From: Hans G. Ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Tue Jul 20 2004 - 09:02:23 EDT
Howard wrote: > Where the social relation that > generates the product as a commodity exists, then the product of labor is > constituted by value, and value, which is not presented empirically like > texture or other physical qualities, must find a vehicle for its expression. I agree with much in this formulation, but I think it is also a little problematic, because it suggests that first the social relations which generate the product as a commodity exist, and then value must find a vehicle for its expression. This is not the right causal order of things. Rather, the expression of the value is a condition of the very existence of the commodity relations. Let me explain. The social relations that generate the product as a commodity can only exist if the producers produce their products as commodities. I.e., they do not produce things for their own use, or for the use of others with whom they share resources, but they deposit abstract labor into their products and then use the market to convert this abstract labor into something they can use. Now practical individual activity can only achieve this if there is a vehicle which allows the producer to access the abstract labor in his or her product. Or, as Marx put it, the commodity needs, in addition to its bodily form, also a value form. Any exchange is such an expression of the value of the product, but individual product barters are not uniform enough to generate market signals that can be understood by the producers (these are the famous "defects" of the Simple and Expanded forms of value). Only if these surface relations have taken the form of monetary relations are the producers truly enabled to treat their labors as equal abstract labor, because now they can access the abstract labor in their products by simply selling these products, and the prices which these things fetch on the market are reliable guidelines telling them how they should allocate their private labors. Money is therefore a surface relation which enables the private producers to equalize their labors and produce their products as commodities. Money does not need always and everywhere to be a commodity for this. While the US has world hegemony, the dollar, which maintains its exchange value due to the monetary policies of the Fed, and which owes its acceptance to the military might of the US, is a feasible compass allowing private producers everywhere in the world to produce their products as commodities. Stability is an important prerequisite for this role as a compass, and therefore I consider the recent fluctuations in the exchange rate of the dollar a serious threat to the role of the dollar as world reserve currency. In fact, nobody knows how long US hegemony will last in its present form, that is why many central banks maintain part of their reserves in gold, just in case. Hans G. Ehrbar.
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