Re: [OPE] Reply to critics

From: Paula <>
Date: Thu Oct 07 2010 - 18:59:20 EDT

Ian wrote:
"But I quoted it to show that, for Marx, labor-value is "purely social" and not a physical property of the commodity's 'body'".

Still missing the point. It's the abstract labor that's physically embodied in the commodity, not the value. Value is an expression of that labor, but it only manifests itself in a social situation - in the exchange of objects with each other. That's how I interpret Marx's argument that the OBJECTIVITY of commodities AS VALUE is purely social (as per Chris's translation).

"heart surgery requires a definite amount of coexisting labor ..."

All labor employed by capital has this requirement. Therefore, the logic of Ian's position is that there's no such thing as unproductive labor under capitalism.

"Anyhow, financial services produce all kinds of 'physical objects' - think of all the paperwork"

The product of financial services is not the paperwork, but the contracts, mortgages, etc, that are written down on it. But these aren't physical objects, they are services - hence the financial industry is unproductive, even though the labor performed by its workers "requires a definite amount of coexisting labor".

"I completely agree that a haircut cannot function as a store of value".

Every commodity is a store of its own value. If a haircut cannot store value, it's because it's not a commodity.

"Obviously haircuts could never serve as base money"

Every commodity can in principle serve as the money-commodity. If a haircut cannot in principle serve as money, it's because it's not a commodity.

"If we reject this then we also reject the ability of the labor theory of value to explain the trajectory of market prices of a huge number of activities that take place in a modern economy".

If we don't have a problem explaining the market prices of financial products, I can't see why we should have a problem with any other unproductive industry.

"the whole line of reasoning starts, I believe, from a faulty focus on 'physicality' as a criterion for 'having value'".

It starts from the materialist principle that, in all societies, there's an essential difference between goods-producing and other labor. Only the first kind of labor produces new wealth. But under capitalism, that wealth, in order to count as value, needs to be produced as capital, ie, the goods have to be produced for market exchange. They have to be commodities.

Dave wrote:
"a 'thing is probably one of the most ambiguous theoretical concepts one can think of."

The most important concepts are usually the richest. But the concept of 'thing' would be useless to us if we couldn't distinguish between a thing and an activity, a thing and a person, a thing and a dog, etc.

"haircuts and heart surgeries result in physical products: modified hair and hearts"

But those products aren't things. They are parts of the human body, part of the human being. Most people (and not only feminists) are quite rightly outraged when their bodies are treated as things.

In the second paragraph of Capital, Marx defines a commodity as "in the first place, and object outside us, a thing ...". For good reasons.


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Received on Thu Oct 7 19:01:42 2010

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