Re: [OPE] Reply to Jerry on commodity

Date: Wed Oct 06 2010 - 09:09:54 EDT

Hi Jurriaan:
Just a few quick points since I don't want to get into what you call a
"slanging match" either.

> surely in the light of all that I wrote and posted, it is
> rather outrageous to accuse me of "devaluing the importance of money and
> exchange for capitalism".
> If you accuse me of "theoretical inconsistencies" I think it would be
> helpful and fair, if you made explicit and prove exactly what they are,
What I find to be inconsistent is your emphasis on financial and monetary
forms in the discussion of some other recent topics (such as financialization
and the accumulation of capital) and what I perceive as your inability
to grasp the how money, exchange, use-value and value are all necessarily
linked to each other in the nature of the commodity. Also inconsistent, I
think, is your critique of 'productivist' Marxists (i.e. those who place
theoretical primacy on production, rather than grasping the necessary relation
of capitalist production and capitalist circulation in the valorization
process) with your claim that value exists independently of exchange. You
might not see these inconsistencies, but I think others can.
> So I "clearly don't fully grasp the pervasiveness of risk and uncertainty
> under capitalism"? Why then do you think I posted what I have, on the
> subject? Why do think I worked as research officer in statistics? I don't
> want to skite, but I could have been dead several times in my life, and I am
> thankful that I am alive. I think it is sometimes necessary to take risks,
> even if just to verify something very personally, but I am also aware that
> there are risks which are not for me to take.
Please try to not reply to theoretical issues by citing your personal
experience because it's basically besides the point. The point I
made concerned the pervasiveness of risk and uncertainty *under capitalism*
because of the commodity-form; it wasn't a general statement about risk
and uncertainty for life in general. There is something *special* about
risk and uncertainty under capitalism and that is what I was referring to.
> I am merely following a more sensible interpretation of value,
Ha! That's an example of what is called 'loaded terminology'. Well, if
your interpretation is more sensible than I'd have to not be sensible
to accept it.
> according to which it is an aspect of
> products of human work irrespective of whether they happen to be sold or not
> at a given time.
Herein lies the crux of the difference in our perspectives: for you if a
product of human labor has *worth* it can be said to have value. This is
indeed a 'sensible' interpretation of value if we were to look at the commonplace,
everyday meaning of value. If someone found a nugget of gold on the sand washed
up by the sea, every child could tell you that nugget of gold has value. Every child
would be wrong. It is over the issue of whether value has meaning trans-historically
across modes of production or whether it is a more specific social relationship
that we part ways. What's different is that I don't claim that my interpretation is
more 'sensible'. Moreover, my interpretation only secondarily is related to an
interpretation of Marx - I always try to keep the real subject matter (in this case,
capitalism) in focus.
> You start talking subtle language in this context, such as that the
> "potential" value of a commodity is not fully "realized" or "actualized"
> until it is sold, but that really amounts to saying that if it is not sold,
> it has no exchange-value, and by implication it has no use-value or value,
> and, therefore, it is not really a commodity at all. But such an argument is
> patently ridiculous, not to say "undialectical", because it makes the
> designation of a commodity as a commodity dependent on whether it is sold.
Ah, it's 'ridiculous' - not to mention 'undialectical'. That's funny -
I think it *IS* dialectical. There is a dialectical relation, for instance,
inherent in the commodity-form concerning use-value and value. For a
commodity to *be* a commodity it must have both (and the value-form and the
price-form). Without use-value, no value, no commodity; without value, no use-
value, no commodity - that's an example of a dialectical relationship.
If you respond by claiming that every child knows that a product of human labor
has value regardless of anything else, then I will tell you that every child
doesn't understand dialectics.

>> Commodities are wares which are intended for the purpose of sale, that is
> all there is to this issue.
That is one definition - certainly the simplest one. It's certainly not "all
there is to this issue."
> You raise the question of "what exactly did people know for thousands of
> years", and then you say "The overwhelming amount of people know that they
> must work for a wage because the goods and services that they need to
> sustain life take the commodity-form, i.e. they know that they need money
> to survive and that to get money they have to get a job for capital or the
> state. Yes, they know they must labor but it is folly to think that this
> reality isn't connected to money and exchange or that working people don't
> grasp this connection." <snip>>
> But if that insight of yours is accepted, why then make a big controversy of
> it? Shouldn't we be talking of something more important? What you say just
> proves the point I made, namely that people jolly well know what the
> economizing of labour effort involves, and they have known that forever and
> a day, as I said, on pain of the risk of death, misadventure or starvation.
I wrote that to counter what you had written: you wrote about what every
person knows about labor and value; my point was simply that what
every person knows about labor and value is connected to the specific set of
social relations under capitalism including the importance of money, markets,
and exchange.

> All I am adding to this is, as a scientific claim, that even if they did not
> As regards Marx's argument in Capital Volume 3 which you so cavalierly
> dismiss at the stroke of a pen,
by pointing by what he wrote in Volume 2.
Marx states explicitly:
> "As soon as the amount of surplus labour it has proved possible to extort
> has been objectified in commodities, the surplus-value has been produced.
> But this production of surplus value is only the first act in the capitalist
> production process, and its completion only brings to an end the immediate
> production process itself. Capital has absorbed a given amount of unpaid
> labour. With the development of this process as expressed in the fall of the
> profit rate, the mass of surplus value thus produced swells to monstrous
> proportions. Now comes the second act in the process. The total mass of
> commodities, the total product, must be sold, both that portion which
> replaces constant and variable capital, and that which represents surplus
> value. If this does not happen, or happens only partly, then although the
> worker is certainly exploited, his exploitation is not realized as such for
> the capitalist, and may even not involve any realization of the
> surplus-value extracted, or only as a partial realization; indeed, it may
> even mean a partial or complete loss of his capital. The conditions for the
> immediate exploitation and for the realization of this exploitation are not
> identical. Not only are they separate in space and time, they are also
> separate in theory" (Capital Volume 3, chapter 15, section 1, General
> considerations, p. 352).

Yeah, so? Just as Paul B doesn't think this contradicts what he has written
so too I don't think it contradicts what I have.
I will say, though, that Marxists have often used the term 'realization'
but have not so often pondered the deeper meaning of that term.
> Question now is, how can this surplus-value, or indeed the other components
> of a commodity's value, exist in the "first act" if it exists only in the
> "second act" and if these acts can be separate in space and time as well?
The play consists of two acts: if the play isn't finished (e.g. if there is
a fire and the building is closed or if the play closes between the first
and second acts) then the play is incomplete. Both acts are part of the whole
- even when they occur in different places and times (as sometimes can happen
with innovative acting performances).
> I
> think you will need a very sophisticated linguistic or poetic operation to
> define how that works. But that's the literature department, not the
> economics department, if you ask me.
Maybe so, but since you raised the question of 'acts' I pursued the metaphor

> In discussion with Yaffe/Bullock, who denied a distinct realization problem,
I ddon't think that's the case: this can be seen especially if you take out the
word 'distinct' then it can't be said, I think, that they denied the possibility
of a realization problem. But, they can speak for themselves - if they want.

> I have emphasized previously that, at least for Marx, the processes of
> valorization and realization are distinctive processes, as Marx clarifies in
> various unpublished and published manuscripts. This argument simply makes no
> sense at all, if value exists only at the point of successful circulation,
> and not before or independently of it.
When you look at it as a circuit of capital, you can see that the self-expansion
of capital requires that the commodity product be sold: unless that happens
you can't have the transformation of surplus value into capital and an accumulation
of capital or the further expansion of surplus value.
> I rest my case.

I have to get ready to go to work now so I must rest my case as well.
In solidarity, Jerry
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Received on Wed Oct 6 09:12:15 2010

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