From: Phil Dunn (email@example.com)
Date: Sun Mar 23 2003 - 22:25:06 EST
Michael Eldred wrote: >Aristotle points out that things (_pragmata_; he uses the example of >shoes) have two >kinds of uses. A pairs of shoes can be worn. That is their primary >use. A pair of >shoes can also be used to acquire something else in exchange. This >is the origin of >the distinction between use-value and exchange-value as employed in >political economy >a couple of millennia later. > >Are these two kinds of uses essential to practically useful things? >If something is >intrinsically useful, i.e. useful _kath'auto_, then it has an >essential relation to a >use, i.e. a human practice or usage. The thing can only _be_ what it >is, a use-value, >within the category of relation (_pros ti_), i.e. use-value is >essentially relational. > >Similarly, for exchange-value -- in a society with markets, i.e. in >which exchange is >practised, useful things can be exchanged for other useful things >(or sold for money >and thus indirectly exchanged for other useful things). The 'second >order' use of >useful things in the practice of exchange is just as essential as >the 'first order' >use in some other practice (e.g. wearing the shoe). > >Even if the exchange of useful things on markets were banned in a >certain kind of >society (communism), this would only be a repressed truth of useful >things, i.e. that >they disclose themselves of themselves not only as useful, but as >useful and therefore >also exchangeable. The usefulness and the exchangeability are >_dynameis_ inherent in >the things themselves, i.e. _kath'auto_. Value as the power of exchangeability is good. But is this exchangeability inherent in the useful thing or in the commodity? I would say the latter. Use-value is only the material bearer of exchange-value >But the ontological structures of these two different _dynameis_ or >potentials differ. >These questions remain to be taken up -- to the present day. The >important thing to >notice at the outset and which must not be allowed to lost from >sight is that these >questions are _prior_ to any consideration of the quantities >involved (e.g. 1 pair of >shoes for 20 kg. potatoes -- notice that a single shoe has no >exchange value, because >it is generally useless). Marx saw this (Ricardian) fixation on >quantities, but his >thinking did not keep the phenomena themselves clearly in view. >Marx's thinking, too, >moves too quickly to the question of the quantitative aspect of >exchange relations. I agree that they have different ontologies. Use-value has at best a very broad generic unity. Value has a specific unity -- the value-form, the form of exchangeability, understood as the species of capitalist surplus labour extraction. I want to go back to the short but complex passage I quoted earlier. In it Marx does not say that an intrinsic exchange-value is a contradiction in terms. He only says it _seems_ to be! This poses the question: is value being distinguished from exchange-ratio, relative price and money price, all, including value, being considered as as exchange-value, or is it being distinguished _from_ exchange-value? I had assumed the latter. But on the former interpretation all I said earlier about value as non-relational and purely quantitative is plain wrong. An intrinsic exchange-value is not a contradiction in terms. The first thing Marx does when he analyses the value-form is to set up, as polar opposites, the relative and equivalent forms of value. Sometimes, however, he speaks of relative value but not once, as far as I can tell, of equivalent value. He comes close: Whether the coat is expressed as the equivalent and the linen as relative value, or, inversely, the linen is expressed as equivalent and the coat as relative value ... But as soon as the coat takes up position of the equivalent in the value expression, the magnitude of its value ceases to be expressed quantitatively. On the contrary, the coat now figures in the value equation merely as a definite quantity of some article. (Capital I ch 1 3(a)) He cannot say 'equivalent value'; he would have to say 'equivalent use-value', since Marx says that the internal opposition is between value and use-value. The problem here is that use-value, as matter and with all its heterogeneity, should not intrude into the value-form which, as a specific unity, confers homogeneity .
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