Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Andrew Brown (A.Brown@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Sat Oct 15 2005 - 14:00:01 EDT

Hi Rakesh,
You wrote:
"Andrew, it seems to me that you are saying that at this individual
level the commodity is more than potential value though not yet quite
actual value. Perhaps in this state it is virtual value? So existence
then has three states--potential, virtual and actual??
I am sorry that I am not following. And perhaps you don't want to be
burdened with this idea of virtuality."
I reply: Perhaps we are talking past each other somewhat since you are trying out your interpretation whilst I am trying out mine. Your view seems to look to quantum physics for help and deals in 'virtual' value akin to the virtual existence of Schrodinger's infamous cat prior to being observed. One way of proceeding would be to ask whether your view applies to the individual level, or the system-wide level or both? Here you apply it to the individual level. You are right that I wouldn't want to be burdened with this notion, whether for the inividual or system-wide levels. I wouldn't go anywhere near quantum physics for help on ontological matters - as far as I can see it is in an ontological mess, just like the poor cat. 
My view, at the *individual* level, is that both commodity and money are indeed actual forms of value. One is not somehow more real than another. Possession of a newly produced commodity is possession of value just as much as possession of money. Any one single commodity need not be transformed into money to be a value. What is potential for the individual commodity owner, prior to sale, is the possession of the power conferred by value (generalised purchasing power), not the possession of value itself. No doubt this makes the owner anxious but such anxiety should not lead us to question of the very existence of value in commodity form (leaving aside fictitious commodities).
At the *system-wide* level, on the other hand, we can rightly say that value 'gains existence' only through its reflection in money (you say 'comes to exist' below). For such reflection to occur value must continually actually transform from commodity to money form, across society as a whole, i.e. there must be generalised commodity exchange through money. 
In sum, (1) any one indiviudal commodity need not exchange for money to be a value but; 
(2) a large proportion of commodities across society must do so in order to be values (in order for value and capital to continue to exist at all).
Many thanks,
>Turning to your further remarks. Clearly, I take a different line to
>TSS. Your account of Roberts is interesting.

Oh please don't hang most of what I wrote on Roberts. I just took a
single idea and then pursued what I thought are its implications.

>  I think the system-wide perspective / individual perspective
>distinction is adequate to address this account.

Not quite sure how it dissolves dualism of value and price accounts.

>I did in fact use this distinction in a previous exchange with you
>regarding slavery.

Don't see how individual/system distinction speaks to question of
whether wage labor is sometimes disguised as slavery.

Yours, Rakesh

>You seemed unimpressed by it then - I fear you will remain so!

Not at all unimpressed. Where I don't agree with VFT is I think
simple: I do think value only comes to exist in and through exchange;
however, I think value has some kind of existence before that and I
think it's meaningful to speak of labor being abstract before that,
to speak of total social labor time and its homogeneous parts. In
fact I think that talk is meaningful even before generalized
commodity society. The discovery of that aspect of social labor as an
aliquot of abstract social labor time in fact allows objective
investigation of precapitalist formations. I had always thought
abstract labor must be conceived in a historically specific way in
order for capitalist itself to be so conceived. I am now not
convinced of that position.

Yours, Rakesh

>Many thanks

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