[Marxism] Heinrich

Ed George edgeorge1963 at gmail.com
Sun Feb 17 08:48:32 MST 2013


If the substance of value is socially necessary labour, measured in 
time, this substance has no *objective* existence outside of exchange, 
in which value manifests itself in objective form as physical quantities 
of other commodities. This is the distinction between value, and 
exchange-value, the latter being the physical quantity of the commodity 
for which a given commodity is exchanged, and, when the other commodity 
is the money commodity, which is its price. If labour is the measure of 
value it is the *immanent* measure of value, its exetrnal measure being 
precisely price. (And the failure to understand that price and value, in 
this sense, are not different things but different fors of existence of 
the same thing is what lies behind the so-called 'transformation problem'.)


* * *


 From my notes on volume 1, chapter 1:

The bodily form of the commodity is a material object. But insofar as it 
is a commodity, a commodity is also a bearer of value. Thus, insofar as 
it is a commodity, a commodity has a dual form: a bodily form, and a 
value form. Now, the substance of the value of the commodity is abstract 
human labour, and its magnitude the quantity of abstract labour socially 
necessary for its production: but what is the *form* of its value? How 
does value express itself? How can it be ‘seen’, or ‘got hold of’?

Commodities possess the character of values only insofar as they are 
expressions of ‘an identical social substance, human labour’: their 
character as values is thus a *social* character. ‘From this it follows 
[...] that it can only appear in the social relation between commodity 
and commodity’ (p. 139), i.e. in *exchange*.

What does this mean? We have seen that the *substance* of the value of 
the commodity is abstract human labour, and its *magnitude* the quantity 
of abstract labour socially necessary for its production. However, it is 
not *adequate* to say that the value of commodity A is x units of 
socially necessary labour, since labour is not the measure of value, it 
is value: the value of a certain quantity of commodity A = x units of 
socially necessary labour is the same as saying that the value of a 
certain quantity of commodity A = the value of a certain quantity of 
commodity A, and we have resolved nothing.

What Marx argues is this. A commodity is at the same time *both* a 
use-value (and its use-value is the sum of the distinct – qualitative – 
properties that make it different from every other commodity), *and* a 
value. But, unlike the specific properties which comprise use-value, 
value, which is composed of human labour considered abstracted from its 
qualitative properties, is a quantitative property that commodities 
share in common. Marx argues that therefore commodities can exist *as* 
values only to the extent that they are composed of this common *social* 
substance, human labour, and that, therefore, value itself is a *social* 
phenomenon that, despite its objective existence, only manifests itself 
in the social *exchange* of commodities.

Let us try and say this in a different way. The equation ‘the value of a 
certain quantity of commodity A = x units of socially necessary labour’ 
is a tautology precisely *because* it treats the commodity abstractly in 
isolation. But commodities cannot ever exist in abstract 
isolation[‘[T]he exchange-value of commodities [...] only exists where 
*commodity* occurs in the plural, [in] different kinds of commodities.’ 
‘Notes on Adolph Wagner's “Lehrbuch der politischen Ökonomie”’, p. 26.] 
since they are produced *for* exchange, and only ultimately realised 
*as* commodities *in* exchange. The existence of a commodity logically 
presupposes the existence of at least one other with which it can 
theoretically be exchanged. As we have seen, the equation ‘the value of 
a certain quantity of commodity A = x units of socially necessary 
labour’ can be reduced to ‘the value of a certain quantity of commodity 
A = the value of a certain quantity of commodity A’, which in turn is 
the same as saying that ‘a certain quantity of commodity A = a certain 
quantity of commodity A’; but all this says is that a certain quantity 
of a commodity is equal to certain quantity of the same commodity 
*considered as an object of utility*, i.e. it pertains solely to 
use-value, but says nothing about the *value* of the commodity. With 
respect to the value of a commodity the formulation is a tautology 
precisely because commodity A as a commodity will never be exchanged for 
itself, but always for *another* commodity.

 From this (argues Marx) it follows that value can only be expressed, 
can only be ascertained, can only manifest itself, when a commodity 
enters into an exchange relation with another commodity.

‘Not an atom of matter enters into the objectivity of commodities as 
values; in this it is the direct opposite of the coarsely sensuous 
objectivity of commodities as physical objects. We may twist and turn a 
single commodity as we wish; it is impossible to grasp it as a thing 
possessing value. However, let us remember that commodities possess an 
objective character a values only in so far as they are all expressions 
of an identical social substance, human labour, that their objective 
character as values is therefore purely social. From this it follows 
self-evidently that it can only appear in the social relation between 
commodity and commodity.’ (pp. 138-9)

Marx notes that what he has done is start with the exchange relation 
between commodities in order to identify the value concealed within it. 
Now, he will return to the exchange relation, to further investigate the 
form of manifestation of value.


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http://readingmarx.wordpress.com/




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