Re: Money, mind and the ontological status of value

From: Costas Lapavitsas (Cl5@SOAS.AC.UK)
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 14:48:06 EDT

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Zarembka <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 12:00:59 -0400
Subject: Re: Money, mind and the ontological status of value

--On Friday, June 04, 2004 3:21 PM +0000 Costas Lapavitsas <Cl5@SOAS.AC.UK>

> I have no interest at all in working out the 'right' way of interpreting
> Marx on either value or money.

Costas, I don't think you mean this (in your reply to Rakesh).  You
yourself are doing it, unless you mean that Marx the person is not the
issue (to which most of us would agree without it needing to be said).
Paul Z.

I suppose I also do it, Paul. My habits of thought and argumentation are, as for all of us, Marxist. But I feel it is a problem. In your exchanges with Howard, for instance, I see a tension between discussing the existence of value in non-capitalist societies, on the one hand, and the consistency of Marx's views, on the other. Is there such thing as the 'right' way of interpreting Marx on this? 

On the substance of it, I think Howard is right on the importance of 'social relations of value'. The problem is to know what social relations to include. Social relations of exchange, for instance, typically give rise to value, unless they are overwhelmingly hedged in by rank, hierarchy, kinship, etc. But this is still only exchange value, a formal property of commodities. 

Social relations of production, on the other hand, do not generate value, unless they are capitalist. When they do, value is also abstract labour and thus connects exchange value to production. Is abstract labour plain assertion? Interestingly enough, the strongest case for abstract labour being a mere assertion could be made in relation to what I think Howard is attempting, i.e. 'logically' to derive abstract labour working backwards from commodity exchange. Samuelson, for instance, pointed out that just because traded things have something in common (exchange value), they need not have another (abstract labour). Similarly, if Aristotle didn't find abstract labour by working backwards from exchange, I suspect that it is because it cannot be found without already having a theory (and therefore reality) of social structure and production. In short, to find abstract labour, I think that we should go analytically from production to exchange and not from exchange to production, as I understand Howard to suggest. 

Starting from social relations of production allows us to see abstract labour as social substance, hence not a theoretical assertion in exchange. As social substance, it corresponds to specific capitalist processes of production by independent, autonomous producers, in competition and employing wage labour. You would not expect to see it or touch it, since it would only exist as a set of social relations and processes. If you like, as deeply rooted social norm. Hence it would depend on class relations including, incidentally, relations of distribution. 

If abstract labour is seen this way, exchange value(price)would necessarily reflect turnover time, technology, and consumption norms. This is important because it would constitute a qualitative difference between exchange value in the capitalist as compared to other modes of production.

I hope that we can push this a bit further.


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