[OPE-L:2264] Re: Re: Re: value-form theories and fetishism

From: riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Date: Fri Jan 21 2000 - 08:40:16 EST

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At 13:23 +0100 21-01-2000, clyder wrote:
> >
>> I would appreciate the shortest answer you may give for 'why *labour* in
>> the asbtract labour theory of value?'. The reference to Classical
>> Economy is worrying me. Smith has the idea that labour is the source of
>> value, because labour is the *active* element in production, in whatever
>> mode of production. This cannot be Marx's perspective (I hold with
>> Napoleoni that in capitalism labour is included in the technical structure
>> of capital, which is the only 'producer' of wealth).
>It is striking to me how people can read diametrically opposite meanings
>into an authors work.
>You say that Marx's perspective is that labour is incorporated into
>the technical structure of capital and that is is capital that is the only
>producer of wealth.
>I understood him to be saying precisely the opposite - that capital
>is just labour and that labour is the source of all value. As to capital
>being the source of all 'wealth', marx explicitly denies that labour
>is the source of all wealth, saying that nature is also a source of
>wealth, this precludes capital being the source of all wealth.
>I took the whole thrust of his theory of fetishism to be that what
>appears as exchange value relations and the production of 'value'
>is an alienated reflection of the social division of labour.

It is more complicate. Yes, capital is just (dead) abstract labour, sucking
living labour; yes, (living) labour is the source of all (new) value.
Hence, living labour is the whole and capital, proceeding from surplus
value, is the part. But the specifically capitalist mode of production is
one in which the 'matter' of labour has been made adequate 'content' to the
value-form. This happens with the real subsumption of labour to capital. At
this point, labour does not produce any wealth, IF NOT AS INCLUDED IN THE
TECHNICAL STRUCTURE OF CAPITAL. In the latter, as variable capital is a
part of capital as a whole, so concrete labour is a part of the material
structure of capital. Wealth now is produced by capital, and only by
capital. Concrete labours and use values are now the most adequate bearers
of abstract labour and value in process.
>Far from capital being taken as the source of value, Marx deconstructs
>the category of capital into two components variable and constant
>capital. Variable capital is nothing but present labour and contant capital
>is past labour.
>> I would like to
>> understand how the systematic dialectical presentation explain why labour
>> is the source of *value*, a statement which I hold is valid *only* in
>> capitalism.
>Do you have any historical evidence to back this assertion up?
>Have you studied the history of prices in pre-capitalist economies and
>demonstrated that they were regulated by something other than
>labour content?
>Or are you just engaging in speculation.

May be. My argument is in full in my paper on labour in Marx, IJPE 1998.
>If labour is only the source of value under capitalism you have
>difficulty analysing the transition from feudalism to capitalism.
>In the transition process, money capital arising from usury and
>mercantile activity confronts peasants driven from their land
>by enclosures etc. Whilst capitalist production is a minor
>element of the total production, what governs the exchange
>value of commodities?

Certainly, not abstract labour, which rigorously speaking is commanding
social production with the real subsumption of labour to capital. It is
only at that point that capital becomes the necessary 'whole' of society.

>How indeed could the value in the form of money that is
>being transformed into capital exist at all?
> >On the contrary, if value is constituted (only) in
>> exchange, without nothing 'substantial' before, I understand that Marx's
>> idea of exploitation (in production) vanishes.
>In that case you have a Bailey not Marx.

BTW, I was exactly thinking of closing my phrase with the comment you are
adding-up! So, at least on this point, we agree.


        Riccardo Bellofiore
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