[OPE-L:7338] [OPE-L:868] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: abstract labour

Fri, 09 Apr 1999 16:35:07 +0100

At 07:43 AM 09-04-99 -0400, you wrote:
>Allin wrote:
>>Do you mean that labor in these formations was not transferable
>>between different productive tasks? (If you just mean that
>>labor in those contexts did not produce commodities, that is
>>unassailable by construction.)
>Why couldn't Aristotle discern the mystery behind the equation of exchange
>of two commodities: 5 beds=1 house?
>Marx's answer: "Aristotle therefore himself tells us what prevented any
>further analysis: the lack of a concept of value. What is that homogeneous
>something--i.e., the common substance--whichthe house represents from the
>point of view of the bed, in the value expression for the bed? Such a
>thing, in truth, cannot exist, says Aristotle. But why not? Toward the bed,
>the house represents something equal, in so far as it represents what is
>really equal. And that is--human labour.
>"However Aristotle himself was unable to extract this fact, that, in the
>form of commodity values, all labor is expressed as equal human labour and
>therefore as labor of equal quality, by inspection from the form of value
>because Greek society was founded on the labor of slaves, and hence had as
>its natural basis the inequality of men and of their individual labor
>powers. The secret of labor because and is so far as they are human labor
>in general, could not be deciphered until the concpet of human equality has
>already acquired the premanence of a fixed popular prejudice. This however
>becomes possible only in a society where the commodity form is the univeral
>form of the product, hence the dominant social relation is the relations
>betwen as possessors of commodities."
This merely indicates that in Aristotles time the social ideology
associated with slavery caused features of the economy to be
hard to understand. This does not argue against the existence of
abstract labour, merely against its recognition.

If one confuses the existence of a thing with its recognition
one falls into the most hopeless solipsism.

>In "Critique of Economic Reason" in *Science in Context* 10,1(1997) pp.
>Gideon Freudenthal suggests an interpretation of this passage consistent
>with Allin's emphasis on the mobility of labor.
>"But suppose that in Aristotle's society beds are produced by slaves,
>houses by freeman. Since slaves do not produce houses nor freeman beds, the
>necessary ratio of beds to houses does not translate into a corresponding
>ratio of labor time. No saving of masonry will increase bed producing
>labor. Since Marx's concept of abstract labor contains as an essential
>feature the mobility of labor power from one branch of proudction to
>another, it follows that the the entity 'abstract labor' does not exist
>under the conditions named there.
>"Can we apply 'labor' in our analysis of the Greek economy? Suppose we
>wanted to compare the productivity of labor in masonry and in bed
>production in ancient Greece with that in our society. Since we are not
>committed to the Greek categories, we could calculate the 'labor' (measured
>in time units of 'human' labor) necessary for the produciton of one house
>and one bed. Furthermore, we could explain consequent difficulties in
>social reproduction by reference to the disproportion labo rpowre would
>migrate from one branc to the other, then this would be a crude mistake:
>the unit of calculation, 'labor time', does not correspond to the a
>socially existing entity. No migration was possible, and the category would
>thus prove inadequate for the social analysis of that ancient economy. The
>conclusion to be drawn from these considerations is that the 'entity' labor
>in the abstract existed in the *physical sense' in ancient Greece although
>it did not exist as a social practice nor asa category of Greek thought.
>Hence in our analysis of Greek economy we can use it for some purposes, but
>not for all. However, the relation between the absence of the category and
>the absence of the social entity and practice of abstract labor has yet to
>be clarified."
>Freudenthal's clarification is fascinating, but I'll leave it here for now.

Just as well as it is a complete fantasy when it comes to portraying the
ancient economy. Slaves could be, and were, used for the production of
many of the same goods as free citizens.
>What do you think of Geoffrey Hodgson's criticism of your and Paul's ideas
>about socialist planning in his latest book?
Could you give me a reference to his book?
Paul Cockshott