Re: on money

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Wed Jun 02 2004 - 23:58:35 EDT

Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> said, on 06/02/04:
>... Based on my
>theoretical understanding of the social relation of value, I conclude that
>value must have existed in the ancient world since its existence would
>best explain the surprising phenomena with which I began my inquiry.  (3)
>I still have to test the hypothesis:  do I in fact find evidence of the
>value relation in the ancient world?  I do indeed find such evidence, and
>therefore conclude that value did exist in the ancient world.  ...


1. Maybe one part of our problem is the word "social relation".  I think of the phrase as "class relation", do you think of it individually (separate distinct but individual producers)?

2. You find that 'value' explains a lot in the ancient world.  I cannot contest/confront that, because I'd have to study your conception of 'value' much more deeply and then your evidence (which I haven't).

>...I mean water is the wet stuff
>that runs out of the faucet. What in the world does it mean to say it is
>H2O?  By H2O I identify its inner structure.  We can use the word 'value'
>in something of the same way to refer both to the third thing behind
>objects in exchange and also to refer to the social relation that is its
>inner structure.

I think you are thinking water --> H2O and similarly exchange --> value.  Suppose we switch to objects fall --> gravity.  Do we still get exchange --> value?  We cannot see, touch, feel, or smell gravity, but maybe H2O could be said to be able to be seen in advanced physical experiments.  In the gravity case, do we not move toward gravity as concept, and thus value as concept, but not value as able to been seen, touched, smelled, felt.  In other words, value itself is an abstraction.

>I've summarized the steps I understand Marx to take in arriving at an
>explanatory definition of value as follows:  (1) he starts with a concrete
>fact of social life immediately given -- the product of labor as a
>commodity; (2) he analyzes this and finds it contains at once use value
>and exchange value; (3) pushing analysis further he notices a thing behind
>use value and exchange value -- exchange value is only the phenomenal form
>of value; (4) in a continuation of the analysis he finds value to have its
>source in a specific relation of production: the producer must produce use
>values independently that are useless to  the producer and instead are
>produced for others.  See Notes on Wagner.  Now I look to the ancient
>world. Did some producers produce goods independently and for others?
>Unquestionably they did.  QED: the social relation of value existed in the
>ancient world.

Isn't there a slippage between (3) and (4).  (3) ... "exchange value is only the phenomenal form of value"?  But this is our question, is exchange value indeed the form of value anywhere it exists, including ancient Greece?  Are you not still presuming the conclusion?

I think Althusser would refer us to the real object and the object of knowledge.  I think you think the real object is indeed value -- which is 'revealed' only upon the arrival of capitalism.  But perhaps Althusser doesn't need to be thrown into our discussion.

Paul Z.

Vol.21-Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation, and Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy
RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Zarembka/Soederberg, eds, Elsevier Science

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