Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sun Mar 11 2007 - 22:21:55 EDT

Hi Rakesh and Riccardo,

There's a wrinkle here that may be of interest, though it treads
contentiously on old ground.   Within the last century philosophers became
explicitly aware that two things that meant different things could in point
of fact refer to the same thing.  The classic example is the morning and the
evening star, Hespherus and Phosphorus (sp?).  Historically they were
thought different and then it was discovered they both referred to the
planet Venus.  In a forthcoming paper I argue the same thing applies to
value and abstract labor.  They mean different things but refer to the same
thing -- expended labor measured by time and rendered homogenous by the
jostle of exchange.  The contentious part:  it is important to distinguish
this original sense of abstract labor from the way in which the production
of value shapes the character of labor under capitalism in its image.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Rakesh Bhandari" <bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2007 7:07 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

> Hi Riccardo you wrote:
> > I can only refer you back to my prior mail, and my writings. The
> > point however refers to this: abstract labour is only a capitalist
> > notion. Useful labour, it is not. Useful labour in capitalism is
> > concrete labour, that is a part of capital, indistinguishable from
> > it. It does not produce ANYTHING, if not as a part of capital.
> > Abstract labour is concrete labour seen as surplus money producing
> > labour.
> Abstract labor is the kind of labor which produces in the form a commodity
> transubstantiated into  money, qua a social mediation, a purely
> quantitative claim on abstract social labor time, as a divisible and
> homogeneous substance. Capitalism produces historically specific kinds of
> abstractions and homogeneous substances. Sohn Rethel of course had such an
> argument.
> Abstract labor is unique to capitalism in that
> i.the dominant function of labor is abstract,
> ii. against say the physiocratic fetish of agricultural labor social labor
> time as such comes to be understood and shaped in the image of money, i.e.
> as homogenous and abstract.
> iii. Moreover,   labor proves itself abstract as barriers to its mobility
> in and out of branches are radically reduced
> iv. the reduction of those barriers, along with the mobility of capital
> itself, results in the price of commodities becoming a function of the
> abstract social labor time required for their reproduction.
> I am sure one could strengthen the arguments for the historical
> specificity of abstract labor as a practical abstraction and of social
> labor time as an homogeneous and divisible substance and of the strict
> regulation of price by value...
> but my point is that it does not follow from the historical specificity of
> abstract labor that labor is exploited under capitalism. Or perhaps it
> does, but I don't see the argument.
> It must be extracted from "labour power" of free subject (a
> > ONLY capitalist notion) AFTER the labour market, extracting living
> > labour from workers. All this is very specific. No work, no value
> > and surplus value. Before capitalism you could have said: well,
> > technology is stationary, so more output more effort.
> I don't understand the importance of the stationary nature of technology
> in your argument.
>  Not so in
> > capitalism, which is quite "dynamic", so there is no reason to
> > attribute the surplus to workers. Actually, the surplus as such, as
> > a use value dymension, is due to capital, not to labour!
> Due to capital goods given the scientific knowledge embodied therein or to
> capitalists in their supervisory rather than coordiation functions? Not
> following the argument.
> Leave it there for now.
> Yours, Rakesh
> >

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