Re: measurement of abstract labor

From: Paul C (clyder@GN.APC.ORG)
Date: Wed Jul 14 2004 - 17:37:19 EDT

Howard Engelskirchen wrote:

>Hi Clyde,
>That you find tension and contradiction in my suggestions opens the
>possibility that there is dialectical hope for them.
>Here is my response to the problem you pose as I understand it:
>Suppose you have something I want -- say cases of wine.  If stable and
>appropriate relations of force are presupposed, I can give you a promise,
>which is not a commodity, in exchange for the wine.  If a stable and
>appropriate relation of force does not exist you will insist on real value
>and ignore my offer to exchange a promise for wine.
>Force is an emergent necessity of generalized commodity production -- unless
>you have the former you don't get the latter.  But it is commodity
>production that generates force as an emergent social relation, not the
>other way around.
I think that the above formulation is highly questionable historically.
Force in the shape of the state clearly preceeded generalised commodity
The state existed in pre-capitalist modes of production and pre-capitalist
states levied taxes which they collected in the form of money. It is
arguable that it was the need to obtain coin to pay taxes that accelerated
the penetration of commodity relations into pre-capitalist modes of
As I understand it that was the explicit objective of for example British
monetary policy in Africa in the early 20th century.

>The fact that force makes it possible to substitute a promise for commodity
>value doesn't mean the exchange of embodied value is no longer a
>presupposition of the exchange.  (If A gave B a horse in exchange for B
>giving me a cow in exchange for me giving A a flute lesson -- we're speaking
>hypothetically here -- you wouldn't say there was no longer an exchange of
>commodity for commodity because B gave A a piece of paper in exchange for
>the horse, would you?)
Where I think you go astray here is portraying state money as simply a
promise on a par with private bills of exchange. Such private bills of
exchange are
always denominated in the money of the state.

>Take force away, which in particular conjunctures can happen, and you will
>see the necessity of commodity money again exposed.
Take force away, taken the requirement to pay tax state money away,  and
you get the collapse of commodity
production. You do not get a market economy based on private barter -
that is
just a fantasy of the bourgeois economists.

Look at the generalised collapse of commodity production in the 5th
century with the
removal of the roman imperial tax system and the consequent devaluation
of the

>Why didn't Marx say instead -- you see, money as means of payment shows that
>non-commodity money is perfectly compatible with capitalism?  Instead he
>shows that non-commodity mechanisms work as long as they are supported by
>relations of force.

You tell me Howard?

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