value

Chris Bailey chrisbailey at gn.apc.org
Thu Sep 1 22:14:51 MDT 1994


I have finally managed to make some sense of the Swiss phone system
and have now managed to connect back to the net. (The man in the
computer shop said "keep swapping wires until something works!")
Unfortunately, I still haven't figured out how to send Ray Misra some
chocolate by email! By the way, Ray, I totally agree with you on
Michael Moores TV NATION. The series in running on British TV at the
moment and I am upset at missing a couple of episodes.

I didn't propose to make a lot of comment from here, but Steve has
tempted me into a post.

First of all, Steve, I am sending you my snailmail address so you can
send me the papers you refer to. I agree that I need to read these to
understand your position completely.

At the moment, the quotations you throw at me from both Marx and
Engels *after* the publication of _Capital Vol I_ have no effect. We
are both clearly reading our own interpretation into these quotations.
You see them as confirming your position and I see them as confirming
mine.

As I said before, the quotations from _Grundrisse_ are different; they
do appear to show that at that time Marx saw use-value as quantitative.
>From my viewpoint, the sharp contrast I see with the later writings
prove that he later discarded this position. It does confront me,
nevertheless, with the necessity of attempting to trace the evolution
of Marx's thought on this question. When I first read _Capital Vol I_,
the _Grundrisse_ was not available in English (I am probably a lot
older than you!). When it became available I read avidly the sections
where Marx deals with his general method, but largely ignored the
sections you quote from. I simply dismissed them as outmoded by his
later work. In hindsight, that was clearly a mistake. The evolution of
Marx's concepts is obviously an important aspect of understanding his
method, which has been my main concern.

This requires some work on my part and I wasn't going to comment
further until I had done this. However, I think you shot yourself in
the foot in a couple of your recent posts, and I can't resist pointing
this out. I stress that I don't have any books here with me, but, on
the face of it, you seem to be doing a good job of proving my point
for me!

First of all, in your mail to me, you quoted one of your papers
saying:

> "later developments of his dialectic as it relates to
> value-creation tarnished rather than polished the tool, obscuring the
> fundamental contradiction it uncovered in his labor theory of value."

In your later post to Gene, you make it clear what you mean by this:

> What I dispute is that the logic in the Grundrisse contained mistakes,
> while that in Capital was correct. I argue that the reverse is the
> case, primarily because when Marx tried to use the uv/ev analysis
> to prove that labor was the sole source of surplus--which meant
> prioving that the means of production only transfered their own
> value--he couldn't do it... without making an error in the logic.

However, having told us that you dispute that "the logic in the
Grundrisse contained mistakes", you then proceed to expose a "logical
mistake" *in the Grundrisse* in your post to Juan, repeated in a post to
d.jones.

> "The only use-value, i.e. usefulness, which can stand opposite capital
> as such is that which increases, multiplies and hence preserves it as
> capital... the opposite of capital cannot itself be a particular
> commodity, for as such it would form no opposition to capital, since
> the substance of capital is itself use-value; it is not this commodity
> or that commodity, but all commodities." [Grundrisse, p. 271.]
>
> We agree that abstract labor isn't a candidate (though I am sure we
> have different reasons for so concluding). However, it's interesting
> to look at the reason that Marx had for believing that abstract labor
> was the substance of value, using the above logic. Immediately after
> the paragraph I quoted above, he says that the joint substance of
> all commodities:
>
> "as commodities and hence exchange values, is this, that they are
> objectified labour... The only use-value, therefore, which can form
> the opposite pole to capital is labour." (p. 272.)
>
> There is an obvious logical mistake here: Marx's analysis of the
> source of surplus was solely in terms of commodities (of which
> labor-power is one, albeit very special); he has concluded that
> the opposite of capital "is not this commodity or that commodity,
> but all commodities"; and yet he concludes that a single commodity
> is the opposite.

I agree that there is a logical mistake here in the Grundrisse. It is
one that Marx later resolved before publishing _Capital Vol I_. You
have totally ignored the way he did resolve it and have proposed your
own solution which is the *complete opposite* of that of Marx.

The logical error arises from Marx, at this time, seeing *labour* as a
commodity. First of all, Marx proves that a particular commodity
cannot be the opposite of capital. He then shows that *all
commodities* are the opposite of capital insofar as they are
objectified labour and that labour is the "opposite pole to capital".
Here he strongly affirms the labour theory of value, but leads himself
into the trap of now having to state that a particular commodity,
*labour*, is the opposite of capital, thus contradicting his first
premise.

You claim that the only way out of this logical contradiction is to
drop the labour theory of value. But this is something that Marx
*stubbornly refused to do*. He regarded it as central. Instead,
*exactly because* he refused to drop it he was able to ultimately make
a far more profound analysis than that contained in Grundrisse. He
ultimately grasped that *labour* itself was not a commodity. The
commodity with the unique ability to produce more value than its own
value was *labour power*. He was then able to analyse the two aspects
of this commodity as *concrete labour* (Substance) and *abstract
labour* (Magnitude).

It is surely this that Marx was referring to when he said, according
to you yourself, that the "best thing in Capital" is the "distinction
between abstract labour and concrete labour". This was a vital and
difficult development in his analysis over earlier work. It was made by
resolving the logical errors in the Grundrisse that you at first deny
the existence of, but then proceed to pinpoint. Marx resolved these
logical errors whilst *completely retaining* the labour theory of
value.

You tell us Marx believed the distinction between abstract and
concrete labour was the best thing in _Capital_, but you yourself
seem to constantly confuse this distinction. At first, I thought this
was just a slip of the pen (keyboard?), but now I am not so sure.

In your post to me, you say:

> The logic behind the bait was that I contend that Marx saw the
> application of the uv/ev dialectic and the abstract labor/concrete
> labor distinction as near synonyms

I would agree that they are near synonyms in a certain sense - except
that the terms in one of them needs reversing. Concrete labour is the
use-value of the commodity labour power. The abstract labour contained
in the commodity labour power determines its exchange value. This use
of the uv/ev dialectic only treats labour power as any other commodity
and ignores its unique features. I think Marx was referring to the
analysis in Capital of these unique features, but that is not my point
here.

Was your reversal of the terms in the dialectic merely a slip? Am I
just being pedantic? At first I thought so, but on further reading of
your posts I suspect not. You seem to exhibit a total sloppiness
towards "the best thing in Capital" and treat the precise scientific
terminology *ultimately* used by Marx as completely unimportant. When
Marx uses the term _labour_ in Grundrisse you simply substitute
_labour power_, ignoring Marx's error. Your equation of the use-value
of labour, _concrete labour_ with a *quantity* of labour and your
reference in your post to Juan to _abstract labour_ as the *substance*
of value convey, I think, muddled conceptions that Marx may have
partly shared in the _Grundrisse_, but, I insist, overcame in _Capital
Vol I_.

Chris Bailey


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