Value: Joustin' for agreement

Scott Marshall Scott at
Mon Jun 5 16:08:12 MDT 1995

>4) " Exploitation is (wrongful) appropriation of a surplus
>produced by labor." While you and I may feel that
>exploitation is wrong, Marx was extremely clear in his analysis that
>capitalist exploitation is not wrong. That is the difference between
>studying him in Sunday School and studying him in evening class.
>Possibly 3/4 of the subscribers to this list may assume that Marx
>thought exploitation wrong. I hope some will challenge this point so
>we can clarify it. I suspect that if this point is not understood it
>is not possible to understand Marx's law of value in commodity society.

This depends entirely on what you mean by wrong. And IMO is a silly
distinction to make. Marx clearly was trying to show how the mechanism of
exploitation worked. He was disputing Ricardo and others as to how to
explain how value was created by labor and how it was appropriated by the
capitalist, to explain where profits come from in essense. If you mean that
he never meant wrong in the sense of immoral, I suppose not. It was simply
how the system worked. It was part of the process of development. To try and
identify the laws of development does not mean sitting in moral judgement of
them to be sure. **BUT** Marx spent a major part of his energies trying to
organize to overthrow the system of capitalist exploitation. His famous
"philosophers have tried to understand the world" quote is essential Marx.
So did he think that capitalist exploitation is wrong in the sense that it
should be changed for a different system to end exploitation of human by
human - of course he did.

I think the main frustration here is similar to the frustration of the
'legal marxist' in pre-revolutionary Russia. The main frustration is thick
headed folks who won't go quietly into the mush of 'nuanced, rounded off,
prettiffied' and ecclectic marxism. Who won't treat Marx's writings as some
kind of bible text that has mystical powers to mean all things to all who
would proclaim themselves 'saved' by marxism. At times this seems to me to
be a Talmud-like discussion of the very fine points of biblical marxism.
Again with the fercockted sunday school. Were you beaten as a young man by
half literate chimney sweeps with huge red bulcous noses when you got your
verses of 'Capital' wrong.....<deadpan>

>There is a trap in reading of these sections of failing to
>realise that the particularly concrete discussion of hours and minutes is
>a discussion of abstract, not of actual labour. It is theoretically
>dangerous to jump from one to the other. Actual labour varies considerably
>in the extent to which it can yield the same utility per hour, both as
>a result of variation in the constitution of the worker and a great
>multiplier effect very relevant nowadays, from the relative degree of
>productivity of the way the work is organised, including the technology.

Isn't this what is meant by 'socially nescessary labor time?" Or have we
missed a way to render Marx more mystical and biblical?

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