[OPE-L:7333] [OPE-L:863] Re: Re: Re: abstract labour

Allin Cottrell (cottrell@ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu)
Thu, 8 Apr 1999 22:57:57 -0400 (EDT)

On Thu, 25 Mar 1999, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> Labor by its very nature does not produce value; only
> abstract labor does.... 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...

What is "labor by its very nature" as opposed to "abstract
labor"? Or in other words, what sort of labor falls outside of
the category of abstract labor? The labor of bees?

Rakesh expresses something that Marxists often say (and maybe
Marx says too) when he writes, "Abstract labor produces value
only [when] the value of a commodity ... can only be represented
by way of ... the use value of another commodity". But this
seems to me strictly incoherent: "A exists only under
conditions where A has to be represented as B".

The situation where "the value of a commodity can only be
represented by way of the use value of another commodity" is
characteristic of commodity production, and the representation
of value in the specific form of *exchange value*. But this
implies that value "itself" is something that does not *have* to
represented in the form of exchange value. It can, instead, be
represented "directly", e.g. in the sums of direct-plus-indirect
labor-time required to produce particular goods as recorded in
the computers of a socialist planning system.

Allin Cottrell.