[Marxism] work - ability - needs

Angelus Novus fuerdenkommunismus at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 13 16:22:52 MDT 2008

S. Artesian:

> The core, the physical, social attribute of exchange

> value is the universal, egalitarian nature of 
> labor-time.

There is a lot of muddle in this sentence.

First of all, you're muddling the difference between
"value" and "exchange-value".  They are not synonymous
terms.  "Exchange value" as used by Marx in chapter
one merely denotes the particular quantity of one
particular commodity that exchanges for a particular
quantity of another commodity, e.g. "20 yards of linen
is the exchange value of 1 coat".

Value, on the other hand, is the common factor of two
commodities that exchange for one another.  The
*substance of value* is abstract human labor.

So what you *meant* to refer to above is actually "the
physical, social attribute of *value*".

But even then, you would be wrong, because abstract
labor is not a physical quantity existing in the
sphere of production.  Charles Brown likes it when I
quote from _Capital_, so I will do so here:

"It is only by being exchanged that the products of
labour acquire, as values, one uniform social status,
distinct from their varied forms of existence as
objects of utility."

The process of exchange is a process of real
abstraction by which the various concrete acts of
labor that are involved in creation of commodities are
disregarded so as to become components of the total
aggregate labor of society.  Again Marx:

"This division of a product into a useful thing and a
value becomes practically important, only when
exchange has acquired such an extension that useful
articles are produced for the purpose of being
exchanged, and their character as values has therefore
to be taken into account, beforehand, during
production. From this moment the labour of the
individual producer acquires socially a twofold
character. On the one hand, it must, as a definite
useful kind of labour, satisfy a definite social want,
and thus hold its place as part and parcel of the
collective labour of all, as a branch of a social
division of labour that has sprung up spontaneously.
On the other hand, it can satisfy the manifold wants
of the individual producer himself, only in so far as
the mutual exchangeability of all kinds of useful
private labour is an established social fact, and
therefore the private useful labour of each producer
ranks on an equality with that of all others. The
equalisation of the most different kinds of labour can
be the result only of an abstraction from their
inequalities, or of reducing them to their common
denominator, viz. expenditure of human labour power or
human labour in the abstract."

Equalization of social labor is something that exists
in societies in which exchange is *generalized*, not
some sort of anthropological constant valid for all
human societies which is then "perverted" in
capitalism, as you seem to imply when you write things
like the following:

> Capitalist production, again at its very core,
cannot > directly validate the direction, expenditure,
> "worth" of the labor-time so aggrandized, so  
> alienated.

Finally, one more thing to nit-pick:

> But this is an alienated form of social labor

There should be some sort of ban on Marxists using the
word "alienated" in this sort of context.  The
Feuerbachian notion of humanity's "species being" are
the basis on which Marx employs the "alienation" term
as denoting an "alienation" from this "species being"
in the Parisian Manuscripts.

But Marx & Engels *broke* with Feuerbachian notions in
the German Ideology, and as much as I disagree with
Charles that GI constitutes the foundation of a
science of "historical materialism", I do agree that
it represents a break with the notions of "human
nature" found in the Parisian Manuscripts.  This
*specific* use of the term alienation is not to be
found in the critique of political economy, because
Marx's entire problematic has changed.


More information about the Marxism mailing list