Subject: [OPE-L:1738] value form
Date: Wed Nov 24 1999 - 15:31:27 EST
Paul Cockshott [OPE-L: 1726] remarked that 'abstract labour exists wherever
there is the possibility of a variation over time of the distribution of
social labour between different activities. You would be hard put to come
up with a real human society where such variation in labour allocation did
These are huge and interdisciplinary issues and I'm surprised at Paul's
certainty. But let me ask a few questions.
First, if social labour is a reality in all societies, as you obviously
think it is, what analytical gains are made by also introducing 'abstract
labour'. Why don't we directly talk in terms of social labour?
Second, variation in the distribution of social labour, if it is a
principle applicable to all human societies, must have taken place through
very different social mechanisms. Does this have a bearing on the
ontological and analytical status of 'abstract labour'?
Third, the form of value (price, money, etc) is also met in great many
societies. Is this connected with abstract labour, in your view?
Fourth, as an example, Malinowski discussed thoroughly production
activities in the Trobriands. Most production was extremely elementary
agriculture. If we adopt your approach, we must recognise 'variation in
social labour' - Trobrianders who scratched the earth with wooden sticks
one week might fish with rough canoes the next and cut coconut trees with
stone axes after that. Most output would be consumed within the family or
given as gift along kinship lines. What exactly might be the social reality
and the relevance of abstract labour in such a context?
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