Value = Abstract Labour

Chris Burford cburford at
Fri Oct 6 07:38:55 MDT 1995

I very much appreciate Paul's latest post 

last para:

Thus although the value ( in quotes ) of a
commodity is a historically specific form,
because the commodity is a historically specific
phenomenon, the underlying substance that
constitutes value is both common to different
modes of production, and a property of all
humanly produced useful articles.

I would only add the words at the end "..or services".

Highly abstract though the statement is, it is not academic.

It opens the door to a wider and more flexible understanding of 
marxism, in the context of the whole social fabric of society.

It allows for example a discussion of the wages for housework debate,
and can illuminate the markedly different positions of men and women in 
commodity society.

It can embrace some of the wider discussions by more recent 
continental European writers whose terminology I do not exactly follow
but which Jon has drawn on interestingly in talking about "cultural

It has echoes for me of Paul's startlingly interesting analysis that
suggested the British National Health Service, just being broken up,
had elements within it that were, capitalistic, socialistic, and 

It can explain how people in war and catastrophe can quickly fall back 
into other forms of social interaction than those mediated through 
commodities and the cash nexus. 

It places in context the otherwise wooly and liberal appeals to 
community spirit in societies disintegrated by commodity exchange, as 
well as the almost tribal gatherings of the fascist right.

It explains how the relentless march of commodity exchange into every 
corner of the Amazon, and every crevice of life, eats the heart out of 
the psychosocial fabric in which human beings spontaneously try to locate
themselves. And why human beings retaliate and fight back in all sorts of
ways, not just against capitalist exploitation, but against the 
dehumanising effects of rampant commodity exchange.

Paul, you probably don't agree necessarily with 3/4 of this, but thank
you for your contribution. I do hope you can find a way to continue to 
subscribe and to skim. I have a response to your paper in the archives
on democracy that I was waiting to post when you returned. If you 
have to unsubscribe, please let me know if you would like it sent 

Chris B, London.

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