[OPE] Reply to critics (Chris Arthur)

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Sun Oct 03 2010 - 07:42:58 EDT


Thanks for your comment. I translated "daß die Waren nur
Wertgegenständlichkeit besitzen" as "that commodities possess the objective
representation of value" because it is the best rendering I can think of. If
I say gegenständlich in German, I mean objective or representational.

Wertgegenständlichkeit is not simply the objectivity (objective existence)
of value, it is the condition of the objectification (objective
manifestation) of value in counterposition to (relative to) something else,
so it is really a relational concept.

Why for example does Marx not simply use the word "Wertobjektivität" to
denote the "objectivity of value", even as he refers to the "objective and
subjective factors" of the production process?

Most probably, because the whole point of his discussion is to explain how
the "objectivity of value" emerges, and that it is not an independent thing,
but exists only in relation to something else - "Wertobjektivität" has the
connotation of a reification, of a reified concept.

"Einheit" in German can refer to oneness, unity, unit, measure, measuring
unit, and organizational unit. I do not know of any published translation
anywhere though which renders "Einheit" as "dimension". The reason is that
in German, the word for "dimension" is simply "Dimension", or "Abmessung"
(magnitude of proportion) or "Ausmaß" (extent). Einheit is a particular
type of dimension, namely the dimension of sameness or commonality.

>From the context it is quite clear that in this case, Marx specifically
intends a "measuring unit", or if you like, a "unit of measurement". Namely,
the same social measure, of human labour, is expressed as the value of
commodities relative to each other. I suppose I could have translated
"commodities possess the objective representation of value, insofar as they
express the same societal unit of measurement, human labour". But in fact it
is "the same social measure", the common yardstick which is expressed as the
value of commodities. The official translation as "social substance" is
simply wrong.

I tried to check your translation hypothesis against the relevant passage in
Theories of Surplus Value III, chapter XX where Marx goes into very fine
detail about the value-form, to show how "According to Bailey, it is not the
determination of the product as value which leads to the establishment of
money and which expresses itself in money, but it is the existence of money
which leads to the fiction of the concept of value."

In his criticism, Marx explicitly uses the concept of "unity" and if I am
not much mistaken, the German original reads "Einheit". However I do not
have the German text of TSV3 handy here.

There exists a scholarly commentary on the relevant passage, namely Thomas
Marxhausen, "Marx' Untersuchung der "Auflösung der Ricardoschen Schule",
Hallesche Arbeitsblätter zur Marx-Engels-Forschung, Heft 17, 1984, part 4-5,
pp. 73-96.


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