[OPE-L:5826] Re: commodities, money, and value

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Fri, 12 Dec 1997 09:55:20 -0500 (EST)

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I also made a mistake by not sending the following to the list./ In
solidarity, Jerry

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 08:24:44 -0500 (EST)
From: Gerald Levy <glevy@pratt.edu>
To: Paul Cockshott <wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk>
Subject: [OPE-L:5826] Re: commodities, money, and value

Paul C wrote on Fri, 12 Dec:

> With respect Gerry you are begging the question. You are saying that
> because the definition of a commodity implies that it exchanged it
> must have exchange value.

No, I am saying that the definition of a commodity *requires* that it
must have exchange value. (btw, I don't think I am begging the

> This still begs the question as to how it came to be a commodity
> in the first place,

Products can be *presumed* to be commodities before exchange (I believe
Mike W called that process "pre-commensuration"), but the real transition
from product produced under capitalist conditions to real commodities
occurs in exchange (e.g. no one can determine with certainty whether a
product has use-value prior to exchange).

> and why things which have use value but no value, say spring rain
> or summer sunshine are not commodities.

Yet you in your previous post (yesterday) suggested that issues related to
this category of goods and rent are at a different level of abstraction.

> Since value is a precondition of exchange value, if one restricts ones
> attention to things that already have
> exchange value one fails to consider the other categories of interest
> 1. things which have no value and hence can not become commodities

One can, we have, and we can again discuss issues related to that
category of goods.

> 2. things which have value, but which do not become commodities
> because they are produced under non-capitalist social
> relations

Prior to, during, or following capitalism?

> > Without money, what is there to measure?
> Social labour time.

Time can be measure with a "stopwatch", as Andrew K has said before. The
category of "social labour time", though, requires that the labour be
SNLT. For the labour to be socially-necessary under capitalism it must
also have use-value and the value-form. Money is thus a unique way of
measuring value under capitalism -- rather than the trans-historical
category of time.

> but the proposition that money is just a
> historically transitory way of doing this is a basic premis of the
> communist political stance.

One doesn't need a "communist political stance" to come to that
conclusion: all one needs to do is to historically examine different
pre-capitalist social formations to determine that money can be done away
with since many of those societies did do without money.

> Communism holds that money is going to be abolished and
> replaced by the direct and conscious regulation of social labour time.

Yes, there will be social labour time under socialist and communism (if we
ever get there), but the understanding of what social labour time is will
itself change (I anticipate).

> > It can't be value since the
> > category of value (and capital) under capitalism necessarily requires
> > money. E.g. without money, how can we get M - C - M'?
> Why are we, as critics of capitalism supposed to restrict our conceptual
> view to its narrow horizons.

In the first instance, we attempt to understand social reality in thought.
For us, capitalism is reality. It is therefore our first task to
understand that reality (so that we can then change that reality). Thus,
understanding how there is the movement from M to M' is not an example of
"narrow horizons."

> > You see the category of value as logically preceding the categories of
> > the value-form and money. I assert, rather, that all of these categories
> > are mutually dependent and dialectically related.
> If you take this view you will never be able to understand socialist
> economic relations.

I don't see how.

In solidarity, Jerry