Juan Inigo jinigo at
Fri Sep 2 01:09:30 MDT 1994

So Steve Keen has finally produced the secret source of his claim that

>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.

from which

>The foundation of my critique is that the simple but profound logic
>of Marx's dialectic of the commodity can lead only to the result
>that all inputs to production are potential sources of surplus

According to Steve, this secret source is Marx himself. He presents the
following quotation as an incontestable evidence:

>"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.]

Steve thus concludes:

>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.

Could Marx, always so meticulous in his developments, really fall into such
a crude contradiction? For the answer, just fill in the blanks above the
doted line in Steve's quotation with Marx original text (as I haven't got
the English edition, my translation may differ in the words from the
published one, but this is not the point at stake here):

'... The only use-value, i.e. usefulness, which can stand opposite capital
as such is that which increases, multiplies and hence preserves it as
        In the second place. Capital is money, by definition, but money
that does not any longer exists under its simple form of gold and silver,
nor even as money in opposition to circulation, but under the form of all
substances: commodities. Therefore, thus far, capital does not contradict
use-value, but, beyond money, it only exists in use-values. These
substances that belong to it are now, therefore, perishable, they would not
even have exchange value at all if they have no use-value; *as use-values*
they lose their value, they dissolve themselves through merely natural
physicochemical processes if they are not really used, or they completely
disappear if they are really used. *From this point of view (Nach dieser
Seite),* 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 every commodity. The communal substance of all commodities, i.e.,
*their substance not as material stuff*, as physical character, but their
communal substance as _commodities_ and hence _exchange values_, is this,
that they are _objectified labor_. The only thing that is opposed to
_objectified labor_ is _non-ovjectified_ labor, ..., _labor_ as
_subjectivity_. ... The only use value, therefore, which can form the
opposite term to capital is _labor (to be exact, value-creating labor, that
is, productive labor_. (Grundrisse, Dietz Verlag, pp. 182-183) (*emphasis

Where has Marx's 'from this point of view' gone in Steve's quotation. And
'this point of view' precisely is that of the material production process
of capital. Outside circulation, every commodity (including labor-power
itself) is opposite as a use-value to the capital materialized in it
because this use-value is going to be brought to its term, naturally or in
production. The specific social determination that makes sense of this
opposition through which capital must change its material form to achieve
its only aim of self-increasing its value, only enters the exposition once
that material opposition has been developed. So only after this stage in
the development of commodities as the unit of use-value and value is
reached, does labor-power appear determined as a specific commodity (which,
as its use-value is to produce exchange value, is in itself the realization
of that, up to then, not yet developed 'use-value determined by exchange
value itself'). From the point of view of the material production process,
capital is opposed to every commodity. From the point of view of the
valorization process (that is, capital as such) capital is opposed to the
very specific commodity whose use-value is socially determined as the
capacity to produce the corresponding general social relationship, i.e.,
value: labor power.

If any methodological contradiction is involved in Steve's quotation of
Marx, it doesn't concern Marx, but the proper rules of scientific quoting
that exclude isolating a part of a text from its meaningful context.

Obviously, Steve will go on supporting his conception that all commodities
are the source of surplus-value if this is what he finds. But instead of
resorting to a mass of isolated quotations and claiming for some Marx's
incoherence, it would be much more fruitful if he presents to the list the
dialectical development of the real determinations involved. And, of
course, as Marx does, I don't call dialectical development to state some
sort of 'now it's quantity, now it's quality', 'now it's use-value, now
it's surplus-value', but to reproduce in thought the development of the
real necessity that transforms an abstract real form into a concrete one,
thus turning this concrete form itself into a potency to be realized.

There are at least two questions that any theory stating that the use-value
of all commodities is the source of surplus-value must face:

a- Value is the specific historical way through which the society of the
private independent producers allocates its total capacity to labor under
its specific concrete forms. The development of commodities into capital is
nothing but a specific form of this allocation, where all human potencies
are alienated into capital's potencies. If the abstract labor materialized
in the commodities wasn't the whole substance of their value (that is, of
their capacity to relate among themselves in exchange, thus relating their
producers), or if it has ceased to be such under capitalism, which is the
general regulation of present-day social metabolism process and, rather,
what real value, real commodity form (not their theoretical
representations) are about?

b- Use-value is what determines a real form as a means for the human social
metabolism process. So it inherits in the materiality of the real form in
question. Being value, and its specific form surplus-value, nothing but
pure social relations (that is, the social coordination of human life), how
could the materiality of the means of production acquire the capacity to
produce social relations or to become itself a social relation?

Two final points. Steve writes

>We agree that abstract labor isn't a candidate (though I am sure we
>have different reasons for so concluding)
(for the substance of value)

Is it my turn to be the victim of a chopped quotation? What I said was:
>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.

So I'm certainly not included by the 'we'.

Steve adds:

>Fetish analysis is something which has its place as a critique of
>ideology under capitalism

Marx discovers that the alienation of human potencies as potencies inherent
in the materiality of their products (commodities), and then as capital's
potencies, arise from the very historical specific nature of commodity
production. In it, material production is at the same time the production
of the general social relation. So the development of the determinations of
value and use-value is in itself the development of the critique of
ideology under capitalism. Allow me this time to quote Marx:

'The vulgar economist ... flees from capital as value to the material
substance of capital; to its use-value as a condition of production of
labor, to machinery, raw materials, etc. Thus he is able once more to
substitute in place of the first incomprehensible relation, whereby 4=5, a
wholly incommensurably one between a use-value, a thing on one side, and a
definite social production relation, surplus-value, on the other, ... As
soon as the vulgar economist arrives at this incommensurable relation,
everything becomes clear to him, and he no longer feels the need for
further thought. For he has arrived precisely at the "rational" in
bourgeois conception.' (Capital, Vol. III, Progress Publishers, 1966, pp.

Juan Inigo
jinigo at


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