Re: on money

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Wed Jun 02 2004 - 12:20:31 EDT


I've got to run but can come back to these questions.

1.  Is value like H20 for me?  well, I can't drink it.  So 'like' in what
respect?  I do think value is a social kind the way water is a natural kind,
and that is the point I was arguing at Rethinking Marxism.

But I think all we're talking about here is the continuity of scientific
reference, and since value and water are both scientific objects, they are
alike in insofar as they can exist before we form a concept of them and the
concepts of them can be approximate, mistaken and can be revised to reflect
more accurately their nature and powers.  In Ancient Greece, people knew
water as a colorless, odorless liquid, but did not know its molecular
structure.  They meditated on value (as Aristotle did in Bk V) but did not
understand its internal structure.  In that sense it was like water -- they
didn't know the internal structure of water either.

The point is that we can refer to something and do so poorly and then
improve but the scientific reference is the same.  Or not.  For example, was
the scientific object that Smith and Ricardo referred to by value the same
as that referred to by Marx or not?  Did phlogiston refer to the same thing
we refer to now as oxygen?  Most people would say, 'no.'  Phlogiston
referred to nothing.  But what alchemists referred to as butter of zinc we
now refer to with fuller understanding as zinc chloride.  Unlike phlogiston,
in the latter case we both refer to the same thing.

I don't understand your question about Poverty of Philosophy.  Yes I think
value is an economic category; yes I think it is an abstraction of a
particular social relation of production; yes I think that social relation
existed in the ancient world.  The ancients couldn't form a concept of it;
we can, and can look back and recognize it there.

I'll have to come back to your point about M-C-M and C-M-C.  You seem to be
saying in response to the question I asked in the last post that value and
capital are indeed the same thing.  Here, let me ask about Poverty of
Philosophy:  "economic categories are only the theoretical expressions, the
abstractions of social relations of production."  What are the social
relations to which the concepts of value and capital respectively refer?
Are they the same?

On the two things being exchanged being reducible to a third -- if you
recall, at Rethinking Marxism I added that there was a step in Marx's
investigation after this.  We find this in both Notes on Wagner and in
Capital -- we have to go from value to the social relation behind it.
Remember the chapter on commodity fetishism -- we are not looking at the
relations of objects; that is just the way things appear.  We are
considering reciprocal relations of persons with respect to labor (and all
without the buying and selling of labor power).

I'll have to come back to it.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 10:18 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] on money

> Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> said, on 06/02/04:
> >Was water H20 in Ancient Greece?
> >We are talking about continuity of scientific reference.
>   Howard, I'm learning from this dialogue.  To continue, does the above
mean 'value', for you, is like H20?  If so, then, ...
> >In Poverty of Philosophy Marx says that economic categories are the
> >theoretical expression of the social relations of production , that they
> >are the theoretical expression of the historical movement of production
> >relations and if we want to know why a particular principle was
> >(or not) at a particular point in time we have to analyze the productive
> >life of people at that point in time.
>   Are you claiming that 'value' was NOT an economic category for Marx?
Yet, *Poverty of Philosophy* includes the following: "Economic categories
are only the theoretical expressions, the abstractions of the social
relations of production."
> ...
> >Hindsight is exactly what is involved in saying the anatomy of a man is
> >the key to the anatomy of an ape and there is nothing ahistorical in
> >treating the evolution of understanding in this way.
>   I'm not so concerned with the "evolution of understanding", than with
the applicablity of a concept generated within the capitalist mode of
production ('value') for any other mode of production, ihncluding in
Aristotle's time.  I think we both agree 'value' as a concept was produced
within capitalism.
> >I'm sorry I missed this.  Perhaps you can explain a little more fully.
> >M-C-M' is the general formula for capital, not value.  Do you collapse
> >these two distinct forms of social relations?
>   I'll repeat what I wrote: 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'.
> >> [Paul, refering to 'value':]... In my classes I
> >sometimes made it analogous to the theory of gravitation pull (you cannot
> >see, feel, smell, or touch gravitation pull but it has proven extremely
> >useful).  And, a la Althusser, I could understand gravitation pull as a
> >produced concept.  Why not value as a produced concept.  But I think this
> >is far away from what you are arguing and perhaps is not consistent with
> >Marx's own formulations on value.  Marx seems to be arguing that the very
> >fact that commodities exchange with a certain regularity suggests a
> >'third' something behind commodiities, namely, value.  Maybe.  But is
> >a physical property? or a produced concept?  If it is a physical
> >why would it 'disappear' if the use-value is consumed, not exchanged?
> > [Howard:]
> >When you drop a stone, what pulls it to earth?  A physical property?  or
> >produced concept?  The concept is a theoretical expression of your
> >understanding of a physical power.  ... I
> >think reducing value to a 'third' behind commodities, while a significant
> >part of  theoretical analysis, if proposed as a definition of value
> >an inadequate grasp of the power to which it refers.
>   Marx writes on his third page of Vol. 1: "The two things [being
exchanged] must therefore be equal to a third, which in itself is neither
the one nor the other.  Each of them, so far as it is exchange-value, must
therefore me reducible to this third".  This passage is what I had in mind.
Consider what comes next: "there is nothing left but what is common to them
all: all are reduced to one and the sort of labor, human labor in the
>   Human labor in the abstract is pretty abstract, isn't it.  We cannot
see, touch, smell or feel it, can we?  This reads to me as an abstraction, a
theoretical category, a produced concept.  Where am I wrong?  It is NOT H20,
as far as I can understand.
>   Paul
>   P.S. By the way, up to the last time I studied it, physicists could not
exactly say what 'gravity' is, any more than they can say what an smelled
'odor' is?  What IS the smell of a rose?

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