[OPE-L:1739] RE: value form

Subject: [OPE-L:1739] RE: value form
From: makoto itoh (mktitoh@kokugakuin.ac.jp)
Date: Thu Nov 25 1999 - 00:03:02 EST

Dear Costas, Paul and other friends;

I am naturally interested in discussion between Costas and Paul. As Costas
wrote in a previous mail, I tend to be for Paul on this issue of abstract
labor. Let me try to react to Costas's mail.

-----Original Message-----
^ͷ^o^l : coslap@aueb.gr <coslap@aueb.gr>
^ȶ^ : ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
^^^ : 1999^N11^^25^ 5:40
^^^ּ : [OPE-L:1738] value form

>Paul Cockshott [OPE-L: 1726] remarked that 'abstract labour exists wherever
>there is the possibility of a variation over time of the distribution of
>social labour between different activities. You would be hard put to come
>up with a real human society where such variation in labour allocation did
>not exist'
>These are huge and interdisciplinary issues and I'm surprised at Paul's
>certainty. But let me ask a few questions.

I agree that these are not simple issue. Marx stated that Aristotole could
not recognize the subsance of value in a slave society at his age. The
formation of modern soceity was necessary to recognize fundamental equality
and homogeneity of human being able to perform various kinds of labour.
However, this basis of our recognition need not be interpreted that the
obtained conception of funadamental human nature as just limited to a modern
capitalist soceity. Fundamental human right in egalitarian principle should
be applicable to premodern societies, upon the recognition that human being
have basically common ability to make up conception and to execute labor in
various forms unlike other animals. This is a reson why we should oppose to
class societies.
On the other hand, are our capitalist societies actually so movile from the
view of lower working class family members? Capitalist societies are not
really a liberated human society.
>First, if social labour is a reality in all societies, as you obviously
>think it is, what analytical gains are made by also introducing 'abstract
>labour'. Why don't we directly talk in terms of social labour?

Social labor must have dual character. Beside its concrete useful forms, it
must have another dimension as commensurable to be counted, aggregated and
distributed in terms of labour-time. Rubin called this charater social or
physical labour, multiplying the concept of labor. So long as social labor
is commensurable, it must also be abstracted from concrete useful forms of
labour. On what ground can we then conceive such abstraction?
In my reading, Marx sticked to dual character of labour in treating both
premodern societies and a future image of associational society as well as
capitalism throughout Capital.
Analytical gains are not a few. For instance, when we think of the rate of
exploitation following Marx's chapter 9 in the first volume in Capital as a
social ground of class societies, with critique of them together with a
cpitalist societies, we must have such commesurable dimension of labor. What
is wrong if we read the dimension of such conception in terms of abstract
labor? In conceiving an associational socialist societies, we need to have
conception of commesurable quantities of labor in many ways. If abstract
labor exists really only in a capitalist society, how do you theoretically
deduce another sort of commensurable character of human labor? If you manage
to do this, then we have to think further how the concept is qulitatively
and quantitatively deifferent from abstract labor in capitalism. Whereas,
even if we recognize abstract labor as transhistorical character of human
labor, we have to investigate how it is specifically treated in a capitalist
society, or in a certain forms of economy like in Soviet. In these regards,
the real tasks for our investigation may not very far remote between us.
>Second, variation in the distribution of social labour, if it is a
>principle applicable to all human societies, must have taken place through
>very different social mechanisms. Does this have a bearing on the
>ontological and analytical status of 'abstract labour'?

This is an interesting issue. Probably, as Braverman pointed out, the
funadamental human ability with liguistic conception in performing so wide
range of concrete forms of labor from very ancient ages must be a basis for
common character of abstract labor. I think that the 'old reduction problem'
concerning complex labor should be reconsidered from this basic human
nature, to present an stronger egalitarian groud for economic democracy.

>Third, the form of value (price, money, etc) is also met in great many
>societies. Is this connected with abstract labour, in your view?

In my view, the forms of value originate from inter-social trade since very
old historical ages. The dual character of labor exited in contrast as the
substancial intra-social economic activity in any social formations. The
close relationship in a social scale between them did not exist in a
precapitalist social formations. This is why Uno and his followers try to
show the social law of value within a capitalist society. However, it must
be conceivable and inferred that in a repeated exchange of commodity
products from very old age would be regulated more or less in relation with
the costs of production in terms of labor as the substance of value.

>Fourth, as an example, Malinowski discussed thoroughly production
>activities in the Trobriands. Most production was extremely elementary
>agriculture. If we adopt your approach, we must recognise 'variation in
>social labour' - Trobrianders who scratched the earth with wooden sticks
>one week might fish with rough canoes the next and cut coconut trees with
>stone axes after that. Most output would be consumed within the family or
>given as gift along kinship lines. What exactly might be the social reality
>and the relevance of abstract labour in such a context?

This reminds me of Marx's usage of Robison Crusoe story in the section of
Fetishism. There must be necessity of allocation of labor time which is
necessary to support his family. This can be used as a reference model for
various forms of calss societies and for the future socialist society.

All the best,


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