From: Hans G. Ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Thu Feb 17 2005 - 09:55:06 EST
Howard, you wrote that, if love "is causally efficacious it gets manifested." With value it is almost the other way around. Value can only then be fully causally efficacious if it gets manifested in money. I meant the analogy with a love relationship as follows. Love relations are invisible, and wedding rings are the visible manifestation of love relations. Lovers know what to do with each other whether or not they wear wedding rings, but one might argue that a wedding ring signals to *others* whether a given person is engaged in an invisible love relationship. This gives information to those others about how to behave, and in this way also helps preserve the love relationship. The wedding rings, therefore, to some extent aid in the causal efficacy of love relationships, but they are not absolutely central. Now for value relations the exterior form of appearance is much more crucial. Value relations cannot properly exist without money, i.e., without their form of appearance. This is why the development of the commodity form parallels that of the value form, as Marx points out both in sect 3 of chapter 1 and in chapter 2 of Capital. For those who have time and patience to read a longer passage, the rest of this email may help clarify some more the relation between the causal powers of value and its form of appearance. What follows now is a slightly abbreviated excerpt from the file http://www.econ.utah.edu/ehrbar/valmat.pdf which is also part of the package of my Annotations http://www.econ.utah.edu/ehrbar/screen.zip Since in principle every use-value can be exchanged against every other (as long as the exchange proportions are right), Marx concludes that for the purpose of these exchange relations, each use-value is as good as any other; the only difference is a quantitative one. In a manuscript published in MEGA II/6, p. 4, Marx writes: > One commodity looks now like any other. All that remains > is the same ghostlike *materiality* of what? Of > *undifferentiated human labor*, i.e., of *expenditure of > human labor-power*, without regard to the particular > useful determinate form of its expenditure. These things > no longer represent anything at all except that in their > production human labor-power has been expended, human > labor has been accumulated. As crystals of this social > substance which they have all in common they are -- > *values*. This value materiality is rarely mentioned by modern commentators of Marx. They are too embarrassed. Even Marx himself got in trouble for it. The first edition of Capital MEGA II/5, p. 30, described the quality of this materiality with the following words: > In order to fix linen as material expression of mere > human labor, one must disregard everything that actually > makes it an object. The materiality of human labor that > is itself abstract, lacking further quality and content, > is, of necessity, an abstract materiality, a *thing made > of thought*. Thus, cloth woven from flax becomes a > phantom spun by the brain. This vivid and memorable passage did not make it in the second edition, presumably because, at the GDR-editors of MEGA surmised, it might have ``raised doubts about the materialist character of value theory'' MEGA II/6, p. 23*. Ironically Marx was rejected where he was most realist. The apparatus of Critical Realism can clarify things, since it allows us to frame Marx's ideas in a more systematic and less metaphorical way. This requires the following steps: (1) If people exchange their commodities following a consistent and predictable pattern of exchange proportions, then they respond to, and also reproduce or transform, an invisible network of social relations involving these commodities, which Marx calls the ``exchange relation'' of the commodities. Of course, the decisions what to exchange for what are individual decisions, but the proportions in which these things can be exchanged are determined socially. Critical realists are used to the idea that invisible social relations are real, they do not need to resort to words like ``ghostlike'' or ``phantom spun by the brain'' to refer to their reality. (2) These exchange relations, which prescribe the proportions to the individual agents in which they can exchange their wares, can be described by a metric or a numeraire. One knows all there is to know about the status of these relations if one knows how many units of a certain fixed numeraire commodity can be exchanged for each given commodity. (This step is expressed by Marx with his example of the polygons.) (3) Besides assuming that the exchange relations themselves are real and irreducible to the individuals, Marx also assumes that this abstraction of the many motley pairwise relationships down to a common denominator is a *real* abstraction. This gives an interesting twist to the ontology of social relations. Marx assumes that there is some real substance in each commodity which is measured by this numeraire. This substance is the commodity's ``value.'' We know it is real because it has causal effects. (4) The next step is in tune with one central aspect of CR which tends to get overlooked. In RTS, p. 14 (1997 edition), Bhaskar says that generative mechanisms are the ways of acting of *things*. We have found an obviously active generative mechanism, it is the value residing in the commodities, which generates the exchange relations between commodities. But we still have to find the *thing* whose activity drives this generative mechanism. Marx uses the word ``value materiality'' (Wertgegenstaendlichkeit) for this thing. The expectation that such a thing exists is expressed in Marx's seemingly simple-minded utterances such as ``So far no chemist has ever discovered exchange-value in pearl or diamond'' in MEW 23, p. 98. (5) The search for such a value materiality has mixed success: o No common substance can be found in the physical bodies of the commodities themselves. o the production processes from which these commodities spring have a physical, tangible commonality: all such production processes are the expenditures of human labor-power. o But unlike the concrete labor, which is materialized in the use-value of the product, this other aspect of the production process is not reflected in the physical makeup of the commodity iself. This is why Marx concludes that this value materiality is purely social. One might think that we did not make any progress, since we did not find an objective basis. Marx says for instance that as value, the commodity represents nothing except that labor is materialized in it. Although this is a social driving force rather than one connected with the body of the commodity, it is sufficient to explain the causal powers of value. Somebody has produced this commodity, and that person will watch over it that he or she receives reward for the labor placed in that commodity. I.e., society remembers how much abstract labor was placed in that commodity, even if this fact is not inscribed in the physical body of the commodity itself. (6) This is not yet the end of the story. Although the purely social value materiality suffices to provide the causal nexus which anchors the values of the commodities and therefore keeps their exchange-relations in place, it is insufficient for the practical activity of the commodity producers. These commodity producers are in the following dilemma: they put their labor into a product which they cannot use, and go to the market in order to exchange their product for something they can use. One might say that they try to pull the value materiality out of their product in order to make it useful for them. Since this value materiality is purely social, they must hunt after it in the social relations of commodity to commodity, see MEW 23, p. 62. In section three of chapter one of *Capital*, Marx shows that the inner dialectic of the value relations will not rest until an independent material form of existence has been developed for this social value materiality -- in money. In this way, the search for a tangible value materiality, which is separate from the use-value of the commodities, comes to fruition. (7) With this independent body serving as center and reference point, the causal powers of value evolve into the overwhelming vampire-like self-activity of capital. Marx describes here a process of emergence, in which the needs of circulation unwittingly activate a powerful generative mechanism, which previously lay disarmed for lack of a tangible value materiality.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Feb 19 2005 - 00:00:01 EST