value

Juan Inigo jinigo at inscri.org.ar
Tue Aug 23 06:24:45 MDT 1994


        Chris Bailey writes

>In the heading to section I, Marx makes totally clear using
>very precise categories from Hegel's _Logic_ with which he was
>extremely familiar, that his intention is to begin his work by
>analyzing the two factors of a commodity, use-value (the Substance of
>value) and value (exchange value - the Magnitude of value).

and Steve Keen agrees with him in that Marx ...

>found that it was possible to hold that use-value was the Substance
>of value and exchange-value the Magnitude of value in general

        I will extend here my previous reply to Steve concerning value.

        What Marx makes totally clear in section I (and not precisely by
using some Hegel's logical categories but by reproducing the real
determinations of the commodity in thought, though I will not specifically
consider the question here) is that use-value is certainly not the
substance of value.

        A commodity is the specific historical form that the general social
relationship (that is, the general regulation of the process of human life)
takes when human material productive forces are sufficiently developed so
as to make the regulation of social life overcome the scope of direct
personal relations, but not developed enough to be directly consciously
regulated as a collective force of the freely associated individuals.
Commodity production is at the same time a material production and the
production of the general social relation, the production of use-values and
the production of value.

        Being a use-value is what determines a real form as a means for the
human social metabolism process, whichever the specific social form through
which this process regulates itself may be. So use-value has no way to
provide commodities the substance for their historically specific
determination as today general social relationship. But abstract labor as
such lacks this same historical specificity: regardless its specific social
form, any use-value produced by human labor is a materialization of human
nerves and muscles, of the general, therefore, abstract, human capacity to
work. So (precisely contrary to what any, or specifically marxist, labor
theory of value would state) abstract labor cannot be the substance of
value by itself, either.

        As Marx discovers, what makes abstract materialized labor the
substance of value is that, in commodity production (where no general
direct social relationship among individuals exists), this labor is
represented as the capacity of the commodities to relate among themselves
in exchange and, through this, to socially relate their producers.
Consequently, their own social relations fetishistically appear to the
producers of commodities as potencies inherent in the materiality itself of
their products. Where, but in this fetishism, does taking commodities'
materiality, that is, their use-value, as the substance of their specific
social form that makes them be such commodities, belong?

        Steve's conception of use-value as the substance of surplus-value
is nothing but an attempt to follow this fetishistic image of commodity
through the development of commodity into capital, where all human
potencies take concrete form as capital's potencies. Chris, your struggle
against this alienation of human potencies will be hopelessly undermined if
you don't start by discovering it in its very roots.

Juan Inigo
CICP
jinigo at inscri.org.ar



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