[OPE-L:1745] Re: RE: value form


Subject: [OPE-L:1745] Re: RE: value form
coslap@aueb.gr
Date: Fri Nov 26 1999 - 09:56:48 EST


Makoto's message raises a number of complex issues. I offer a response and
suggest further analytical directions below, in capitals to make it easy to
read.

Cheers

Costas

At 03:07 PM 11/26/99 +0200, you wrote:
>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
>^^ϭ : [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.

MY READING OF MARX IS THAT HE SUGGESTED THAT ARISTOTLE COULD NOT RECOGNIZE
THE SUBSTANCE OF VALUE (DESPITE BESTRIDING THE CENTURIES ETC ETC) BECAUSE
ABSTRACT LABOUR DID NOT EXIST IN CLASSICAL GREEK SOCIETY. IT IS NOT ONLY A
MATTER OR RECOGNITION BUT ONE OF SOCIAL REALITY. ANCIENT SOCIETY PRECLUDED
SYSTEMATIC COMMENSURATION OF SLAVE AND FREE LABOUR NOT SO MUCH BY
PRESERVING CERTAIN ACTIVITIES FOR SLAVES (THOUGH THAT HAPPENED TOO, E.G.,
IN MINING) BUT BY ENSURING THAT SLAVES PRODUCED THE BULK OF SURPLUS (PART
OF WHICH WAS TRADED). AGRICULTURAL LABOUR FOR THE MAJORITY OF FREE CITIZENS
(CERTAINLY IN CLASSICAL ATHENS) RESULTED IN PRODUCE THAT WAS MOSTLY
CONSUMED WITHIN THE FAMILY (OIKOS).

I AGREE WITH YOU THAT PURPOSEFUL CONSCIOUS LABOUR SETS HUMAN BEINGS APART
FROM OTHER ANIMALS, AND THAT ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE EQUAL IN THIS RESPECT.
BUT IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THERE MUST ALSO BE MECHANISMS THAT MAKE THIS
EQUALITY A SOCIAL REALITY. IT IS TRUE THAT CAPITALISM DOES NOT DO THIS
FULLY BUT IT DOES IT INCOMPARABLY MORE THAN ANY OTHER SOCIETY. MOREOVER, IT
DOESN'T DO IT FULLY BECAUSE IT DOES IT THROUGH COMMODITY PRODUCTION, HENCE
BLINDLY, ANARCHICALLY, AND AS A PROCESS THAT IS BEYOND HUMAN CONTROL.
ABSTRACT LABOUR IS AN IMPORTANT CONCEPT IN THIS CONNECTION (AND HAS STRONG
ATTACHMENT TO CAPITALISM) BECAUSE IT CAPTURES THIS THING-LIKE OBJECTIVITY,
THIS EQUALISATION OF HUMAN LABOURS AS SOCIAL PROCESS OUTSIDE CONSCIOUS
REGULATION.

>>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.

I DO NOT DISAGREE THAT SOCIAL LABOUR MUST BE COMMENSURABLE AND GENERALISED
ACROSS ITS CONCRETE FORMS OF EXISTENCE. MY CONCERN IS, WHAT ARE THE
CONDITIONS THAT ALLOW LABOUR UNDERTAKEN IN SOCIETY TO BECOME DIRECTLY
SOCIAL? UNDER CAPITALISM, THAT IS (MONEY-BASED) COMMODITY PRODUCTION -
PRIVATE LABOUR BECOMES SOCIAL BY BECOMING ABTRACT, THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.
BUT IN PAST SOCIETY, LABOUR COULD BECOME SOCIAL DIRECTLY THROUGH COMMAND
AND COOPERATION - THE PYRAMIDS ARE AN OBVIOUS EXAMPLE, BUT ANY KIND OF
COOPERATIVE AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITY ALSO BELONGS HERE. THE POINT IS, THESE
OCCASIONS WERE NOT, COULD NOT BE, GENERALISED. SOCIAL LABOUR HAD, AT BEST,
A PARTIAL, FRAGMENTARY AND TEMPORARY EXISTENCE. SOCIALISM COULD MAKE IT
HAVE A PERMANENT EXISTENCE THROUGH MUTUALLY AGREED CALCULATION OF TIME
EQUIVALENCES, SOCIAL PROVISION OF TRAINING COSTS FOR WORKERS, OPPORTUNITIES
FOR CHANGING JOBS, LESSENIGN OF DISTINCTION BETWEEN MANUAL AND MENTAL
LABOUR ETC. BUT THEN, WHAT IS THE RELEVANCE OF ABSTRACT LABOUR HERE? SUCH
LABOUR WOULD BE DIRECTLY SOCIAL LABOUR AND OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGED AS SUCH.
PERHAPS OUR DIFFERENCE HERE IS TERMINOLOGICAL BUT I THINK THAT WE SHOULD
MAINTAIN THE SPECIAL MEANINGS OF ABSTRACT LABOUR THAT I POINTED OUT ABOVE.

>>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.

THIS IS, OF COURSE, CONSISTENT WITH YOUR GENERAL POSITION. YET, FOR ME, IT
STILL DOES NOT PROVIDE A SOCIAL MECHANISM FOR EQUALISATION OF CONCRETE
LABOURS. RATHER, IT RECOGNISES THE ABSTRACT EQUALITY OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS
AND SEEKS TO ROOT IT IN A PROPERTY OF 'BEING HUMAN'.

>>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.

WITH THAT I BROADLY AGREE, AS YOU KNOW. BUT SHOWING THE VALIDITY OF THE
LAST SENTENCE CONCRETELY IS A MAJOR TASK. PERHAPS IT IS BETTER TO ARGUE
THAT THE SUBSTANCE OF VALUE HAS A MORE OR LESS DEVELOPED EXISTENCE (HENCE,
ALSO REGULATION BY COST OF PRODUCTION) ACCORDING AS SOCIAL AND HISTORICAL
CONDITIONS CHANGE.

>>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.

MY ONLY POINT HERE IS THAT ECONOMY OF TIME IS NOT FORMATION OF ABSTRACT
LABOUR. ALL LABOUR MUST APPLY SOME ECONOMY OF TIME UNDER ALL CONDITIONS -
IF IT IS TO BE PURPOSEFUL. BUT, IT SEEMS TO ME, THAT THERE IS NOT MUCH
ANALYTICAL MILEAGE TO BE GOT OUT OF THIS.

>All the best,
>Makoto



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