Questions on Chapter 1 (Das Kapital)

Paul Cockshott wpc at
Thu Aug 10 22:18:26 MDT 1995

Social construction of time and value

The recognition that value was congealed labour time, was
according to Marx, impossible for Aristotle to see, since
he lived in a slave society in which the abstract equality
of human labour was unthinkable.

Now that you point out the issue of the measure of time,
it is probably also the case that only after the invention
of clocks could one take the other component - time - as
a measurable abstract concept.

Clocks existed in antiquity but they were rare, and the
idea that short time durations were measurable would have
been known only to astronomers. This would be another
reason why the labour theory of value had to wait until
the dawn of the capitalist age.

However, the fact that it could had not been discovered
did not mean that value did not exist. With the benefit
of hindsight, we can see that abstract social labour
exists wherever there is a social division of labour,
and wherever commodity production exists, the need for
the regulation of this social labour expresses itself
in exchange values.

It is an open question just how the law of value operates
in a slave society. As to the Phonecians, since large
scale chattel slavery was not well developed in their
day, the analysis of commodity value presented in
Chap 1 would probably have applied.

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