From: Michael Schauerte (yk3mk3@MY.EMAIL.NE.JP)
Date: Tue Apr 24 2007 - 21:06:18 EDT
Hello Ajit, I'm not sure if Kuruma is advancing any sort of new idea, but he is examining the "mechanism of value expression" where the commodity in the relative form expresses its own valule in the bodily form of the commodity in the equivalent form, which is in that form (where it has determinate being as the "value-body") because the linen has equated the coat to itself. Kuruma places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of saying that the linen equates the coat to itself, rather than saying that the linen equates itself to the coat (or introducing the commodity owner into the equation). This distinction is a bit hard to grasp, at least that was the case for me. A comparison has been made to the distinction between person A saying to person B "you are my "soul-mate" (if you'll excuse the expression), and person A saying to person B "I am your soul-mate." In the first case, A has "posited" B with a certain "power" within this relation, where for example B now has the power of ma! rrying A at any time if he/she choses. But in the second case, B might respond by telling A to get lost. That second case is similar to the commodity in the relative form equating itself to B, rather than equating B to itself. However, this comparison is a bit faulty, because those two people do not share an equality from the beginning like the commodities (unless it is the subjective quality of loving each other). It is interesting, by the way, that most of the translations of the part of Sec. 3 in Capital where Marx discusses the detour, cannot help inserting the commodity owner. Granted, everyone knows that the commodity owners create this value equation based on their own desires, but for Kuruma once this equation has been set up we need to set aside the owners and examine the mechanism of value expression. For Uno, Marx was wrong to abstract that far. I think that if the commodity owner is not abstracted from, at the very least, the impression is created that there is no substance of value preceding the equation, and that value (really "price") emerges from the act of exchange itself. Anyway, I've pasted one of the relevant passages on the "detour" from my translation of Kuruma below. Mike Kuruma: This is the question that Marx poses, which no one had raised before. He poses and then brilliantly solves this question. Marx first perceives that the expression of value in money $B!= (Jfor instance, twenty yards of linen is equal to two pounds of gold, or equal to gold of such-and-such yen $B!= (Jis nothing more than the developed version of the simple value-form (e.g. 20 yards of linen = 1 coat). Thus, the fundamental mystery of value-expression lies within this simple form of value. By analyzing the simple value-form, Marx discovers the "detour" that constitutes the fundamental secret of value-expression. This detour concerns how, in the case of 20 yards of linen = 1 coat, in order for the value of linen to be expressed in the form of a coat, the coat itself must be the Dasein or esse of value, which is to say the value-body [Wertding] or value in propria persona. Without this taking place, the quantity of the coat qua thing would be unable to express a magnitude of va! lue. The coat, its natural form itself, in that given state, becomes a thing that expresses value, or the embodiment of value, because it is equated to the linen. The coat thus attains the competence just mentioned, an economic determination of form, so that it becomes the bearer of a social relation of production. The labor that makes the coat, of course, is itself specific concrete labor, not abstract labor. When the coat is equated to the linen, the sewing labor that makes the coat is equated to the weaving labor that makes the linen, with the coat-making labor reduced to the abstract human labor that both types of labor have in common. Meanwhile, the coat is the embodiment of this abstract human labor, which is to say, it takes on the significance of being the value-body or embodiment of value, acquiring this formal determination. The linen, by positing the coat with this formal determination, expresses its own value in the body of the coat qua value-thing. Marx says th! at by thinking in this manner the riddle of value-expression is unrave led for the first time. Here we need to pay special attention to the fact that in the value-expression 20 yards of linen = 1 coat, the linen does not immediately make itself into the form of value by saying that it is equal to the coat. Rather, the linen posits the coat with form of value by saying that the coat is equal to itself, so that the natural form of the coat, as is, expresses value. The value of linen is thus expressed for the first time in distinction from its use-value, using the natural form of the coat. This is what Marx calls the $B!H (Jdetour $B!I (J of value-expression. In general it is thought, and Marx himself says, that the most difficult part of Capital is the theory of the value-form. In the part of the first German edition of Capital where this detour is explained, he writes that, $B!H (Jthis is the point where all the difficulties originate which hinder an understanding of the value form $B!I (J (Marx, 1976b, p. 21). Indeed this is the case. Not onl! y is the issue itself quite difficult to understand, but in general $B!= (Jdespite various explanations offered by Marx $B!= (Jthere has not even been a basic understanding of why it is necessary to ponder such a bothersome issue. The fact is, though, that it constitutes the core of the secret of value-expression. Without understanding this issue it is impossible to unravel the riddle of the money-form and the riddle of money, whereas these riddles can be easily grasped if the issue is properly understood. The riddle of the money-form, as mentioned already, concerns the strangeness of a commodity $B!G (Js value being generally expressed in the form of a certain quantity of gold, while the riddle of money involves the peculiarity in this case of the natural form of gold, as is, having general validity as value. This is the problem of the value-form posed in Capital, and by clarifying the detour of value-expression just noted, Marx became the first to thoroughly solve the pro! blem; or at any rate that is my own view on the subject.
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