Re: (OPE-L) the specific social relations [of production] associated with value

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Thu Jun 03 2004 - 11:42:30 EDT

Jeez, Anybody!

I did not say marriage was a social relation of production.  Paul, you asked
about "social relations".  Friendship is a social relation, race is a social
relation, gender is a social relation, student teacher is a social relation.
Marx says in the Grundrisse that society is an ensemble of social relations.
Social relations are the object of the study of society.  What is 'society'?
What do we study when we study society?  We study social relations.  I'm not
doing anything peculiar here.

When we study the hidden inner connection of social phenomena (Kugelmann
letter) we study the form of social relations.

Now, when we study social relations of production we study the relations of
laboring producers to nature and to each other in the appropriation of
nature.  Historically these have overwhelmingly been antagonistic social
relations, ie class relations.  But not invariably.  Primitive communism was
not, I take it, a class relation, though it was a relation of production;
there may have been examples of self-subsistent household production that
did not involve what we normally call class relations (though the actual
examples undoubtedly all involved patriarchy) -- I'm open on all that.

Anyway, the real issues are whether the social relation of value is a
relation of production and whether it is a class relation.

The social relation of value (Marx definitely refers to such a thing -- not
just to 'value' but to value as a social relation), as such, is at least a
mediated relation of producers to nature and to each other.  Recall the
definition I offered:  what is required is independent production of use
values for others.   "Separate" or "independent" is a relation to nature and
to others.  That makes it a relation of production, though not necessarily a
relation of direct production.  A thief can take a product of someone else's
labor to market, making a product intended for self-subsistent domestic
consumption something instead independent and for others.

Also, as a relation of production, value seems always historically embedded
in class relations of the direct producer to the appropriation of nature --
cotton produced by slave labor was a commodity that had value but the direct
relation of its production was slave labor.

But while value counts as a relation of production, I think it is not, just
for itself, a class relation.  Relations of value, as I understand them,
tend toward equality -- where do you think the drive toward equality comes
from?   Even the commodity aspect of the exchange of labor power for a wage,
as an exchange of value, tends toward equality.

The significance of the relation of value and equality is the subject of the
wonderful first ten pages of the Chapter on Capital in the Grundrisse.
Marx emphasizes there how it is impossible to find any difference between
exchangers insofar as we consider their economic role, the specific economic
form of their relationship.

MARX:   "As subject of exchange, their relation is therefore that of
*equality*.  It is impossible to find any trace of a difference, let alone
of a conflict between them, not even a distinction." (v. 28, 173; penguin
241).  [emphasis in original]

 This doesn't sound like much of a class relation to me.

And it is for this reason, he explains, that the juridical person enters at
this point -- homogeneous, without particularity, everyone just the same as
the other, equal before  the law.

There's an old political joke for which I remember only the punch line, that
goes, "and the left, of course, was divided."  It is normal in the context
of serious investigation to pull at threads, because very often what seems
simply a small loose thread tugged at a bit shows itself to be a gulf wide
enough to count as a class difference.  It doesn't take much serious
political experience to go through some of that.   But I think we also need
to remind ourselves from time to time,  in the words of the International,
that we aspire to speak for one human race.  It's worth making solidarity
part of our reading too.

There's no need for getting entangled with the specifics of Bhaskar on this.
The reference may interest some.  Also, there are certainly  legitimate
questions about value as a class relation and a relation of production.  But
I am not using the concept 'social relation' in any way that is peculiar or
unordinary.  As I said, Jeez!!


P.S. to Paul:  as I said in my last post, I think the real issue getting in
the way is how we characterize value.  You keep trying to identify threshold
barriers, but these are not the problem.  You will undoubtedly be able to
find more thresholds in the argument above.  But instead, why not engage
directly the definition of value I've offered.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2004 9:15 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] (OPE-L) the specific social relations [of production]
associated with value

> Anybody:
> Has anybody on the list done or know of any work which does a careful
analysis of the occasions when Marx used the term "social relations of
production"?  Jerry and I use it quite differently than Howard.
> Paul Z.
> P.S. Howard, since Jerry is commenting on a portion of your reply to me in
a manner I might have done, I'll probably await an answer to the above
before continuing with "on money".  Thanks for the stimulating discussion.
> *************************************************************************
> Vol.21-Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation, and Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy
> RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Zarembka/Soederberg, eds, Elsevier Science
> **********************
> "Gerald A. Levy" <Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM> said, on 06/03/04:
> >Hi Howard.
> >> It is the contribution of Bhaskar, and his reading of Marx, to make
> >> that some such understanding could be applied to social relations, ie
> >> social relations can be thought of as causally potent, but
> >> In other words, I can see the material poles that make up a social
> >> relation,
> >> say Joe (a husband) and Meg (a wife) and I can see it's effects, but
> >> "relation" is something that is non-empirical.  Marx said that society
> >> just an ensemble of social relations.  That means, I take it, that much
> >> more
> >> than class is involved.  Marriage qualifies.  Ultimately social
> >> are effective, if they are, as a result of the actions of individuals.
> >> But
> >> when we refer to "separate" producers establishing the relation of
> >> really we refer to any constellation of entity that acts autonomously
> >> bringing a product to market -- a corporation, a petty producer,  a
> >> owner, a collective farm, etc.
> >Yes, there is a social relation between Joe and Meg.  It does not
> >constitute social relations _of production_, though.  One should not
> >divorce (no pun intended)  the concept of value from the _specific_
> >relations of production  associated with capitalism.  These specific
> >social relations of production are associated with a specific _class_
> >relation in which value and surplus value can arise.
> >Simply because in Ancient Greece products were produced for exchange,
> >exchanged,  and had a utility does not mean that they had (in Marx's
> >of the term) value.  Undoubtedly, those products had value in some
> >sense of the term,  but value in the Marxian tradition refers most
> >fundamentally to a specific social/class relationship.
> >In solidarity, Jerry

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