the
> study of surplus and reproduction, you say *nothing* about Marx's
> discovery
> of the duality of labor.
But what is this "discovery of duality of labor"? And how is
this so crucial for a critique of my paper? This is what I have
been asking you for sometime but you haven't provided an answer.
And in my opinion Blake's quotations are simply gibrish. At one
point where Marx defines *abstract labor*, he simply calls it an
expenditure of human nerves, muscles, and brain. I have no problem
with it (Karl Kraus might have a problem with it). But in this
definition "market does it" kind of idea does not figure. A theory
of value based on the idea that market does the abstracting of
labor can give you no more than a very poor causin of neoclassical
price theory.
> Yet without a conception of the duality of labor it is not
> possible to
> understand why the value of commodities is in inverse proportion
> to the
> productive power of labor and the value of labor power is in
> inverse
> proportion to its own productive powers.
What is the argument behind all this assertions? As a matter of
fact, when people are adding direct and indirect labor, they are
obviously abstracting from the concrete forms of labor, otherwise
it would be adding apples and oranges. Marx does nothing different
than the usual practice of abstracting from the concrete nature of
labor in adding direct and indirect labor. All labor is reduced to
a bottom line expenditure of human energy measured by time. Here
the problem of reducing skilled to its common denominator in terms
of expenditure of human energy is a serious theoretical problem,
and should be taken up as such.

That is the value
> theoretic
> analysis of class relations becomes impossible, yet you seem to
> think that
> part one does not lay the conceptual foundation for the analysis
> of class
> relations and surplus production in labor time.
If by "value theoretic analysis of class relation" you mean class
relation analyzed on the basis of the concept of labor-power being
a commodity, then i think it should become impossible.
> You urge abandonment of part one not only for a turn to the study
> of the
> dynamics of surplus production but also for the study of
> reproduction
> itself. Yet it seems not to have occured to you that the
> apparently
> innocent beginnings of the theory of Marxian value--the
> distinction between
> use value and exchange value; the separation accordingly of
> concrete labor
> that produces use value and abstract that produces value itself,
> manifested
> only in exchange; the realisation of this exchange quality of
> value by the
> use value of another commodity; the consequent lesson that use
> value can
> transfer value, so that constant capital, or use values values
> are
> transferred, whereas new values are added by abstract labor; that
> concrete
> and abstract labors are united in the same process so that the
> eye does not
> distinguish their contributions; that one is physical and the
> other
> social--all this filiation of ideas that so many superficial
> critics like
> yourself say Marxism could do without, comes to fruition exactly
> in the
> study of total reproduction, which show how this system of
> definitions is
> confirmed by the final test, the motion of capitalism as a whole;
> its
> reproduction on a historically enlarging basis. And this motion
> was what
> the theory of value was originated to explore. Without the the
> two
> characters of labor, the theory of reproduction becomes
> impossible and the
> theory of a surplus merely static, as it is with your hero
> Sraffa.
These are a string of assertions you have made without a
shread of or even an attempt at coming up with an argument for any
thing you are saying. And this is what i found in the quotations
you put out from Blake as well. A string of strong assertion don't
make an argument though. Now, when you call me a "superfecial
critic", that, of course, is your judgement which I'll leave it to
you. But i at least make arguments unlike people you like who seem
to only make assertions and never an argument.
Cheers, ajit sinha
> Yours, Rakesh