[Marxism] William Cockshott

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Sat Feb 16 17:52:46 MST 2013

William Cockshott  wrote

 > but in the book I am reviewing Heinrich only presents one quote to 
support > his interpretation that monetary demand is a condition of 
social necessity.
This is simply untrue. Heinrich's determination of abstract labor is the 
basis for his argument of Marx's value theory as a monetary theory of 
value (a term originating in Backhaus' work).

Here are the quotations that you ignore:

1)[neither coat nor linen] "is in and of itself value-objectivity, they 
are this only insofar as that this objectivity is commonly held by them. 
Outside of their relationship with each other -- the relationship in 
which they are equalized -- neither coat nor linen possess 
value-objectivity or objectivity as congelations of human labor per se." 
(MEGA 2.6:30)


2)"a product of labor, considered in isolation, is not value, nor is it 
a commodity. It only becomes value in its unity with another product of 
labor." (MEGA, 2.6:31)

3)"It is only by being exchanged that the products of labour acquire a 
socially uniform objectivity as values, which is distinct from their 
sensuously varied objectivity as articles of utility" (Capital Vol. I:166)

And, a sentence that is included in the official French edition of 
Capital (the last edition personally supervised by Marx during his 
lifetime), but not in any of the English translations or in the MEW 
German edition:

4)"The reduction of various concrete private acts of labor to this 
abstraction of equal human labor is only carried out through exchange, 
which in fact equates products of different acts of labor with each other."

(MEGA II.6:41)
Novus, these are obvious and uncontroversiial points Marx is making here 
that in no way support Heinrich's interpretation of abstract labour.

1) Clearly unless a coat is exchanged against money or another commodity 
it is not acting as a commodity, and does not have an exchange value but 
that does not mean that it is not the product of human labour in 
general, labour that is part of the social division of labour.
2) Same applies here - there is no commodity without commodity exchange.
3) Again unless things are exchanged they have no exchange value, but 
this does not support Heinrich's claims about abstract labour.
4) Yes, in a commodity producing society the only routine operational 
procedure by which the labour content of goods is measured is via 
exchange, but that does not preclude having an independent measurement 
of the labour content - provided you have adequate statistical 
observational data.

If you can not independently measure labour content you dont have a 
scientific theory of value, you are just saying price is price is price 
- isn't the market marvellous.

Heinrich sets out two objections (on page 42) to Marx's LTV on grounds 
that it does not (to him) explain 1) the value placed on a plot of 
virgin soil or 2) the value of a work of art not being (to him) 
accountable in terms of labor time expended. I am surprised. Obviously, 
virgin soil, as opposed to a piece of barren desert, has value because 
of the contemplated working up of that fecund soil by human labor, and 
the socially necessary labor time involved, in order to produce salable 
commodities on it. And the work of art has value because of a whole 
complex of esthetic judgments and preferences which are part of the 
immense social structure which grows from and is in dynamic reciprocal 
relationship with the prevailing mode of production, in some ways 
trans-historically. And we don't ignore how works of art have entered 
into the capitalist valuation because of their contemplated value in 
enhancing capital accumulation as commodities; in a somewhat analogous 
relationship to the assigned value of products of financial speculation. 
None of that vitiates the seminal grounding and therefore the vital 
importance of labor as the basic, all-important, ultimate determinant of 
value in the capitalist mode of production.

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