Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

From: Andrew Brown (A.Brown@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Apr 07 2005 - 14:04:05 EDT

Hi again Nicky,
You wrote:
What do you mean "unit of cost in ANY society"?  Surely the notion of
costing labour time (in units?) arose with capitalism?  So too the idea
that a product "embodies" labour.  This notion of 'embodiment" only
makes sense if you think that labour contributes 'value' to the product.
Is value specific to capitalism? Or: does labour contribute value in ALL
(1) Yes, the notion of labour as fundamental productive activity and
hence cost *arose* only in capitalism. But it is *true* of all societies
that labour time is the sole quantitative unit of social cost (because,
as I argued previously, any society must have some process determining
the quality and quantity of labour). It is also true of any society that
the product is an embodiment of labour. Why do these concepts arise in
capitalism, and not before? Because only in capitalism does there begin
to be a realisation of the potential for social labour to form an
organic unity, where labourers freely flow from one job to another -
alas the whole thing is horribly inverted so social labour is an
abstract rather than a concrete universal - abstracted even from the
individual labourer.    
(2) My notion of labour and hence of labour/L-P is completely at odds
with your view that 'value' is necessary for 'embodiment' to make sense.
Value is by no means necessary for embodiment to make sense (contra
(3) Fully developed value is specific to capitalism. Labour creates
fully developed value only in capitalism. There ain't any 'value' in
socialist society (but labour time cost is still important in socialist
You are right.  Reuten and Williams would not agree with you that it is
"obvious" that SNLT is the measure of congealed abstract labour".
Indeed they would deny it. But: is it right to say that - because they
disagree with you - they have NO argument?  I think not.
Fair enough - they have plenty of well honed arguments!
Are you sure that Chris disagrees on your point about exchange value?  I
guess it depends what you mean by "materialist dialectics"?  Hey...
let's leave it to Chris to chip in if he wants....
Well, he certainly did the last time we discussed it. It is certainly
the logic of his position in his 2002 book but your last sentence is
Many thanks,

Andrew Brown <A.Brown@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK> wrote:
        Well, mine ends up recognising labour time as the fundamental
unit of cost in any society. And it recognises the product as an
embodiment of labour in any society.
        Then the inversion of capitalism turns 'embodied' labour into
'congealed' abstract labour and it is obvious that SNLT is its measure.
This often tends to be denied in systematic dialectics despite, for
example, Chris's excellent 'Dialectics of Labour' from which I draw
quite a lot (e.g. labour as concrete universal). Am much closer to Chris
than others on these matters - perhaps my differences with Chris stem
more from other aspects such as the basics of materialist dialectics
whereby exchange value is clear evidence of a power and hence *must*
have a material grounding.
        -----Original Message-----
        From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Nicola
        Sent: 07 April 2005 17:06
        Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?
        actually, an argument has been presented many times.  Have you
seriously read Reuten, Williams and Chris Arthur on the distinction
between labour and labour power?
        How is your conception of labour (and labour power) different
from theirs?
        Andrew Brown <A.Brown@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK> wrote:
                Rakesh, Nicky and all,
                Rakesh is correct imo, with his comment below on Nicky's
post. What I am
                trying to do is answer Rakesh's question. Hegel-inspired
                dialecticians have never managed this, imo, in part
because of their
                lack of clarity on the nature of labour and labour-power
(or maybe just
                their disagreement with what I take to be the correct
conception of
                Many thanks,
                >(imo) Marx's key insight into the social relations of
capital is
                >that workers trade their labour-power freely. i.e. the
                >distinction is not between humans, land, donkeys etc
but between
                >living *labour* and the *labour power* purchased for
                And why is the the crucial distinction? An argument has
yet to be

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