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

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 14:32:30 EDT

Hi Paul,

Yes, I think we have identified two fundamental differences: first, you
think value is a theoretical object but not a real one and I do think it is
a real object.  Obviously this makes all the difference.  A theoretical
object does not cause things.  We have to explain changes in nature and
society on the basis of real objects.

Second, I do think value is relevant to C-M-C and you reject that, reserving
it for M-C-M.  I understand that yours is a widespread view, at least one
important strand of which is explained by value form and systematic
dialectic arguments.  So it is normal that there is a dimension of argument
presupposed that hasn't been addressed.  I will try to speak a bit at some
point soon to value and abstract labor and C-M-C, and perhaps that will
help.  Certainly the basic argument that value only appears in C-M-C to
disappear and isn't "actually realized" there but only preserves itself in
M-C-M has to be addressed.

But as for the theology of the question, I observe that I have made reasoned
arguments for the existence of value in the ancient world which rest on a
theoretical conception of value that I have explained.  You have asserted
the non-existence of value in the ancient world, and questioned my argument.
Still, you haven't said why value only exists under capitalism.  On the
other hand I do appreciate that your assertions have rested on an assumed
corpus of argument.

It might be worth making explicit a political consequence of this debate
that is of no small significance.  If value exists only where there is
capital, then we can exchange products  for gold under communism.  Market
socialism will certainly play an important role in any transition, to be
sure, but there is also the theoretical question of whether markets are
compatible with the social form that we want to transition to.  If there's
no necessary connection between value and markets, they are.  This is a
whole other debate, I realize, but I think the implications of Marx's theory
are to the contrary.

Thanks very much.  I do hope I can move us forward a bit by addressing
directly the CMC   MCM  question.


I have to add a point about class:  I think very early on I made clear that
generalized commodity production, the commodity as the universal form of the
product of labor, takes capital.  There is no disagreement between us there.
Thus generalized commodity production requires that the value relation be
embedded in the antagonistic class relation of capital.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Friday, June 04, 2004 11:55 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] (OPE-L) the specific social relations [of production]
associated with value

> --On Friday, June 04, 2004 10:39 AM -0400 Howard Engelskirchen
> <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> wrote:
> ...
> > You write: "Indeed, above you seem quite prepared to use "social
> > of production" to include exchange transactions among independent
> > commodity producers (C-M-C, e.g., peasants)."
> >
> > That's a fair question ... 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.
>   Sorry, Howard, but again you seem to be presuming the conclusion, for
> say that exchangers come to the market reflective of "particular relations
> of production.  Value can be one of those relations".
>   As to everything below, you don't deal with class.  Jerry and I (and
> Costas) are saying that value is reflective of class relations of
> production.  When I had written 'social relation of production', I was not
> thinking C-M-C type exchanges.  I was thinking of social relation of
> production as based upon the class relations.  You don't exclude this but
> apparently you don't believe that a class relation is a/the *fundamental*
> constitutent of value (I don't think Petty or Ricardo thought so either).
>   Given the above, I don't see that your citations below move the
> discussion forward.  I cannot escape the feeling that you are sure
> (somehow) that 'value' existed in ancient Greece when you think about
> exchange transaction.  I'm powerless to prevent that assurance of yours,
> but it also feels to this reader like theology.  However, I have your
> "Value and contract formation" and am prepared to rethink this reaction of
> mine.
>   Maybe I cannot avoid thinking Althusser is correct:  There is a
> difference between the real object and the theoretical object.  'Value' is
> a real object for you, but not for me (who cannot see, feel, smell, to
> taste 'value').  (Note also that Althusser argued that Marx himself had
> lacuna in his own thought.  Similarly, when I ask if anyone has studied
> whether social relations of production in Marx consistently refer to class
> relations, I am prepared for some inconsistencies.)
>   'Value' is an abstraction, a theoretical abstraction.
> Paul Z.
> > Does Marx talk about value as a social relation of production?  Well,
> > 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
> > 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
> > 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
> > and the cause of value.  "The cause of value transforms use value into
> > value.  The external measure of value already presupposes the existence
> > 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
> > its immanent measure."
> >
> > Now I take it "substance" here is susceptible of both of the two
> > 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 practice.
> ***********************************************************************
> RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY,  Paul Zarembka, editor, Elsevier Science
> ********************

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