[OPE-L:1754] [Fwd: [Fwd: Causeanaffect.org]]


Subject: [OPE-L:1754] [Fwd: [Fwd: Causeanaffect.org]]
From: Ajit Sinha (ajitsinha@lbsnaa.ernet.in)
Date: Sun Nov 28 1999 - 04:48:22 EST


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Fromcjarthur@pavilion.co.uk Sun Nov 28 09:12:14 1999
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Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 17:12:43 +0000
To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
From: "C. J. Arthur" <cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk>
Subject: [OPE-L:1755] Re: value form and abstract labour
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Paul writes
>There are two distinctions here
>1.private versus social labour
>2.abstract versus concrete labour
>
>the two axes are orthogonal.
>
>The abstract concrete distinction is just like the one you rather deride
>between
>eating sandwiches and eating chocolate as abstract satiation of hunger.
>There is nothing funny about this comparison. It is exactly what is done
>when tables of calorie content are published for chocolate and sandwiches -
>they are comensurated on their abstract ability to satisfy hunger.
>I see no reason why this comparison invalidates the concept of abstract
>labour.
>
>It appears to me that you are not keeping the two axes above orthogonal.

IMO all Paul's examples of the second axis are not what concerns Marx. All
Pauls examples I would characterise as examples of the distinction between
general and specific labour. In the cases in which he stresses the
possibility of the same labourer changing his specific activity then I
would say this shows that human labour has a concretely universal form. I
also think that this is a precondition of marx's notion of "abstract
labour" having any operational vaidity. (I argued this way back in 1976 in
the CSE Bulletin.). However why should any of this be called "abstract"? In
the calorie case *we* abstract from all determinations of food other than
its calorific value. But it is not necessary for food to first be socially
commensurated as calorific before it can satisfy hunger; we can go straight
to the specific foods. Likewise in socialism *we* can treat the available
labour force as an aggregate to be distributed to specific tasks.
I agree then with Costas that it is specific to capitalism that labours
become socially integrated through exchange only because in the value form
*exchange* (not us) has carried out a practical abstraction from the
specificity of labours such that the latter count *only* as instantiations
of thier general character i.e. there is an inversion of subject and
predicate.
Dialectically, general and specific are in unity in socialism but opposed
in capitalism, hence the need to generate the language concrete/abstract
which is now not orthogonal to, but maps, private/social.
That these axes are not orthogonal in Marx is clear from his sec. 3 on the
forms of value where it is the very same process - monetary equivalence -
that makes gold digging abstract labour, private mines socially
significant, and a specific commodity the incarnation of the value
substance.

Chris Arthur

P. S. Please note that I have a new Email address,
<cjarthur@waitrose.com>
but the old one will also run until next summer. (To be doubly sure load both!)



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