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

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 10:39:02 EDT

Hi Paul,

Thanks for persisting.  And in spite of occasional tearing at the small
remains of hair on my head, I do appreciate your flagging points of
unclarity that require attention.

I use "social relations of value" and "value as a social relation"

Here are some references to support the usage I find in Marx:

v.28, 195 (penguin 265):  "This so-called consideration from the point of
view of society means nothing more than to overlook precisely the
differences which express the social relation (relation of civil society).
Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of the
relationships and conditions in which these individuals stand to one

And of course there is the sixth of the Theses on Feuerbach:  "But the human
essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual.  In its
reality it is the ensemble of social relations."  That's deep.

You write: "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)."

That's a fair question -- I used the reference to the relation between
"exchangers" explained in the first pages of the Notebook on Capital to say
that the social relation of value did not seem like a class relation.  It is
not that I am considering exchange transactions relations of production, but
instead that it seems legitimate to infer a particular social form of
production from the fact that exchangers take things to market.  This is the
force of the first paragraph of Capital, Chapter 2 -- commodities don't go
to market on their own.  So when they come to market, they reflect
particular relations of production.  Value can be one of those relations.

Does Marx talk about value as a social relation of production?  Well, what
about this from the analysis of Bailey in TSV III at 147:

"Bailey is a fetishist in that he conceives value, though not as a property
of the individual object (considered in isolation), but as a relation of
objects to one another, while it is only a representation in objects, an
objective expression, of a relation between men, a social relation, the
relationship of men to their reciprocal productive activity."

The same idea is presented also, of course, in the opening paragraphs of the
section of Capital, Chapter I, on commodity fetishism where Marx explains
how mutual relations of producers are presented as relations of objects.

Essentially, you have to ask yourself, if value is a social relation, a
relationship of persons to their productive activity, what is it?  It seems
a pretty widespread view right now that unless value is value able to
perpetuate itself and increase itself in exchange, then it doesn't exist.
But value which increases itself is capital.  At least we have to ask the
question whether Marx might not have used these two different words to refer
to two distinct social relationships.  That's a fair question.  If we test
the possibility of difference, what would value as a social relationship be?

I offered a definition in the next to last paragraph of my post from June 2
on the existence of value in the ancient world where I reviewed Marx's
summary of the stages of his analysis in Notes on Wagner.  The definition is
in the 4th stage.  I can send you an unpublished paper, if you like, where
this is developed at greater length.

Finally, notice also p. 163 of TSV III distinguishing the measure of value
and the cause of value.  "The cause of value transforms use value into
value.  The external measure of value already presupposes the existence of
value."  Of course if our reasoning starts by asserting the axiom that value
didn't exist in the ancient world, then this sentence presents no problems.
Otherwise, the existence of coin from the 7th century BC suggests that we
already presuppose the existence of value.

Marx goes on, "The cause of value is the substance of value and hence also
its immanent measure."

Now I take it "substance" here is susceptible of both of the two meanings
suggested in my June 2 post -- "substance" offered as a programmatic
definition and "substance" offered as an explanatory definition.  As a
programmatic definition substance is labor in the sense that activity
resides in the result.  As an explanatory definition substance is the social
form of labor.  This goes back to the quote from one of my first responses
to you at Notebook II, 266:  "labor structured in such a way that the
product was not a direct use value for the labourer. . . ."  To this must be
added the separate or independent character of production.  These are the
two elements of the defintion offered in the June 2 post.

The distinction between an explanatory and programmatic definition of course
is not explicit in Marx -- it is adopted from contemporary scientific
realism's explanation of two forms of definition common to scientific


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2004 2:44 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] (OPE-L) the specific social relations [of production]
associated with value

> 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
> >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
> >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
> >self-subsistent domestic consumption something instead independent and
> >others.
> >Also, as a relation of production, value seems always historically
> >embedded in class relations of the direct producer to the appropriation
> >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
> >comes from?   Even the commodity aspect of the exchange of labor power
> >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
> >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
> >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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