Subject: [OPE-L:1753] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: value form
From: Ajit Sinha (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun Nov 28 1999 - 02:26:55 EST
I haven't had time to follow this discussion on the value-form. But my general
sense is that all such discussions go round and round in circle and get us
nowhere. I have just a few simple questions, which I hope the proponders and
followers of value form or Uno School could clearify for me.
(1) What is value?
(2) What is it that a theory of value supposed to answer?
(3) Is value a quantitative measure?
(4) If the answer to (3) is yes, then what is the unit of this measure?
(5) How do we arrive at this quantitative measure?
(6) Is total 'social labor' given ex ante or ex post?
(7) If ex ante, then how can there be unemployment in the system?
(8) If ex post, then by what mechanism the total is arrived at?
(9) How is the total social labor measured either ex ante or ex post?
Cheers, ajit sinha
nicola taylor wrote:
> Fred has already asked the crucial question of what Marx means by 'ghostly
> objectivity'? Disagreements about this are probably at the heart of all
> other disagreements. In my view, Marx considered social labour to be a
> purely objective process; it has an objective *reality* in relations of
> production and exchange that exist independently of the consciousness of
> the producers/exchangers. This objectivity is 'ghostly' in that the
> 'measure' of value cannot be arrived at by some sort of summing up of
> labour times. Rather, value can only achieve *expression* as socially
> necessary labour time; i.e. only through validation that private labour
> expended in production is socially necessary.
> This point is missed if concrete-abstract labour and private-social
> categories are seen to be separable (objectified and fetishised) dimensions
> (as in Paul's exposition). Concrete labour is a use-value creating process
> that is qualitatively irreducible (and not specific to capitalism);
> abstract labour alone is value creating - reducible to socially necessary
> labour time (and is in this way the specific social form that private
> labour takes under capitalism). In short, the quantitative and qualitative
> dimensions of Marx's paired categories are resolved in a higher unity (not
> along orthogonal axes!), and Costas is quite right to reject a methodology
> that insists upon their separation. Paul's methodology results in
> continual confusion between labour as a basic human activity (use-value
> creating) and labour in its specific capitalist form (as value-creating).
> Costas wrote:
> >> MY POINT WAS THAT ABSTRACT LABOUR IS THE FORM NECESSARILY TAKEN BY SOCIAL
> >> LABOUR IN CAPITALISM.
> Paul replied:
> >This is confused. In what sense is abstract labour a form?
> >All abstract labour must take on the form of some concrete labour to exist,
> >concrete labours such as cooking, driving, bricklaying are the forms
> >in which concrete labour must exist. All labour whether social or
> >private has to exist in some concrete form in order to do anything,
> >this is as true of capitalism as of any other society.
> >Social labour under capitalism typically takes the form of waged labour
> >but this a juridical form, which engenders a third axis
> Allin agreed with Paul that the
> >concrete/abstract and private/social distinctions are
> >orthogonal. Robinson's private labour takes a variety of
> >concrete forms, but these concrete forms may be considered as
> >particular dispositions of his total available (abstract)
> >labour. The same goes for the social labour time in a planned
> >I suppose that "social labour" means labour that is not directed
> >towards the satisfaction of the individual needs of the person
> >performing the labour, but rather forms part of a social
> >division of labour (planned or unplanned). I think that what is
> >special about capitalism is not that "abstract labour is the
> >form necessarily taken by social labour" (social labour is
> >always both abstract and concrete) but that the social character
> >of labour is only "validated" ex post, via the market, and that
> >quanta of abstract labour are not calculated and represented as
> >such, but are rather represented by quanta of money.
> Nicky's comment:
> These arguments follow from methodology: Paul is not clear about the
> specific features of labour under a capitalist economy; Allin is not clear
> about the meaning of social labour. Both writers have missed Marx's
> crucial point about the commodity having a double character (use-value and
> value). The point is that labour also has a double character (a natural
> transhistorical character independent of the mode of production and a
> social character containing not a single atom of matter). When Marx talks
> about abstract labour and value he talks about the social character of
> labour as value-creating; that is abstract labour creates and recreates a
> set of social relations attached to the relationship among things. What is
> special about capitalism is that private labour can become social ONLY
> through the transformation of concrete into abstract labour.
> Paul continues:
> >3. waged versus unwaged labour.
> >This too is orthogonal to the previous ones, as one can have
> >waged labour that is both private( the work of a private servant)
> >and social ( the work of a factory operative).
> Nicky's comment:
> the creation of a third axis is a methodological artifact. It leads Paul to
> miss Costa's point that under commodity production labour is not
> immediately social, but is so only under relations of exchange on the
> market (this is the case for both private servant and factory operative).
> The formation of abstract labour is not a mental category but something
> that takes place in a real process of exchange (a 'real abstraction', to
> borrow from Chris A).
> I accept Costas's view that abstract labour has analytic importance only in
> a capitalist society. If we overlook the specificity of abstract labour,
> then 'we necessarily overlook that which is the differentia specifica of
> the value-form, and consequently of the commodity form, and its full
> developments, money-form, capital-form etc' (Marx, Capital I, footnote,
> p.81). Paul's view that prices in a precapitalist economy might be
> regulated >> >more or less strictly, by a law of value>> > well illustrates
> Marx's point when he said that exclusive concern for the content of value
> -and neglect of value-form- is tantamount to the method of a physiologist
> who thinks that 'the different forms of life are a matter of complete
> indifference, that they are all only forms of organic matter'. In his
> critique of classical theory, Marx distanced himself from this view: 'It is
> precisely these forms that are alone of importance when the question is the
> specific character of a mode of social production' (TSV, 1, p.295).
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