Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Facets of Value, 3

The English translation of vol 1 of Capital that most of us have is not based on the the first edition of Capital, but on the 4th German edition.

If we look at a translation from that first German edition [the Marxist Internet Archive has one of Chapter 1, The Commodity, by Albert Dragstedt], Marx's language, analysis, and demonstration of the relative, equivalent, and value forms of the commodity are clear examples of Marx's extraction of the rational kernel from Hegel's dialectic.

Marx in this first chapter is explaining the most critical facet of his investigation into capital [which is why it is the first chapter] and his materialist dialectic- the interpenetration of form and substance, of identity and opposition are clear.

He writes:


The expression of the value of linen in the coat impresses a new form upon the coat itself. After all, what is the meaning of the value-form of linen? Evidently that the coat is exchangeable for it. Whatever else may happen to it, in its mundane reality it possesses in its natural form [coat] now the form of immediate exchangeability with another commodity, the form of an exchangeable use-value. or Equivalent. The specification of the Equivalent contains not only the fact that a commodity is value at all, but the fact that it in its corporeal shape [its use-value]counts as value for another commodity and consequently is immediately at hand as exchange-value for the other commodity..

Marx continues:

But commodities are objects. They have to be what they are in an object-like way or else reveal it in their own object-like relationships. In the production of linen, a particular quantum of human labour exists in having been expended. The linen's value is the merely objective reflection of the labour so expended, but it is not reflected in the body of the linen. It reveals itself [i.e., acquires a sensual expression] by its value relationship it to the coat. By the linen's equating the coat to itself as value-- while at the same time distinguishing itself from the coast as object of use-- what happens is that the coat becomes the form of appearance of line-value as opposed to linen-body: its value-form as distinguished from its natural form.
"..what happens is that the coat becomes the form of appearance of linen-value as opposed to linen-body"

The emphasis is in the original, as supplied by Marx.

Where does this get Marx? Where it always gets us-- back to the specific social organization of labor:

The use value coat only becomes the form of appearance of linen-value because linen relates itself to the material of the coat as to an immediate materialization of abstract human labour, and thus to labour which is of the same kind as that which is objectified within the linen itself. The object, coat, counts for it as a sensually palpable objectification of human labour of the same kind, and consequently as value in its natural form. Since it is, as value, of the same essence as the coat,the natural form coat thereby becomes the form of appearance of its own value. But the labour represented in the use-value, coat, is not simply human labour, but is rather a particular useful labour: tailoring.Simple human labour [expenditure of human labour-power] is capable of receiving each and every determination, it is true, but is undetermined just in and for itself. It can only realize and objectify itself as soon as human labor-power is expended in a determined form, as determined and specified labour; because it is only determined and specified labour which can be confronted by some natural entity-- an external material in which labour objectifies itself. It is only the 'concept' in Hegel's sense that manages to objectify itself without external material.
Here we have Marx's material extraction of the rational kernel from Hegel's dialectic. Human labor is capable of receiving every determination, and remaining human labor. But the labor can only realize itself as labour power embedded in the specific commodity. the labor can only realize itself as labour power, as an abstract quality-less expression when expressed in specific, determined material.

So the determination is two-fold-- as the concrete specific object of production, in all articles of production as value. It is the social determination, transforming labor into raw undifferentiated labor power, that contains the antagonism, the conflict, in Marx's word, the "contradiction" where labor power becomes opposite to and the negation of the power of labor.

S. Artesian November 23, 2010


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