Juan Inigo jinigo at
Tue Aug 23 01:02:19 MDT 1994

        On defending his theory that use-value changes into surplus-value,
Steve Keen writes

>I can find no "insistence" here by Marx that use-value is always

        Why, of course, how could use-value, being a real concrete form, be
a purely qualitative form that lacks a quantitative determination? And,
vice versa, how could value, being a non less real concrete form, be a
purely quantitative form that lacks a qualitative necessity?

        Now, what about the qualitative determination of use-value? It is
the capacity a real form has to be appropriated in the human metabolism
process, that is, the capacity to be a means of human life. Which is
use-value's quantitative determination? The capacity to satisfy a human
necessity always belongs to a determined amount of the real form in
question, e.g. one pair of shoes, four hours, or four minutes, of some
Wagner's opera, etc.

        What about the qualitative (substance) and quantitative (magnitude)
determinations of value?

        Above all, human life is a social metabolism process. The
regulation of this process takes shape as the social relation among its
members. The historically determined absence of a general direct
coordination in the assignation and development of social labor determines
individuals as private independent producers. Insofar as purely such, they
have no way to get into relation by themselves to shape the social
metabolism process. These producers do not retain any social relation other
than being individual personifications of society's total capacity of
labor. This total capacity is, as such, the capacity of human labor in
general. The development of this capacity under its different concrete
forms is, thus, the development of the general social relation among the
private independent producers in an autonomously regulated social
metabolism process. In it, society assigns its total laboring capacity
among the different concrete labor modalities by representing the abstract
labor embodied in the products of the concrete labors carried out by the
independent private producers, as the capacity of these products to relate
among themselves in exchange and, therefore, socially relate their
producers. That is, the general social relation takes form in the
determination of the use values produced by labor as commodities; and the
abstract labor materialized in the commodities and in that way represented,
becomes the value of commodities.

        As a determined magnitude of materialized abstract labor that
represents itself as the capacity of its product to relate with other
commodities, and therefore, necessarily taking shape in a determined
quantity of a different use value, the value of a commodity becomes its

        The commodity develops insofar as the concrete unit of its natural
form, use value, and its specific social form, its value form. In this
development, the exchangeability of commodities negates itself as simply
such, to affirm itself as the direct exchangeability only of the commodity
that all of them detach as their general equivalent, of money. And,
therefore, commodity production realizes its necessity by taking the
production of this general representative of value, the production of the
general social relation in its concrete manifestation, as its general

        Being value itself the general object of social production, the
capacity to produce value (that is, the capacity to work as a producer of
commodities, labor power thus historically determined) acquires the
possibility of becoming a use-value, only for someone different from its
natural owner. But this possibility still lacks a determination to become a
realized possibility: general labor productivity must be high enough so as
to make the value of a certain quantity of this new commodity (that is, the
abstract social labor materialized in it that represents itself as its
capacity to relate with other commodities, the labor socially needed to
produce it) to be of a lower magnitude than the value its consumption as
the specific use-value it is (productive consumption) is able to produce.
The surplus abstract labor materialized in its product that represents
itself as the capacity of this product to relate in exchange with other
commodities, surplus-value, entitles its owner to the correspondent share
in the total social product through the general social relation.

        The laborers realize the use value of the means of subsistence that
they indirectly get in exchange for their labor power, through individual
consumption. If this was just a production of commodities, individual
consumption would bring then to a complete end the general social
relationship materialized in those means of subsistence. But, as money
transcends into capital, social production becomes a production of more
value by means of value itself. This is no longer a production of use
values regulated by the condition of these as values. It is not even a
production of use values which is only a means for the production of
substantive value. This is a production of value in itself that yields as
its result the production of use values and, hence, of human beings. Then
the general social relationship is not exhausted with individual
consumption, but it reappears as the value of the workers labor power.

        The use value of the means of production (socially determined as
constant capital) is consumed in a production process which is not the
final step in the social metabolism process. So the portion of social labor
materialized in them still remains in the process of assigning the total
labor capacity of society among the multitude of its possible concrete
forms. In other words, the abstract labor materialized in those means of
production has still to complete its determination as a part of the social
labor capacity that has produced use-values. As such, it reappears in the
value of the use-values produced with them.

        In brief, use-value (the material determination of commodities) and
value (their specific social determination) remain all along their
development two qualitatively different real forms and, therefore, there is
no way to relate them through their respective quantitative determinations.
Not even an atom of use value, whether of simple commodities or of labor
power, can be transformed into the value of a commodity.

        Now the question is: which is the social necessity that can only be
satisfied by desperately looking for a theory that represents
surplus-value, that is, a specific form of today general social relation
(and as such, a purely human real form) as determined by the pure
materiality (use-value abstractly considered from the viewpoint of the
material production process in itself) of the means of production socially
determined as capital?

        A final observation: the results of the 'dialectics of
value/use-value', whatever this thing might be, suffice to show that Marx
couldn't have followed such procedure to discover the real determinations
of use-value and value by reproducing their development in thought.

Juan Inigo
jinigo at


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