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

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Thu Jun 03 2004 - 14:44:48 EDT

Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> said, on 06/03/04:

>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.

  I had been starting this dialogue from *Poverty of Philosophy*: "Economic categories are only the theoretical expressions, the abstractions of the social relations of production".  I had also said the the M-C-M' illustrates the social relations of produciton in capitalism.  You began referring to "social relations of value" (e.g., 6/2) but I wasn't sharp enough to directly ask you: "what is 'social relations of value'?" and made the error of shortening to "social relations".  Jerry added back "of production".  Now it seems we are in a confused mess, needing to retrace steps.

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

  "of value", or "of production"?

>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.

  What is a "social relation of value"?

>The social relation of value (Marx definitely refers to such a thing --
>not just to 'value' but to value as a social relation),

  Are you saying "social relation of value" is the same as "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.

  No 'class' in this definition (pun not intended).

>"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

>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 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!!

  Howard, I'm not so sure that your usage is so common, and still suspect a problem here.  Indeed, above you seem quite prepared to use "social relation of production" to include exchange transactions among independent commodity producers (C-M-C, e.g., peasants).  So I come back to my "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'?".  I'd like to see if it used consistently enough in a class context, or not.  Jerry and I believe that it is.

>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.

Please restate the definition and/or the specific email, but perhaps modified in light of the current problem with wording.

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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