Heinrich's Intro to Capital

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yourmum
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Apr 24 2012 11:43

you dont respond to a negative sentence by contradicting its positive form. and no i dont need to see it from a systemic standpoint, tell me why i should. the system doesnt think for itself, making up interests that are not the same as real interests of the actors of a system is higher nonsense.

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ocelot
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Apr 24 2012 13:39

Then I guess the directors of the ECB are the high priests of higher nonsense?

But you are correct, they at least get paid for looking at the question of credit from a systemic viewpoint whereas you don't. So if you are as keen on conventional neoclassical model of rational expectations as you are on their methodological individualism, your question of "why should I?" understood as "what's in it for me?" is unanswerable. Unless, of course, you were seeking to understand the workings of the capitalist system from a communist perspective, rather than an Austrian school one... roll eyes

LBird
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Apr 24 2012 13:42
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the system doesnt think for itself, making up interests that are not the same as real interests of the actors of a system is higher nonsense.

'The system' might not 'think for itself', but 'social systems' have 'interests' that are not the same as the 'interests' of the components of that 'system'.

That is the whole point of the notion of 'emergence' within the social philosophy of 'social realism', which I think is the best way for Communists to characterise the social world.

FWIW, I'm coming to think that the best way to understand Marx's ideas about 'value' is by regarding 'value' as an emergent property of the capitalist economy.

Although, I'm open to correction from Khawaga, on this tentative point...

As for 'the actors', structures embody the 'real actions' of dead actors. This isn't 'higher nonsense', whatever that might be.

yourmum
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Apr 24 2012 14:20

ocelot, your turn for a logical argument would be to prove that nobody has a material interest in what the ecb does. this when all of capital is hanging at their mouth at every statement they make and the stock exchange plummets or rises simply from having their expectations fulfilled or not. you simply dont say that the "systemic viewpoint" those ecb director have is the success of accumulation of capital in their dominion. this is why the system and the material interests actually are the same in your "argument" when the theory was that interests that ARE NOT material interests of actors in the system are higher nonsense. this is all very fishy because we were talking about the theory that capitalists want to sell to workers of other capitalists and that in opposition to selling to whoever buys the stuff.

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ocelot
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Apr 24 2012 14:57

Well, on a more meta- level, my real problem with your approach, is this tendency to transform originally rational insights (i.e. that much speculative or metaphysical nonsense has been talked, over the years, in the name of the Hegelian Totality) into dogmatic clubs to be used in the pursuit of politics as a game of ideological Whac-A-Mole. Every question is always closed with this approach, no openness can be tolerated, nothing can be problematized. When the primary purpose of the ideology is not liberation but the demonstration that everybody not in your particular tendency is either a cretin or an enemy, the results are sterile and boring.

But to return to the immediate discussion. My point was that, historically the emergence of central bankers (and many other roles) came not from the immediate "real interests" of the then capitalists, but the systemic problems (repeated banking crises, etc) that eventually convinced them that it was worth creating a body whose job it would be to try and manage the systemic problems. The key here is the order of causation: systemic crises -> (political) realisation of new common interest. Which brings me to my second point - your notion of "real interests" that appear as a given from "material reality", prior to any process of collective interpretation (political composition) that makes interests intelligible. On this second point, I'm really just repeating the points I made over on the "middle class" thread.

In summary, I find your rigid dichotomy between "real interests of real actors" (real) and "systemic interests" (false) to be unsustainable. The result is circularity. You say that central banks exist to manage the systemic problems of credit control, interest rates, employment, growth and other macro-economic criteria, because it is in the real interests of the central bankers and their capitalist and state backers, to do so. This is circular - if it exists, then it must be in someone's "real interest" that it does.

yourmum
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Apr 24 2012 15:20

yes because it only makes sense the other way around. interests that have NO material basis are IDEOLOGY. of course all pursued interests have a material basis. I was proving to you the "systemic interests" are the real interests of capital. but the point of the argument (which you completely missed when you decided to get involved here and i credit you for this) is that if someone describes interests that are nowhere to be found in society and says those are systemic interests (why dont you stick to the original example?) this is a hint for bullshit.

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Khawaga
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Apr 24 2012 15:29

yourmum; working on appearances since 1860.

yourmum
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Apr 24 2012 15:33
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yourmum; working on appearances since 1860.

?

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ocelot
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Apr 24 2012 16:08
yourmum wrote:
[...]if someone describes interests that are nowhere to be found in society and says those are systemic interests (why dont you stick to the original example?) this is a hint for bullshit.

Because it depends what you think the original question was that we should be sticking to.

If it was RC's assertion that

Quote:
The fact that capitalists are in competition doesn't contradict their common interest. [...] But the profit motive is not created by competition. Its the other way around.

Then that would be interesting to discuss. Along with the questions that Angelus and RC were originally debating - i.e. the legitimacy, or no, of presupposing common interests amongst the capitalist class (that override, or even marginalise completely, the role of intra-class competition in the dynamics).

But if the "original example" you latched onto, is your contention that capitalists have no interest in selling their goods to other capitalists workers (see also advertising industry, for e.g.), then I'm afraid I find it too trivially wrong to be worth discussing any further.

yourmum
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Apr 24 2012 16:22
Quote:
The fact that capitalists are in competition doesn't contradict their common interest. [...] But the profit motive is not created by competition. Its the other way around.

that is correct.

my point was that capitalists are indifferent to whom they sell, be it their own workers, other capitalists workers, capitalists or aliens, they dont care bedause they care about sales and get no advantage from selling to a special group preferably / only / whatever.

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if someone describes interests that are nowhere to be found in society and says those are systemic interests [...] is a hint for bullshit.

if you dont dispute this then we have nothing to "problematize" because that was my point and if the original poster didnt mean to say capitalists have a SPECIAL interest in selling to other capitalists workers then i misunderstood the intent of the contribution.

Angelus Novus
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Apr 25 2012 19:56
LBird wrote:
That is the whole point of the notion of 'emergence' within the social philosophy of 'social realism', which I think is the best way for Communists to characterise the social world.

FWIW, I'm coming to think that the best way to understand Marx's ideas about 'value' is by regarding 'value' as an emergent property of the capitalist economy.

I think it's interesting you say this, because this was exactly what I thought when I read Steven Johnson's popular book on emergence many years ago. It prompted me to read Manuel Delanda's A Thousand Years of Non-Linear history, and I was annoyed that Marx's value theory is precisely the aspect of Marx that Delanda rejects. Of course, Delanda reads Marx's value theory as a theory of equilibrium price, and of course understands it in "substantialist" terms. But the whole Deleuzian tradition is very weak on the idea of social form, if not entirely dismissive.

Sorry for the digression...

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Khawaga
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Apr 25 2012 20:46
LBird wrote:
FWIW, I'm coming to think that the best way to understand Marx's ideas about 'value' is by regarding 'value' as an emergent property of the capitalist economy.

Although, I'm open to correction from Khawaga, on this tentative point...

When did I become the arbiter of Marxian truth? Ask Dr. Kapital instead of me wink

Anyway, yeah I think that's a sensible approach to understand value today. Indeed, I think it would help a lot if we started using different metaphors and conceptual approach than organic and biological ones he borrowed from Darwin amongst others. If Marx had been writing in the 1960 maybe he would've used the language of information theory and cybernetics; after the 1970s perhaps graph theory and chaos theory.

RedHughs
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Apr 25 2012 21:12

Well,

It seems like it misses something to say either that capitalism is just, is only, an impersonal system moving according to the blind hand of the market or that capitalism is simply, is only a conscious device of the bourgeois acting as a whole to maintain their power. Taking only one or the other viewpoint is a simplification that works against us.

The terminology of (much-hated) "Dialectics" has, uh historically, been used in describing the tension between these two aspects of capitalist relations (autonomous system and conscious class rule). It would indeed be nice to come with a more elegant and exact approach than Hegel's terminology. But revolutionaries do need a terminology, a systematic way to discuss the phenomena if we are going to avoid both simplifications. Graph theory, Chaos theory and systems might indeed be useful approach. However, it's worth noting that it is just as just to produce mystical baloney with this framework as with the terminology of dialectics.

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Khawaga
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Apr 25 2012 21:14
RedEd wrote:
Graph theory, Chaos theory and systems might indeed be useful approach. However, it's worth noting that it is just as just to produce mystical baloney with this framework as with the terminology of dialectics.

Sure it can, but I was more talking about keeping the dialectics and replace Marx's biological metaphors/language with something that is perhaps (culturally and historically) more easy to understand today.

yourmum
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Apr 25 2012 21:51
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autonomous system and conscious class rule

the autonomous system would then be the unconscious class rule. is that to mean they have to be marxists to consciously class rule?

RedHughs
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Apr 26 2012 01:52
Khawaga wrote:
RedHughs(actually) wrote:
Graph theory, Chaos theory and systems might indeed be useful approach. However, it's worth noting that it is just as just to produce mystical baloney with this framework as with the terminology of dialectics.

Sure it can, but I was more talking about keeping the dialectics and replace Marx's biological metaphors/language with something that is perhaps (culturally and historically) more easy to understand today.

And I wasn't saying it was a bad idea (with or without original dialectics), it's an appealing idea. It is simply that if one does it, one needs be careful about being rigorous.

RedHughs
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Apr 26 2012 01:57
yourmum wrote:
Quote:
autonomous system and conscious class rule

the autonomous system would then be the unconscious class rule. is that to mean they have to be marxists to consciously class rule?

Uh, why not quote at least a single full sentence, then you might get some relation to what I wrote.

I hope it's reasonably clear that I'm saying the rule of the bourgeois is neither fully a collective conscious act nor is it entirely unconscious. It's a mix, just as individual bourgeois both attack other bourgeois for their personal benefit and unite with other bourgeois to attack the proletariat.

LBird
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Apr 26 2012 08:09
LBird wrote:
FWIW, I'm coming to think that the best way to understand Marx's ideas about 'value' is by regarding 'value' as an emergent property of the capitalist economy.

.

Angelus Novus wrote:
I think it's interesting you say this, because this was exactly what I thought when I read Steven Johnson's popular book on emergence many years ago.

.

Khawaga wrote:
Anyway, yeah I think that's a sensible approach to understand value today. Indeed, I think it would help a lot if we started using different metaphors and conceptual approach than organic and biological ones he borrowed from Darwin amongst others.

Yeah, I think 'value' only makes sense when it's explained as part of a human relationship, rather than as a property of a 'thing' (as for bourgeois psychological notions of an individual estimating what the 'value' of something is to them).

And regarding ‘human relationships’, the concept of a stratified society of social relationships having properties at different levels which ‘emerge’ from relationships (ie. these properties are not present in the individuals themselves) seems to be the best way to explain ‘value’. And the ‘emergent property’ at one ‘level’ can’t be explained at a different ‘level’. Art can’t be explained at the atomic level, for example. It is reductionism to suggest otherwise. Society, and its emergent properties, can’t be explained at the level of the individual, as the bourgeois philosophers insist.

To take up Khawaga’s suggestion, one obvious ‘non-organic/biological’ but ‘human relationship’ metaphor is ‘parental love’.

A parent can buy a ‘bike’ as a ‘present’ for their child; but outside of the relationship it is only a physical ‘bike’. Its status as a ‘present’ can’t be separated from the relationship. If a bike is found abandoned in the street, its physical reality can be identified, but not its role within human relationships. Whether it is was a ‘present’ or just a personal mode of transport cannot be gleaned from looking at the physical appearance of the ‘bike’.

FWIW, this is the mistake I think that jura made in the discussion with Rosa the other week about the newly-discovered antique chair. A ‘chair’ is a ‘thing’, not the residence of a relationship. To the question, “What is the chair’s ‘value’?”, the simple answer is, “It, as a thing, doesn’t have any ‘value’”.

Within the bounds of this explanation, a ‘commodity’ can only be understood at the level of a ‘present’, not at the level of ‘bike’. As a ‘present’ passes from parent to child and displays the act of ‘loving’, so a ‘commodity’ passes from worker to capitalist and displays the act of ‘exploitation’.

Is a ‘bike’ a ‘present’ or a ‘commodity’? We can’t tell by examining the bike in isolation, with our own individual eyes, in the empiricist mode of positivism.

It’s only in the movement between humans that both ‘presents’ and ‘commodities’ can be understood, and it is the moment of transfer that illuminates both ‘love’ and ‘value’. Neither ‘love’ nor ‘value’ themselves can be seen or touched, only their manifestations within human relationships.

Of course, ‘love/loving’ is an emergent social quality that we wish to encourage, whilst ‘value/exploitation’ is an emergent social quality that we wish to suppress.

Khawaga, Angelus Novus, jura, ocelot, etc., … do you think that this explanation works?

andy g
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Apr 26 2012 08:52

not specifically in response to LBird's post but....

isn't this whole exchange a repetition of the whole "subject/object" or "structure/agency" dichotomy that has plagued bourgeois social theory and variants of the marxist tradition alike? Personally I think the transformational model of social action proposed by Bhaskar (and Giddens, Archer and others) is the best available solution to this conundrum. I take it the use of the term "emergence" signifies LBird is acquainted with this theoretical paradigm? Alex Callinicos has offered a version of it explicitly associated with historical materialism in his book "Making History" if anyone is interested.

On the whole "systemic logic" vs "class interest" debate - surely only agents can be considered have "interests" as these arise from the interaction of "needs and wants" with objective circumstance. It is an example of the "functionalist fallacy" to attribute qualities of human agents (needs or interests) to social systems so in that sense Your mum is right. However modes of productions as "ensembles of human relations" display emergent systemic properties, endowing social actors with specific powers and giving rise to mechanism through which social relations are reproduced/transformed through human action whether intentionally (socialist revolution) or unintentionally (workers sells labour power, buys consumption goods, realising value and surplus value embodied in commodities, reproducing capital/labour relation).

surely it's relatively "unproblematic" (don't kill me Yourmum!) to say that there are contradictions (ditto Rosa!) between the interests of individual capitalists and the conditions for the optimal reproduction of capital? hence individual bosses - say thise producing consumer goods for workers - may berate the lack of effective demand for their goods as this limits their ability to realise surplus value embodied in their commodities and at the same time resist wage rises in their own firm to maintain the rate of exploitation?

right, rambling and possibly incoherent post over...

LBird
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Apr 26 2012 09:11
andy g wrote:
...surely only agents can be considered have "interests"...

.

andy g wrote:
...the interests of individual capitalists and the conditions for the optimal reproduction of capital...

Surely, andy, you're using 'conditions for' as a synonym for 'interests of'?

That is, the 'interests of the structure' of capitalism 'contradict' the 'interests of the capitalists' themselves?

You're right about Alex Callinicos and Margaret Archer on 'social realism', 'stratified reality', 'emergent properties' and 'systemic contradictions'.

FWIW, they both quote the conservative sociologist Auguste Comte's dictum that 'most social actors are the dead', and seem to see 'structures' as built by preceding generations, which then enable and constrain individuals in the next.

'Men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing'

Now, who said that?

yourmum
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Apr 26 2012 09:32

this contradiction is the theme of bourgeois vs citoyen, they private material interest vs the interest in the condition of the private material interest which tends to come out as a contradiction to the private material interest.

marx said that, LBird. where can i get my cookie.

andy g
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Apr 26 2012 09:42

LBird:

I guess marxists have become habituated to using language like the "needs" of the system and so on - it shouldn't conceal an important conceptual distinction though. we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful. then it's a slippery slope to the "laws of history" guaranteeing the victory of socialism - Kautsky rides again!!

andy g
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Apr 26 2012 09:43

LBird:

I guess marxists have become habituated to using language like the "needs" of the system and so on - it shouldn't conceal an important conceptual distinction though. we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful. then it's a slippery slope to the "laws of history" guaranteeing the victory of socialism - Kautsky rides again!!

doh!!!! double post!

LBird
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Apr 26 2012 10:03
andy g wrote:
we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful.

You're completely correct, andy!

As both Archer and Callinicos (and other social realists) make clear, only humans are actors, and a 'structure', by itself, does nothing.

But to capture the powers of and constraints upon actors, we need the concept of 'structure'.

A structural role (teacher?) both empowers and limits what the individual filling that role can do, within the confines of the structure (educational system?).

The 'role' does nothing, and the person filling the role can reject the constraints to some extent (the teacher can have an affair with a pupil), but examining the role within a structure can tell us alot about what the actor is very likely to do.

The only people who have a problem with this sort of thinking are those infected with bourgeois individualism, god bless 'em!

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Apr 26 2012 12:45
andy g wrote:
LBird:

I guess marxists have become habituated to using language like the "needs" of the system and so on - it shouldn't conceal an important conceptual distinction though. we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful. then it's a slippery slope to the "laws of history" guaranteeing the victory of socialism - Kautsky rides again!!

Very true. For the record, I should point out that people were originally talking about systemic imperatives before yourmum intervened and assumed that was equivalent to talking about systemic interests. (this could possibly be partly a language and translation issue).

I definitely agree that interest (or needs) should be attributed to agents, not systemic emergents. Especially to make the point (see again discussion on m/c thread) that interests necessarily require the subjective apprehension and articulation of living agents. i.e. that there are no "class interests" that can be taken as given, from the objective situation directly, prior to the political composition of a class perspective.

LBird
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Apr 26 2012 13:20
ocelot wrote:
I definitely agree that interest (or needs) should be attributed to agents, not systemic emergents. Especially to make the point (see again discussion on m/c thread) that interests necessarily require the subjective apprehension and articulation of living agents.

I'm not sure that I agree completely with you here, ocelot.

While you and andy are correct to stress the need for a 'living agent' (I think we all agree that 'structures' do nothing, in themselves), but you seem to think that the 'living agent' is always completely conscious of their acts, possibilities and choices.

It seems to me that a 'structure' does have 'interests', and if an occupant of a structural position acts against those 'interests', they quickly find themselves removed. I'm pretty sure that other actors within the structure perceive its 'interests', without the actors being fully conscious of 'why' they are following them. I'm sure that the 'interests' of 'dead actors' are embodied in structures, often to the detriment of the living, even those within the structure.

Isn't this the point about 'capitalism' being out of human control?

Or an army armed with outdated weapons and using outdated tactics, sending its troops to certain death, which then sees the army commanders also captured and killed? The original actors who created the 'interests' of that army were already long dead, but, as a structure, it carried on regardless, to its destruction, following its own logic, embodied in the (now mistaken) ideas of its members.

Isn't it at this social level where we can talk about 'contradictions'? Perhaps it is a matter of semantics, though.

yourmum
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Apr 26 2012 14:01
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It seems to me that a 'structure' does have 'interests', and if an occupant of a structural position acts against those 'interests', they quickly find themselves removed

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fragging

andy g
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Apr 26 2012 14:41

LBird

I don't think structures have interests as these should be seen as products of the interaction of the desires and wants of agents and the specific structural position they occupy in a determinate social context. For instance, a worker may want wage rises, job security, a decent pension etc. Her class position dictates realising these wants requires collective organisation and class struggle - these are the worker's class interests. A given worker may, however, believe these wants are best accomplished by toadying up to the boss, seeking promotion etc and that everyone else should follow suit. Her subjective perceptions are here at odds with her class interests given the nature of the capitalist system means her chosen course of action will not lead to the desired end. I guess this is the only basis on which a concept of "imputed class consciousness" makes sense without the assumption marxists understand the subjective needs and desires of other workers better that they do themselves.

whilst social relations are the outcome of human action they are also it's precondition. critical realists have argued that we shouldn't collapse one into the other but see them both as interdependent but distinct causalities. that's why I think we have to be careful about seeing structures as embodying the interests of a "dead actor". not sure what the interests of a corpse are anyway???

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Apr 26 2012 14:44
LBird wrote:
Yeah, I think 'value' only makes sense when it's explained as part of a human relationship, rather than as a property of a 'thing' (as for bourgeois psychological notions of an individual estimating what the 'value' of something is to them).
[...]
To take up Khawaga’s suggestion, one obvious ‘non-organic/biological’ but ‘human relationship’ metaphor is ‘parental love’.

A parent can buy a ‘bike’ as a ‘present’ for their child; but outside of the relationship it is only a physical ‘bike’. Its status as a ‘present’ can’t be separated from the relationship. If a bike is found abandoned in the street, its physical reality can be identified, but not its role within human relationships. Whether it is was a ‘present’ or just a personal mode of transport cannot be gleaned from looking at the physical appearance of the ‘bike’.

FWIW, this is the mistake I think that jura made in the discussion with Rosa the other week about the newly-discovered antique chair. A ‘chair’ is a ‘thing’, not the residence of a relationship. To the question, “What is the chair’s ‘value’?”, the simple answer is, “It, as a thing, doesn’t have any ‘value’”.

Within the bounds of this explanation, a ‘commodity’ can only be understood at the level of a ‘present’, not at the level of ‘bike’. As a ‘present’ passes from parent to child and displays the act of ‘loving’, so a ‘commodity’ passes from worker to capitalist and displays the act of ‘exploitation’.

Is a ‘bike’ a ‘present’ or a ‘commodity’? We can’t tell by examining the bike in isolation, with our own individual eyes, in the empiricist mode of positivism.

It’s only in the movement between humans that both ‘presents’ and ‘commodities’ can be understood, and it is the moment of transfer that illuminates both ‘love’ and ‘value’. Neither ‘love’ nor ‘value’ themselves can be seen or touched, only their manifestations within human relationships.

Of course, ‘love/loving’ is an emergent social quality that we wish to encourage, whilst ‘value/exploitation’ is an emergent social quality that we wish to suppress.

Khawaga, Angelus Novus, jura, ocelot, etc., … do you think that this explanation works?

Up to a point. It's a good illustration of how objects can be the bearer of social relationships without that relationship necessarily being something you can deduce from examining it's material body.

Second, the example of a gift is useful in that it makes clear that this feature of a material thing being the bearer of a social relation, is not just a feature of modern capitalism, but is present in many different types of societies (modes of production). Because gifts and the giving of gifts long predates capitalist social relations.

There are two limits to your example as it stands. One is the difference between a human relationship and a social relationship, which I will come back to in a minute. The other is that the example of the gift is best used to illustrate the nature of value by contrast, rather than by comparison. If the transmission of objects to children through a relation of parental love is a human relation found in many different social forms (nearly all of them, in fact), the exchange of commodities and value is specific to capitalism. What matters then, to understand value, is what is specific to this particular social relationship, what makes it different from all others that have at one time or another been conveyed between people through the circulation of material objects (kula ring, moka exchange, potlatch, etc).

Lets get back to the difference between human relationships and social relationships. Human relationships are personal relationships between two or more people. There is a limit to how many human relationships each person can realistically maintain (see Dunbar's number, etc). A social relationship is the relationship between the people, things, culture and information flows that make up a society. A far larger number of people can be interrelated by social relations, than by human relations.

Simple test. Look around your main living space. Try and see how many different individual made things there are in that space. Imagine that each individual made thing was magically transformed into all the people that had a hand in its making. Unless you lead a very spartan existence that forswears possessions with the rigid discipline of a sādhu, that's a lot more people than could fit in your room. You'd need a square. A big one. And even if they were all gathered in that square, the numbers would overwhelm your ability to shake each one of them by the hand and ask their name, whether they were married, had kids, were happy with their work, etc.

People get a little antsy with the "anti-humanism" of people inspired by the post-structuralists, whether it's the provocative ideas of Actor Network Theory, or post-Deleuze and Guattari "machinic assemblages" theories. But really, the idea that social relations are not just relations between people, but at the very least, between people and material things, is right there in Chapter 1.

So although a gift can be a bearer of a social relationship - as in the Moka exchange of PNG - in the case of parents giving a present to their child, it is more by way of a human relationship (let's not get tied up in the question of familial relationships and their interaction with wider social relations, just for the moment). In a human relation, a link is made between particular people and does not really have any meaning abstracted from those particular people. With value it is very different. The commodity breaks the relationship between creator and consumer by means of exchange. The relationship becomes not just social, but exclusively so, shorn of any particularity. It becomes a universalist relationship. Anyone with the money for a can of Coke can have a can of Coke, exactly the same quality can of Coke whether you're a billionaire or a beggar, without any need to be someone's daughter or son, or part of some gang or society or any particular interpersonal relationship. Instead of having a person, or persons, at both ends of the relation, there is now only one at one end, the other end is tied into the impersonal generality of the market. To a person trapped in a tightly-bound, oppressive system of interpersonal relations of deference, duty, obligations and restrictions, the fetishised commodity symbols of capitalist anonymity (blue jeans, trainers, cola, cars) can be associated with freedom. (think of the Saudi woman who wears her Levis and a risqué Dolche & Gabbana t-shirt under her burqa). If that sounds like neo-con propaganda, then in some ways it is - although they usually stick to the fetishistic power of the American/"Western" commodity as symbol. But of course, there's the other side, the dark side. The very impersonality of the generalised commodity economy means there's no easily identifiable figure to eliminate or escape from, to escape the domination of the social relation.

Value expressed the contradiction between the social nature of production (social division of labour) and the private appropriation of the results of production. The social nature of production makes the circulation of the products absolutely necessary. But the defence of the private appropriation of the products makes this impossible through the political means of agreed redistribution. Hence the necessity for exchange, the separation between the spheres of production and distribution (the economy) and politics. Exchange is the re-distribution of the social product in the mode of denying socialisation of the social product. The end result is that value, rather than being the subjective expression of our desires, stands before us transformed into its opposite - an alien force, implacably indifferent to our subjective desires. The source, not of our freedom, but our slavery and exploitation.

RC
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Apr 26 2012 15:13

This discussion seems unnecessarily complicated.

We would probably all agree that capitalists by definition have the goal of profit; that is their interest, their personal purpose as capitalists. They want to enrich themselves. We would probably also all agree that the capitalists, as competitors with this same objective, conflict with each other, often quite fiercely, with some losing and others succeeding. Our disagreement begins with what we say about the “systemic imperatives” of capitalism and our criticism.

That the conscious agents of capital have a “common interest” in profit is not contradicted by the fact that they are in competition, but that they compete for the same thing. This competition creates those “behind their backs” imperatives which capitalists are “subordinated” to – nothing more than the results of them pursuing their interests.

To avoid misunderstanding: Yes, in capitalism the social relations are removed from people and control them. The law of value develops consequences that are not aimed at by anybody. And it is true that Marx writes this way: this is a society in which commodities control people instead of vice versa. This is a critique that can be found in Capital; but it is not the critique (even if it is the one that Marxist philosophers and sociologist from the Frankfurt school on down have taken a selective interest in). What it misses is: if humans are not the masters of their relations, what sort of relations are they? What are the goals of these social relations?

Take the imperative that Angelus pointed to: that a capitalist encounters a declining purchasing power on the market when other capitalists cut wages. But what is the capitalist “subordinated” to do when he faces this “imperative”? To use his means more effectively, i.e. to exploit labor power more intensely. He is subjected to nothing but his own interest.

By contrast, what do the systemic imperatives mean for the workers? Workers also pursue their interests in this system (wages) as competitors, but in doing so, they give up the goal they compete for. They are forced to the opposite: they sacrifice their interest when they try to be successful in competition.

That's why it is an inadequate criticism to say, as Angelus does:

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… but capitalists are certainly subordinated to systemic imperatives. But pointing that out does not mean that they have an interest in ending the system the way workers do.

Capitalists simply have no interest in ending the system! It is their system!