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Ajit, the value of a commodity, the socially necessary labor time required
to reproduce it (socially necessary has historically specific
determinations), cannot be found out directly.
This is the consequence of class relations, i.e., private production by
means of wage labor. There is no conscious allocation of social labor time.
It turns out that in these relations commodity value can only be measured
by "passing over" into its opposite--a physical quantity of the use value
(let's say boxes of chocolate) that serves as the universal equivalent.
We only know whether a commodity has value if the chocolates we get in
return are tasty, and we only how know much value in terms of how many
boxes of chocalate we get in return. Marx is revealing the absurdity of the
way we measure commodity value which, fantastically enough, is not only
necessarily a mismeasurement of value but also the same thing as the way we
allocate social labor time. Though done this way, Things are in the
saddle/And ride mankind, as Emerson once put it.
We'll need to explore the peculiarities to the value form if we are to
understand how commodity value is measured....
No one is denying that we are dealing form the outset with commodity
exchange, not barter. Obviously we are dealing with commodities produced
for money exchange when we confront the 20yds of linen=one coat. It's clear
given that we are dealing with commodities that Marx means they can be
rendered equivalent in terms of the same money denominator. This is
explicitly clarified soon enough.
What is abstract labor? Good question. 1. What do you think Marx's answer
was in the PART I sections he devoted to developing the concept? Why did he
seek to clarify that only abstract labor produced the value 'congealed' in
Of course we know that concrete labor and its specific product--eg a
coat--may not change one bit in quality while the pure the value of the
coat or the coat as itself a value which is (and can only be) expressed in
the exchange relationship is either reduced or increased in strictly
Yet this is puzzling if we take value to be a property of things; Marx is
not here merely concerned with the allocation of social labor but the
necromancy or metaphysically ill formed nature of commodities.
And 2. What's your answer to question of what abstract labor is? That it's
mumbo jumbo? That Marx's attempt to differentiate it from concrete labor
has no real meaning esp vis a vis quantitative questions? Two simple
questions to which you should be able to give simple answers! Feel free to
refer me to any of your systematic works...
If you are interested in an attempt to understand Marx's analysis of the
value form in terms of Hegel's logic of essence, see Patrick Murray's quite
profound Marx's Theory of Scientific Knowledge and his essay in Fred's
first ed. book on Marx's method. I clearly had no intention of presenting
such an interpretation as mumbo jumbo or defending it, so not quite sure
why you latched on to this in your last reply.
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