Re: on money

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Tue Jun 01 2004 - 14:53:19 EDT

Hi Paul,

Yes, I wondered about the reference to exchange value only and had a look
back at your paper from Rethinking Marxism.  I think the usage can be
explained, but that's a longer task.  So let me turn to the helpful quote
from Notebook VII copied in your post below (Grundrisse 776, v. 29 159).

In the passage Marx refers to value as abstract in two ways -- on the one
hand, as a real entity in the world value 'appears' abstract because it is
non-empirical; on the other hand, as a category of economic science it is
conceptually abstract in the ordinary sense.  We want to distinguish the
theoretical concept from the historical foundations to which it refers.  It
took modern economic science to generate the scientific concept of value and
that concept does not appear in antiquity.  But the social relation of value
did.  Not only was there pearl swallowing, but the discussion of Aristotle
in the section on Equivalent Form in Chapter 1 of Capital seems pretty

"The brilliance of Aristotle's genius is shown by this alone, that he
discovered, in the expression of the *value* of commodities, a relation of
equality.  The peculiar conditions of the society in which he lived, alone
prevented him from discovering what, "in truth," was at the bottom of this

Marx's full argument makes clear at several points that he thinks Aristotle
was anlayzing the social relation of value.  Aristotle failed because he
couldn't penetrate beyond relations of objects to social form, not because
the substantial form of value didn't exist!

One argument (e.g. in Chris Arthur's recent book at 20) is that it doesn't
make sense to speak of value in a pre-capitalist society because the law of
value couldn't operate.  But if the law of value doesn't operate, where did
Aristotle come up with the idea that justice is measured by reciprocal
equality in exchange?  That notion didn't just fall from the blue Athenian

Anyway, we can distinguish the existence of an immanent structure of value
and the law of value's operation.  it is not necessary for the law of value
to be either fully developed or to operate without interference from other
social relations in order for the essential features of value both to exist
and to exert causally efficacious tendencies.

Marx's use of 'abstract' to refer to value as a determination that is
non-empirical invites the idea that value is a generalization we form by
abstracting from the multitude of different natural properties we find in
commodities.  Compare the reference to a non-empirical structure immanent in
the product of labor as 'abstractly general' in the Appendix to the first
edition of Capital.  There Marx refers to the 'abstractly general' being
given a form of appearance by the 'concrete, sensibly real.'  But he also
refers to the abstractly general as 'essence.'  By that, I take it, he means
it is actually present and causally efficacious.  He writes:

"This inversion by which the sensibly concrete counts only as the form of
appearance of the abstractly general and not, on the contrary, the
abstractly general as property of the concrete, characterizes the expression
of value.  At the same time, it makes understanding it difficult.  If I say:
Roman Law and German Law are both laws, that is obvious.  But if I say:  Law
(Das Recht), this abstraction realizes itself in Roman Law and in German
Law, in these concrete laws, the interconnection becomes mystical."

This goes back to the point Rakesh was making, but notice that the
comparison of law and value does not altogether go through and it is not
Marx's point that they should.  (Compare "form of appearance" with "as
property of" in the first sentence.)  Marx is arguing that if we treat value
the way we treat law in the above case,  then we founder in confused
mystifications.  Law is a general classification attributable to specific
institutions, not the other way around.   Horses are white, not whites
horseful.  If we say "Das Recht" is realized in Roman Law and  German Law,
we treat law as a thing and engage in hypostatization.  But Marx is not
arguing that we deal with value that way, though he was arguing that we can
make that mistake.  The difference is this:  as he said at the beginning of
the Grundrisse, there is no production in general and there is no law in
general either.  That's what makes "Das Recht" an abstraction.  But as a
constituting structure, value is not 'production in general.'  It is a
specific historical form of the relation of laboring subjects to nature and
to each other.  So it is not mystical to say that value comes to exist in
concrete sensible things which in turn, in their reciprocal relations, serve
as the structure's forms of manifestation.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Monday, May 31, 2004 8:51 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] on money

> Howard,
> I found your citations stimulating.  However, never is 'value' mentioned
in the quotes you found, only 'exchange value' or 'use-value'.   At best,
'value' is implicit.  Also, to your references in the *Grundrisse*, Notebook
II (c. 11/1857), pp. 256, 266, 270, I can match against them, many pages
later and from Notebook VII (some months later), the following in which
'value' itself is mentioned:
>     "It has become apparent in the course of our presentation that value,
which appeared as an abstraction, is possible only as such an abstraction,
as soon as money is posited: this circulation of money in turn leads to
capital, hence can be fully developed only on the foundation of capital,
just as generally only on this foundation can circulation seize hold of all
moments of production. This development, therefore, not only makes visible
the historic character of forms, such as capital, which belong to a specific
epoch of history; but also, [in its course] categories such as value, which
appear as purely abstract, show the historic foundation from which they are
abstracted, and on whose basis alone they can appear, therefore in this
abstraction; and categories which belong more or less to all epochs, such as
e.g. money, show the historic modifications which they undergo. The economic
concept of value does not occur in antiquity. Value distinguished only
juridically from p!
>  retium, against fraud etc. *The concept of value is entirely peculiar to
the most modern economy, since it is the most abstract expression of capital
itself and of the production resting on it.* In the concept of value, its
secret betrayed." [p. 776, italics mine in *...*]
> In any case, I'm not thrilled to find a citation against yours (or so I
think it is).  Rather, I offer the quote more to 'neutralize' your finding
and suggest that we have to go beyond finding quotes (thus my prior
reference to independent thinking).
> I've thought that object of exchange is important and that, in M-C-M',
expansion of the quantity of value (value is a scalar) is the object, while
in C-M-C the object is to obtain a use-value that is lacking (a qualitative
object).  The latter is pretty close to the petty-bourgeois neoclassical
world view, while the former goes to the core of capitalist social relations
of production (including buying and selling of labor power, i.e.,
generalized commodity production).  Value is reserved for M-C-M'.
> Let's me pause, and perhaps receive a clarification from you.
> Paul Z.
> *************************************************************************
> Vol.21-Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation, and Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy
> RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Zarembka/Soederberg, eds, Elsevier Science
> **********************
> Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> said, on 05/30/04:
> >Hi Paul and others,
> >In the post below Paul asked "How can you justify Value within a C-M-C
> >context within Marx"?
> >I'd like to ask how you can have a C-M-C without value?  And since C-M-C
> >does not require the buying and selling of labor power, how it can be
> >that value has no pre-bourgeois existence?
> >Here's a way to pose the question:  How can we give an account of Romans
> >"gulping salads of pearls"?  Marx discusses this at 270 of the Pelican
> >edition of the Grundrisse (the Chapter on Capital, Notebook II, "Capital
> >and Labor").  He seems to argue that value had attained a sufficient
> >of development to insist on itself as independent thus giving rise to the
> >drive inherent in its nature attained to independence to drive beyond its
> >own barrier.  But since this independence is frustrate within a
> >precapitalist mode of production -- there is no significant economic form
> >for value which increases itself -- this leads to madness of one sort or
> >another, pearl eating being one absurd form.  If we can't use the
> >value to explain this, what account do we give?
> >Earlier in Notebook II ("Transition from circulation to capitalist
> >production"), p. 256, Marx argues that precapitalist trading peoples
> >appear "since the impulse for the activity of positing exchange values
> >comes from the outside and not from the inner structure of its
> >then the surplus of production must no longer be something accidental,
> >occasionally present, but must be constantly repeated, and in this way
> >domestic production itself takes on a tendency towards circulation,
> >towards the positing of exchange values.  At first the effect is of a
> >physical kind.  The sphere of needs is expanded . . . The organization of
> >domestic production itself is already modified by circulation and
> >value."
> >If value is treated as a causally efficacious social relation then these
> >phenomena make sense -- as a social relation value generates trading
> >peoples, generates transformations of domestic production, etc.  These
> >causal tendencies blunted and overridden by the dominant mode of
> >production, but nonetheless tendencies which do change social life.  Same
> >question:  if we can't use the category value to explain this, what
> >account do we give?
> >Paul also asked, "Where do you find in Marx that Value goes beyond a
> >context of labor in the abstract (is independent of the commoditization
> >labor power), thus buying and selling of labor power . . . ."
> >Why doesn't this at p. 266 ("Capital and Labor," third paragraph) refer
> >a form of abstract labor that does not depend on the buying and selling
> >labor power?:
> >"In the first positing of simple exchange value, labour was structured in
> >such a way that the product was not a direct use value for the labourer,
> >not a direct means of subsistence.  This was the general condition for
> >creation of exchange value and of exchange in general."
> >First, that structuring of labor in "such a way" is the substantial
> >of value, the form that generates C-M-C.  Second, labor that I am
> >indifferent to because it has no direct utility to me, that I engage in
> >only as a means to some other end, the natural content of which I am
> >indifferent to -- why isn't that abstract labor?  It qualifies as labor
> >for which I select only the features of 'produced independently' and
> >'useless to its producer' for attention.  But these features have causal
> >consequences. Since they're causal, and lead to behaviors such as eating
> >pearls, I should call them something.
> >Howard
> >----- Original Message -----
> >From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
> >Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 2004 12:53 PM
> >Subject: Re: [OPE-L] on money
> >> On Tue, 25 May 2004, Howard Engelskirchen wrote:
> >>
> >> > Yes and no.  We can give an independent verbal account of the social
> >form
> >> > that constitutes the commodity as Marx does at the beginning of
> >and
> >> > this does not require an account of the buying and selling of labor
> >power.
> >>
> >> Howard,
> >>
> >> The first use of the word Value in Volume 1 comes right after
> >> labor in the abstract.  So where do you find in Marx that Value goes
> >> beyond a context of labor in the abstract (is indepedent of the
> >> commoditization of labor power, thus buying and selling of labor power
> >> which he will discuss a bit later)?  How can you justify Value within a
> >> C-M-C context within Marx (of course you may not explicitly find it and
> >> still interpret Marx as such or even offer an independent
> >> of the capitalist mode of production)?
> >>
> >> Recall that, before he had developed the concept of labor power, Marx
> >> wrote Engels in 1858:
> >>
> >> Value. This is reduced entirely to the quantity of labor; time as a
> >> measure of value.... Value as such has no other 'material' than labor
> >> itself. This definition of value ... is only the most abstract form of
> >> bourgeois wealth. It already presupposes 1. the destruction of natural
> >> communism (in India etc.); 2. the destruction of all undeveloped,
> >> pre-bourgeois modes of production which are not governed in their
> >> by exchange. Although it is an abstraction, it is an abstraction which
> >> only be assumed on the basis of a particular economic development of
> >> society.... (Marx and Engels, 1948, p. 58).
> >>
> >> N.B.: "it is an abstraction which can only be assumed on the basis of a
> >> particular economic development of society", in this case, complete
> >> destruction of pre-bourgeois modes of production.
> >>
> >> Paul

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