Re: [OPE-L] Kuruma on value detour

From: Michael Schauerte (yk3mk3@MY.EMAIL.NE.JP)
Date: Wed Apr 25 2007 - 21:19:55 EDT

Thanks for your comments Ajit. The points you raised sound similar to Kozo Uno's criticism of Marx's labor theory of value. Kuruma's argument is based on his agreement with the explanation of  the "substance" of value in the first two sections of chapter one of Capital, whereas Uno called into question whether it was appropriate for Marx to carry out his "demonstration" of the substance of value at the beginning of Capital. When he exchanged ideas with Kuruma in 1947 during a series of study meetings on Capital Uno hinted at his position, but it was only later that he presented his ideas fully, and his criticism of Marx's theory of the substance of value also became linked to his 3-stage theoretical approach. Eventually he argued that the fact that labor is the substance of value is only demonstrated later, through the mediation of the commodification of labor-power, or something like that. I don't have his books at hand and am in a bit of a rush at the moment, but his main !
 point seems to be that the labor theory of value is only demonstrated subsequent to the act of exchange or through the act of  exchange, and so Marx had been incorrect to attempt to demonstrate this prior to that stage. At any rate, Uno and Kuruma are on such different wavelengths as far as their understanding of the substance of value, that it is really a misnomer to refer to a "debate" between them on the value-form, given their radically different premises. Another reason they talked past each other, rather than actually debated an issue, is that they each had a different understanding of abstraction. For Kuruma, it involves setting aside whatever elements are not essential to the theoretical issue at hand, whereas Uno seems to understand abstraction as based upon a process of abstraction that occurs in reality. Of course, Kuruma also recognizes that historical development makes it possible for an abstract concept to emerge, just as the historical development of capitali!
 sm, and the increasing mobility of labor, made it possible for the abs
tract concept of "labor" to emerge. Later Uno would also propose a model of "pure capitalism" as the first of his three stages, which also reflects his understanding of abstraction (similar to Weber?), and this pure capitalism is based upon the purification of real captialism as it existed in 19th century England, which was seen as being closer to a pure capitalist system than the subsequent monopoly/imperialist stage.

But I'm getting way off topic. I'm a little reluctant to go into the theory of the substance of value because that seems a very big kettle of fish indeed, and I don't have anything new to add. Kuruma's book only touches on that issue, taking Marx's view as his accepted premise.

Paul's comments went way over my head, I must confess. I'm not familiar with the terminology used.

That footnote you mentioned, Rakesh, seems very relevant. After sending my earlier email, I thought that Marx's example of weight might be more appropriate than the two "soul-mates" I mentioned. In that weight relation, like the commodities (assuming of course that they have intrinsic value), the metal weight is the material that the other object uses to express its own *quality* as weight. Of course weight is a physical quality, whereas value is a social substance. But even in the case of weight, we cannot accurately guage it simply by looking at it, and an object that appears heavy (like a commodity that appears valuable) may not turn out to be so. So in the "expression of weight" the object in the relative (?) form posits the metal weight with determinate being as weight, and within this relationship its own weight finds a means of expression. There as well I suppose the object expressing its weight is equating that metal weight to itself "as weight", rather than saying I!
  am equal to you. (But this point is still a bit hazy in my mind)

In Japanese, Kuruma says that if the commodity in the relative form equates itself to the equivalent form commodity (rather than equating that commodity to itself), it is a "hitori-yogari" act. I'm having a hard time translating this word. It means both "solitary" (on its own or going it alone) as well as has the nuance of being a "presumptuous" act. If anyone knows of a single word that can express this idea, I would be eternally grateful.


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