[OPE-L:7308] [OPE-L:836] Re: Re: Re: abstract labour

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 7 Apr 1999 04:31:24 -0400 (EDT)


You argue part one is about Walrasian allocation; the rest of the book is
about surplus and reproduction.

Let's start out with the most obvious, though we won't get far from there.

The contradiction between concrete labor and abstract labor, use value and
unit value is developed in part one and it underpins Marx's theory of how
technical progress can bring a fall in the rate of profit despite the
greater production of use values This is of course a fantastic possibility
within a Sraffian framework, but that's hardly the point if we are trying
to understand the relationship in Marx between his part one and a later
theory of accumulation. If this rather obvious result is new to you, just
turn to "Technical Progress: Use Value and Value" Duncan F's Understanding
Capital, p. 54ff. There is also relevant discussion in Grossmann's book on

Now we didn't get very far on this (you were especially not impressed by my
other suggestion that the reproduction schemes are a study in the dual
functions labor must play for the expansion of bourgeois society--see
Rosdolsky's sometime helpful discussion here), so in my recent posts I
tried another track to convince you that you really don't understand what
Marx is trying to do in part one: I have reminded you that part one is a
critique of Ricardian (and implicitly Walrasian) money theory which renders
incomprehensible the possibility of a general glut the cause of which is
thought to be the insufficiency of the money commodity. Marx reveals this
common delusion to be an example of money fetishism of which the quantity
theory of money is also an expression (by the way, this common delusion has
roared life into some of the maddest and most reactionary movements of
modern history of course). I have provided relevant quotes in recent posts.

This final sentence from the quoted passage from TSV II is pregnant indeed:

"At a given moment, the supply of all commodities can be greater than the
demand for all commodities, since the demand for the general commodity,
money, exchange value, is greater than the demand for all particular
commodities, in other words the motive to turn the commodity into money, to
realise its exchange value, prevails over the motive to transform the
commodity again into use value."

This is indeed a very complex filiation of ideas; perhaps Ulrich Krause's
book will prove illuminating. I have not clarified the connections between
the ideas above, though that's what Marx does in part one if you would only
read him without wanting to place Marx in one of your three boxes of

At any rate, I am happy to leave our discussion of your interpretation of
the problematic of Capital I, part with your admission that the lengthy
transcribed passage from TSV II in which Marx argues that Ricardo's faulty
theory of money undergirds his acceptance of Say's Law reads to you as
"mumbo jumbo" not at all impinging on the argument you are trying to make.

Yours, Rakesh

ps You keep good company. In Sweezy's classic exegetical work, the word
'money' does not even appear in the index! This is one of the many reasons
to prefer Blake's textbook to Sweezy's even if Blake ends up putting you in
a ditch.