Marx's dialectic

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Kambing
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Mar 11 2012 09:20
ocelot wrote:
So re the influence of who made/owned/originated a particular artefact having a big impact on it's social value. Agreed. The interesting question is, does this undermine the validity of the LTV, as some people think it does, is it "neutral" in that respect, or does it actually support the theory on some level?
...
The point is that these items are not commodities in the sense of being fungible use values produced by abstract labour (even if they may originally have been, like Lennon's specs). Their rareity and non-reproduceibilty is what gives them that anomalous exchange value.
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For me the continual elaboration of extreme examples of non-commodity items with absurd prices, is less evidence against the dominance of commodity-logic, than it's symptom.

I agree, and to continue this derail a bit, the art historian Julian Stallabrass has written some interesting stuff on the way the contemporary art market has been shaped by (neoliberal) capitalism even as--or especially as--it is held up as its opposite. The added exchange-value associated with specific authorship (etc) is often analysed as a form of 'monopoly rent'; David Harvey has an article from a few years back called 'The art of rent' which approaches it this way. However, especially within the 'creative industries' based on reproducible cultural commodities (as opposed to unique works of art), it gets difficult to disentangle their commodity value from the added monopoly rent. And I think the 'monopoly rent' for a failed artist could even be negative.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Mar 12 2012 00:29

SA:

Quote:
Tell us again how antiques have exchange value without use value

I see that you have once again ducked a question you can't answer:

Quote:
It seems that the only way you can extricate yourself is to widen your definition along these lines:
Quote:
A use-value is an object that has, is now, or could satisfy a human want, need, desire.

Ok, so I want it to be the case that wood is a use value for lightning. Hence, it is.

But, to answer your (spurious) question:

A woman buys a house and contents for $1,000,000. In the cellar there is an antique chair which she knows nothing about, and neither does anyone else. Five years later she sells the house and contents for $1,500,000, still knowing nothing of that chair.

Now according to your defective definition of use value (which, despite being warned to be careful, you unswisely put in the present continuous tense):

Quote:
A use-value is an object that satisfies a human want, need, desire,

that chair isn't a use value -- since it does not satisfy, and has not (for at least five years) satisfied a:

Quote:
human want, need, desire

And that's because no one knows about it.

Even so, it has an exchange value.

Now it's all the same to me if this has stumped you, but when, in x months or years time, you claim yet again to have answered all my questions, I will quote this conundrum back at you (and this page, too) to show you are just as full of hot air now as you were at RevLeft. smile

Kambing
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Mar 12 2012 01:55
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
And that's because no one knows about it.
Even so, it has an exchange value.

While the ownership of the chair may have legally changed hands due to the 'contents' being included in the sale, it clearly hasn't actiually been specifically factored into the exchange value. By your logic, used tissues that got left under the bed would also have an exchange value. Besides, typically in a home and contents sale the exchange value of the contents is not all precisely determined, presumably because the owner (or their agent) has decided that the time it would take to sell off the contents individually is worth more than the lost income.

Regardless of its legal status, unknown contents don't really factor into it at all. I mean, what if there was a lost $10 000 000 work of art hidden in the attic? Or several million dollars in cash? Has their 'exchange value' suddenly plummeted and then risen again? (Ok, presumably there may be laws that may exclude such things from the sale itself, I'm not sure). But the point is that exchange value and use value are both ascribed by human beings, they are social phenomena. It seems like your 'non-dialectical' approach is a bit metaphysical and fetishistic, with objects being magically imbued with value without any human action or thought whatsoever.

LBird
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Mar 12 2012 06:50
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
SA:
Quote:
Tell us again how antiques have exchange value without use value

I see that you have once again ducked a question you can't answer:

Quote:
It seems that the only way you can extricate yourself is to widen your definition along these lines:
Quote:
A use-value is an object that has, is now, or could satisfy a human want, need, desire.

Ok, so I want it to be the case that wood is a use value for lightning. Hence, it is.

But, to answer your (spurious) question:

A woman buys a house and contents for $1,000,000. In the cellar there is an antique chair which she knows nothing about, and neither does anyone else. Five years later she sells the house and contents for $1,500,000, still knowing nothing of that chair.

Now according to your defective definition of use value (which, despite being warned to be careful, you unswisely put in the present continuous tense):

Quote:
A use-value is an object that satisfies a human want, need, desire,

that chair isn't a use value -- since it does not satisfy, and has not (for at least five years) satisfied a:

Quote:
human want, need, desire

And that's because no one knows about it.

Even so, it has an exchange value.

Now it's all the same to me if this has stumped you, but when, in x months or years time, you claim yet again to have answered all my questions, I will quote this conundrum back at you (and this page, too) to show you are just as full of hot air now as you were at RevLeft. :)

Rosa, my tentative answer to your question would be that this issue of 'use value/exchange value' can't be addressed at the level of individual objects, whether 'known about' or not.

The theory is intended to explain exploitation at the level of society, and is not intended to compete with psychological theories of what individuals think of isolated objects.

I suppose the simple answer to your question is that 'it is immaterial'. [poor joke]

Your question is too reductionist, from the perspective of those who are attempting to understand structural relations within society.

FWIW Rosa, I think your general line of attack on 'dialectics' works; I'm not sure why some Communists constantly seek to defend what can only be described as meaningless obfuscation. Trying to answer your reasonable question, by quoting from scripture, using mystifying concepts which are never explained, just leaves you with more supporters.

Anyway, I'm still confused.

Kambling wrote:
But the point is that exchange value and use value are both ascribed by human beings, they are social phenomena.

This seems closer to my position.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Mar 12 2012 07:22

Kambing:

Quote:
While the ownership of the chair may have legally changed hands due to the 'contents' being included in the sale, it clearly hasn't actiually been specifically factored into the exchange value. By your logic, used tissues that got left under the bed would also have an exchange value. Besides, typically in a home and contents sale the exchange value of the contents is not all precisely determined, presumably because the owner (or their agent) has decided that the time it would take to sell off the contents individually is worth more than the lost income.

Not my 'logic': it follows from the sloppy wording being bandied about by SA and one or two others.

Quote:
Regardless of its legal status, unknown contents don't really factor into it at all. I mean, what if there was a lost $10 000 000 work of art hidden in the attic? Or several million dollars in cash? Has their 'exchange value' suddenly plummeted and then risen again? (Ok, presumably there may be laws that may exclude such things from the sale itself, I'm not sure). But the point is that exchange value and use value are both ascribed by human beings, they are social phenomena. It seems like your 'non-dialectical' approach is a bit metaphysical and fetishistic, with objects being magically imbued with value without any human action or thought whatsoever.

This is a problem for the mystics here, not me. I have attempted to define nothing, nor have I posted a single theoretical statement about use and/or exchange value.

So pick a fight with SA, not me. smile

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Mar 12 2012 07:23

LB, thanks for at least trying to answer my question:

Quote:
Rosa, my tentative answer to your question would be that this issue of 'use value/exchange value' can't be addressed at the level of individual objects, whether 'known about' or not.

The theory is intended to explain exploitation at the level of society, and is not intended to compete with psychological theories of what individuals think of isolated objects.

Well, with all due respect, that's a bit like arguing that Newton's theory of gravitation, say, is not intended to deal with single objects (like that apple, for example), but the solar system/the galaxy etc. as a whole.

The only reason I aired this example was to embarrass the intentional definition of use value SA here was trying to sell us, since that does introduce psychological factors.

Recall, I am not offering my own views here, merely putting pressure on SA by drawing out the ridiculous consequences of his characteristically sloppy approach in this area.

[True to form, he has gone rather quite. If he replies, expect more prevarication and delaying tactics from him.]

LBird
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Mar 12 2012 08:06
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
Well, with all due respect, that's a bit like arguing that Newton's theory of gravitation, say, is not intended to deal with single objects (like that apple, for example), but the solar system/the galaxy etc. as a whole.

I think you've chosen a poor counter-example, Rosa. Gravity does work at the level of single objects, as well as at the level of systems like the solar system.

I think a better example is the property of 'dog protection', which works at the level of 'walls', not at the level of wall components, like bricks. One can't find a mysterious property of 'dog protection' in a brick, no matter how hard one looks!

RL wrote:
The only reason I aired this example was to embarrass the intentional definition of use value SA here was trying to sell us, since that does introduce psychological factors.

Yeah, I think your position is the stronger one.

RL wrote:
Recall, I am not offering my own views here, merely putting pressure on SA by drawing out the ridiculous consequences of his characteristically sloppy approach in this area.

Hmmm... well, since I don't believe in 'objective positions' from which to view the world (social or physical), I think you are 'offering your own views', because this is an inescapable component of criticism, but your views have always remained unspoken, in this debate, at least.

Well done, for arguing from a hidden position, like the good sniper you are!

The troops in the open trying to attack you are taking a terrific mauling!

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Mar 12 2012 09:06

LB:

Quote:
I think you've chosen a poor counter-example, Rosa. Gravity does work at the level of single objects, as well as at the level of systems like the solar system.

In that case, this seems to mean that SA's version of Marx's theory can't explain a single thing.

Quote:
I think a better example is the property of 'dog protection', which works at the level of 'walls', not at the level of wall components, like bricks. One can't find a mysterious property of 'dog protection' in a brick, no matter how hard one looks!

Sorry, but I can't see what this has got to do with my example -- my choice of example doesn't depend on being able to see a property in anything.

So, I'll stick to my example, if that's Ok with you.

Quote:
Hmmm... well, since I don't believe in 'objective positions' from which to view the world (social or physical), I think you are 'offering your own views', because this is an inescapable component of criticism, but your views have always remained unspoken, in this debate, at least.

Well, I don't pretend to be arguing from an 'objective' position (in relation to this, or anything else, for that matter), since I do not accept this use of "objective" -- and that's because I reject all philosphical theories of 'objectivity' as non-sensical.

And, of course, my views have remained unspoken, but if you adopt this line, then you will be forced to argue, for instance, that my view of the taste of butter is part of my argument here, since it too was unspoken -- just as your unspoken view of history of, say, the Eiffel Tower motivated your choice of 'dog protection'.

Quote:
Well done, for arguing from a hidden position, like the good sniper you are!

The troops in the open trying to attack you are taking a terrific mauling!

As I pointed out to SA, the reason for this is that the vast majority of comrades who have allowed 'dialectics' (in the post-Hegelian sense of that word) to colonise their brains, have also bought into an impoverished intellectual tradition.

Unfortunately, that tradition in 'continental thought' has bequeathed to its acolytes 'logics' and methods that are far too weak, conceptually impoverished, and confused for them to be able defend themselves.

This has been compounded by the fact that they also reject analytic philosophy and the advanced analytic techiques it has developed that expose the poverty of thought that has devolved from this mystical tradition.

And they refuse to be told too.

So, they only have themselves to blame... sad

LBird
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Mar 12 2012 09:21
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
Sorry, but I can't see what this has got to do with my example -- my choice of example doesn't depend on being able to see a property in anything.

So, I'll stick to my example, if that's Ok with you.

Yeah, sure, I was merely trying to point out that 'value', etc., work at the conceptual level of 'dog protection', not at the lower level of 'bricks'.

You can 'stick to your example' in your debate with S.Artesian, et al, but if you do then I think you are missing the 'social' meaning: of course, if SA wants to fight you on that level, I think you'll triumph.

RL wrote:
And, of course, my views have remained unspoken, but if you adopt this line, then you will be forced to argue, for instance, that my view of the taste of butter is part of my argument here, since it too was unspoken -- just as your unspoken view of history of, say, the Eiffel Tower motivated your choice of 'dog protection'.

This is poor logic from you, Rosa. The fact that one relevant thing is unspoken doesn't logically lead to every unspoken thing being relevant.

RL wrote:
This has been compounded by the fact that they also reject analytic philosophy and the advanced analytic techiques it has developed that expose the poverty of thought that has devolved from this mystical tradition.

While I have a lot of sympathy for your characterisation of 'dialectics' as the 'mystical tradition', I also think that 'analytic techiques', 'advanced' or not, have to be located within some assumptions and axioms.

I feel that, perhaps, it's in that discussion that I'll be revealed to be closer to our 'dialetics' experts.

Perhaps, not. You say you think historical materialism, of some sort, is useful, and I think I, and even syndicalistcat and others, would agree with that.

Rosa Lichtenstein
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Mar 12 2012 10:05

LBird:

Quote:
This is poor logic from you, Rosa. The fact that one relevant thing is unspoken doesn't logically lead to every unspoken thing being relevant.

I'm not too sure that is anything to do with logic, but even supposing it has, I don't think you will be able to advance a non-question-begging way to exclude my examples while maintaining the allegation that unspoken views lie behind my argument.

And it wasn't part of the point I wished to make that "every unspoken thing being relevant", only that you are guessing -- and without any evidence, too.

Quote:
While I have a lot of sympathy for your characterisation of 'dialectics' as the 'mystical tradition', I also think that 'analytic techiques', 'advanced' or not, have to be located within some assumptions and axioms.

Sure, in many areas of Analytic Philosophy there are just such assumptions, but there are no philosophical (in the traditional sense of that word) assumptions underlying the Wittgensteinian method I use.

Indeed, if there are, and you can identify any to which I adhere, I will abandon them immediately, and apologise profusely.

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jura
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Mar 12 2012 10:27
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
Indeed, if there are, and you can identify any to which I adhere, I will abandon them immediately, and apologise profusely.

Well, for one, you seem to believe that the fact that Marx's summary of his method in the Afterword doesn't contain any Hegelian terminology excludes the possibility of him using Hegel's categories in any methodical way (as opposed to mere "coquetting"). Such (non-deductive) inference from a singular instance to a general conclusion deserves some justification. There are many ways of providing one, but I'd be interested to see how that can be done without recourse to some philosophical views (albeit implicit) of knowledge and justification.

LBird
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Mar 12 2012 10:44
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
And it wasn't part of the point I wished to make that "every unspoken thing being relevant", only that you are guessing -- and without any evidence, too.

But, Rosa, what counts as 'evidence' depends on one's conceptual schema, so to maintain I haven't supplied 'evidence' means that you must have a way of measuring 'evidence', to be aware of its absence.

How do you measure 'evidence'?

RL wrote:
Sure, in many areas of Analytic Philosophy there are just such assumptions, but there are no philosophical (in the traditional sense of that word) assumptions underlying the Wittgensteinian method I use.

You'll have to define 'traditional' for us, Rosa. I think Wittgenstein's method has philosophical assumptions, just like every other human method.

jura wrote:
Such (non-deductive) inference from a singular instance to a general conclusion deserves some justification. There are many ways of providing one, but I'd be interested to see how that can be done without recourse to some philosophical views (albeit implicit) of knowledge and justification.

I'm with jura on this one, Rosa.

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ocelot
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Mar 12 2012 11:39
Kambing wrote:
I agree, and to continue this derail a bit, the art historian Julian Stallabrass has written some interesting stuff on the way the contemporary art market has been shaped by (neoliberal) capitalism even as--or especially as--it is held up as its opposite. The added exchange-value associated with specific authorship (etc) is often analysed as a form of 'monopoly rent'; David Harvey has an article from a few years back called 'The art of rent' which approaches it this way. However, especially within the 'creative industries' based on reproducible cultural commodities (as opposed to unique works of art), it gets difficult to disentangle their commodity value from the added monopoly rent. And I think the 'monopoly rent' for a failed artist could even be negative.

Not come across Stallabrass before, looks interesting, I'll having to have a browse. Ta for that.

The monopoly rent theory is the obvious first stop, but I'm not a huge fan, tbh. It just seems to me to be the obvious knee-jerk response by orthos to apriori violations of the law of value. With a modicum of care you can frame it so it's tautologically true, but that's a pretty feeble exercise. If the only explanatory power is the negative of "explaining away" a problem with your core theory, then you really are in Lakatos territory.

I'm more interested in the idea of the effect of (financial) capital seeking shelter when it switches from greed to fear mode. Both in terms of the seeking a store of value, a port "safe" from the storms of commodity valorisation. But also the general contradiction of financial capital that Dick Bryan outlined one time - that financial capital is always looking for an asset whose rise and fall in value is not correlated to that of everything else, in lockstep. The contradiction being that as soon as they find one, everybody piles in and pretty soon it too is correlating the same ups and downs as everything else - the FT has been complaining these last years, since the crash, of the problem of "binary" on/off trading (greed = buy risk; fear = sell risk). Less a case of "seeking alpha" and more a case of "fleeing beta*". In that light, the forays of investors into the art market (and other "asset store" trades like investing in fine wines or other rare luxury items) make more sense. But of course then we have to find a way of extending Marxian value theory into the area of risk over time - a much thornier problem (but increasingly an unavoidable one, imo).

There are also other determinations at play such as political hegemony (there was a great OU docu on the Rockefellers and use of modern art for promoting US cultural hegemony for Cold War purposes made in the 90s, but I can't remember the title), or the personal aggrandisement of capitalists like Charles Saatchi seeking fame and immortality through cultural power.

* hmm, url linkage apparently not working - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_(finance) & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_(finance)

S. Artesian
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Mar 12 2012 12:39

I think it would be helpful if Rosa could demystify the first three chapters of vol 1 for L Bird, who finds Marx's presentation "magical, religious, mystical" in the mode of dialectics.

All Rosa's nonsense about exchange value without use value is exactly that, nonsense from the perspective of Marx's examination of value, because Marx's explication is an analysis of how and why the use value of any single commodity is expressed as, or translated into, the exchange value of any and all other commodities.

If Rosa's "Anti-dialectics" has any validity, any practical consequences for Marx's analysis, then surely that consequence will become evident in Marx's examination of value.

Now I certainly don't expect Rosa to engage such a challenge-- what we will get is more puffery about "as soon as you answer my questions" blahblahblah... but I'm not the person asking for clarification of those chapters, L Bird, who substantially agrees with Rosa's "critique" is, and he thinks those chapters are examples of Hegelian obfuscation.

So it would be nice to see, since clearly those three chapters are critical to Marx's work, to see them "demystified."

Edit:

Here's where Rosa takes the argument rather than deal with the concrete issue at hand:

RL wrote:
But, your definition of use value:
SA wrote:
A use-value is an object that satisfies a human want, need, desire,

implies that if an object isn't at this moment satisfying a "human want, need, desire", then it can't be a use value.

No such implication is contained in Marx's description of a use-value. The inference is particularly and peculiarly Rosa's. We can state Marx's definition this way: a use-value is an object that can satisfy a human, want, need, or desire.

Kambing
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Mar 12 2012 12:10
ocelot wrote:
The monopoly rent theory is the obvious first stop, but I'm not a huge fan, tbh. It just seems to me to be the obvious knee-jerk response by orthos to apriori violations of the law of value. With a modicum of care you can frame it so it's tautologically true, but that's a pretty feeble exercise. If the only explanatory power is the negative of "explaining away" a problem with your core theory, then you really are in Lakatos territory.

I think it may be more applicable to the broader 'creative industries' rather than to high art - as - investment (i.e. when you are dealing with what are basically mass-produced commodities but with an extra 'premium' value attached to the cultural content having been produced by a specific artist eg. recorded music). But even then I'm not sure that a simple commodity exchange value + monopoly rent manges to encompass the rather complex value issues involved. Still, there has been some interesting work done on the connection between the creative industries and land rent (via speculative gentrification) by David Harvey and others, where the 'monopoly rent' framework is put to some use.

Anyway, we should probably move this discussion over to the 'art and capitalism' thread.

LBird
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Mar 12 2012 12:38
S.Artesian wrote:
So it would be nice to see, since clearly those three chapters are critical to Marx's work, to see them "demystified."

It certainly would be 'nice to see', S.Artesian!

As you know, I'm keen to be 'shown', as is Noam Chomsky, and are generations of workers who've tried to read Capital.

I still don't rule it out, but I'm afraid the ball's in the court of those who would 'show' and 'demystify'.

Since Rosa clearly doesn't think it possible, and I'm very sceptical, we need someone with explanatory powers to intervene.

revol68 wrote:
On the otherhand you have people who would appear to desire dialectics be thought of as some mystical dark art, a specialist type of logic outside the realms of the everyday, these people are fuckwits.

I'm not sure if I qualify as a revoltian 'fuckwit', but it's no term to use for fellow Communists who express some critical thought, rather than just accept scripture.

S. Artesian
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Mar 12 2012 12:46
Quote:
Since Rosa clearly doesn't think it possible, and I'm very sceptical, we need someone with explanatory powers to intervene.

But Rosa believes that Marx extirpated Hegel in volume 1 of Capital. So why then are these three chapters so mystifying and difficult for many people to grasp?

Is it that Marx, "flirting" with Hegel, like a moth flirts with a flame, got way too close?

Is it possible that Marx, writing volume 1 for the "general public" deliberately mystified this analysis of value and the commodity, of the basic unit of capital?

There have been numerous explanations of Marx's first three chapters. Some have even been provided in the discussions at this site. Others in books by Rubin and many other writers.

If the first 3 chapters have a significance for all that follows in the volume, and in capitalism, surely Rosa's anti-Hegelianism should be able to clarify Marx's analysis of value.

LBird
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Mar 12 2012 13:12
revol68 wrote:
I wasn't calling you a fuckwit, I was talking about people who embrace dialectics but only to mystify it as a means of masking their intellectual bankruptcy. I don't understand how you could have read that as attacking you or anyone else for being a tad weary of talk of dialectics.

Thanks for the re-assurance, revol, but it wasn't clear to me just who was the target.

revol68 wrote:
My biggest difficulty with the first three chapters of Capital Vol 1 were far more to do with the fact we are essentially asked to accept the categories apriori before moving on (something quite counter intuitive to most forms of learning)...

Well, it seems to me that being "essentially asked to accept the categories apriori before moving on" is actually the scientific method, according to thinkers like Lakatos.

It's only the bourgeois stranglehold on 'science', and the fact that they are a ruling class which must pretend to know the truth, that has prevented this from being stated clearly earlier.

The is no 'objective' position from which to observe either the social or physical world.

My problem is why don't we now state quite clearly our social 'beliefs' before we address an issue.

'Value' is a social category. It isn't in ships, whether laid up idle or sailing across the oceans. It's a way of understanding socio-economic exploitation.

If one doesn't agree that 'socio-economic exploitation' exists, then one can't understand 'value'. The 'exploitation' bit is axiomatic, not something to be proved to anyone who supports capitalism. It can't be, to that perspective.

revol68 wrote:
...well beyond the fact that the choice to start with these abstract categories and move towards the concrete is pretty Hegelian.

What? From the abstract to the concrete? At long last! A supporter of my position!

LBird
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Mar 12 2012 14:09
revol68 wrote:
I'm not in agreement that one can not get "value" if one doesn't apriori accept the reality of socio economic exploitation, Ricardo and Smith developed labour theories of value and the whole point of Capital is to show how exploitation (without the moral baggage) of labour is the source of capital.

Humans are moral beings. Human thought is always moral. To me, there is no understanding of humans, never mind just Capital, without the 'moral' element.

And Ricardo and Smith just hid their 'moral' beliefs, didn't they, even if they said (and thought) that they were just being 'scientific' or (steady, wait for it!) 'analytical'?

Now, where have we heard that term, recently?

'Value' isn't 'true' in any 'objective' sense: it's a moral and scientific explanation for the proletariat of why the world works in the way that it does.

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ocelot
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Mar 12 2012 14:25
S. Artesian wrote:
2. Regarding this:
Quote:
Slightly different cases. I don't know exactly the property rights of those planes. I presume they are part of a strategic reserve, possibly mandated by the Dept. of Defense, but I don't know whether they're owned by the State or by the original operators. The proportion of the container fleet at anchor is easier. They are the fixed capital of the various shipping corps. Conceptually they are no different from any temporarily idle fixed capital.

And you continue on talking about value to risk, etc.

Here you confuse use value with exchange value. Fixed capital by its very designation is a use value organized as value, as capital, that transfers its value incrementally in production through the consumption, extinguishment of its use value.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record... Technically it's the consumption and extinguishment of it's use-shape (gestalt) that leads to the loss of it being a locus for use value. But, and this is the distinction, if an artefact cannot lose its gebrauchgestalt without at the same time losing its gebrauchswert, the converse is not true. It is possible for something to lose its use value without losing its use shape. It doesn't matter how much an item is still in working order, if it has been obsoleted to the extent that literally no-one any longer has a use for it, then it has lost its use value. My Dad's old slide rule is still perfectly functional, it gathers dust on the shelf because neither he nor anybody else nowadays has a use for it (qua slide-rule - leaving aside collectors). Only sentiment has prevented it from going in the bin.

S. Artesian wrote:
Yes the ships exist as fixed capital-- but is their use value somehow altered by an economic contraction that makes it cheaper to mothball the ships rather than operate them? Of course not.

Er, actually they are mothballed at the moment because there is no use for them. So, yes, the economic contraction has altered their use value, even if only temporarily. If, in fact, there was no prospect of finding a use for them within an amortization time-frame, then the tying up of capital in the mode of unused fixed capital would actually be a barrier to the self-valorisation of capital and they would have to be scrapped.

S. Artesian wrote:
Ask yourself this: if this were not capitalism, would the ships be at anchor, without use? It seems to me you are arguing that ships would be without use value under any economic system.

There's too many unknowns in that question to answer confidently with a straight yes or no. But what I could say is that it would be potentially possible that in a non-capitalist economy that, for whatever reason, resulted in a decline of the volume of goods transported from one part of the globe to another, could result in a decline in the shipping required. In that case then part of the container fleet could well become useless and would equally be destined for the scrapyard to reclaim the steel and other materials composing them.

S. Artesian
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Mar 12 2012 14:50
ocelot wrote:
S. Artesian wrote:
2. Regarding this:
Quote:
Slightly different cases. I don't know exactly the property rights of those planes. I presume they are part of a strategic reserve, possibly mandated by the Dept. of Defense, but I don't know whether they're owned by the State or by the original operators. The proportion of the container fleet at anchor is easier. They are the fixed capital of the various shipping corps. Conceptually they are no different from any temporarily idle fixed capital.

And you continue on talking about value to risk, etc.

Here you confuse use value with exchange value. Fixed capital by its very designation is a use value organized as value, as capital, that transfers its value incrementally in production through the consumption, extinguishment of its use value.

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record... Technically it's the consumption and extinguishment of it's use-shape (gestalt) that leads to the loss of it being a locus for use value. But, and this is the distinction, if an artefact cannot lose its gebrauchgestalt without at the same time losing its gebrauchswert, the converse is not true. It is possible for something to lose its use value without losing its use shape. It doesn't matter how much an item is still in working order, if it has been obsoleted to the extent that literally no-one any longer has a use for it, then it has lost its use value. My Dad's old slide rule is still perfectly functional, it gathers dust on the shelf because neither he nor anybody else nowadays has a use for it (qua slide-rule - leaving aside collectors). Only sentiment has prevented it from going in the bin.

No, your father's old slide rule, because it is perfectly functional, still maintains its use value. It can still be used by those who desire to.

It may have lost its social value, its exchangeable value, as a commodity due to advances in technology-- but that's a question of economics, not use; it may no longer be suited for use where new levels of precision are required, and that may diminish the portion of the total social value that it can claim in exchange, but the slide rule still preserves its function and can be used quite satisfactorily.

Would you claim that an abacus no longer has a use value? That non-broadband internet access no longer has a use value.

S. Artesian wrote:
Yes the ships exist as fixed capital-- but is their use value somehow altered by an economic contraction that makes it cheaper to mothball the ships rather than operate them? Of course not.
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Er, actually they are mothballed at the moment because there is no use for them. So, yes, the economic contraction has altered their use value, even if only temporarily. If, in fact, there was no prospect of finding a use for them within an amortization time-frame, then the tying up of capital in the mode of unused fixed capital would actually be a barrier to the self-valorisation of capital and they would have to be scrapped.

Would you say milk dumped in the streets because of the low price of milk, because of overproduction has lost its use value? Same-same. You confuse, again use value and value when you state "then the tying up of capital in the mode of unused fixed capital would actually be a barrier to the self-valorisation of capital and they would have to be scrapped."

Amortization is a capital requirement, not one of use value.

If HK shipping sells 10 container ships in the secondary market for 50% of the price that HK shipping paid, have the ships lost 50% of their use value? Of course not. They've lost their value in exchange but not their use value.

I think Marx's painstaking analysis in the first 3 chapters is informed, in part, by the fact that it is impossible to quantify use-values as use-values; it is impossible to equate use values as use values and so the medium of exchange value arises.

If the ships, or milk, remains unsold, are they without use? Certainly they can no longer function as capital, as the means to aggrandize labor power, but the milk and the ships still retain all their use-value.

S. Artesian wrote:
Ask yourself this: if this were not capitalism, would the ships be at anchor, without use? It seems to me you are arguing that ships would be without use value under any economic system.
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There's too many unknowns in that question to answer confidently with a straight yes or no. But what I could say is that it would be potentially possible that in a non-capitalist economy that, for whatever reason, resulted in a decline of the volume of goods transported from one part of the globe to another, could result in a decline in the shipping required. In that case then part of the container fleet could well become useless and would equally be destined for the scrapyard to reclaim the steel and other materials composing them.

The decision to scrap or not scrap is an economic decision, that's the point and is not intrinsic, inherent in the usefulness of the product. With capitalism, the usefulness of the product exists as a vehicle, a donkey so to speak, for the exchange value. Under socialism the decision to scrap is not based on its ability to engender accumulation but on its ability to satisfy human needs, including the need to recycle, reduce pollution, service smaller ports, etc. etc.

Suppose a disaster strikes Thailand, disrupting a socialist supply network. Do those containers used to ship hard drives out of Thailand become useless? Incapable of serving as containers to ship hard drives? Of course not. Their value-- the social time that would be allotted to those containers--- has declined; not their utility.

S. Artesian
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Mar 12 2012 14:52
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
My Dad's old slide rule is still perfectly functional, it gathers dust on the shelf because neither he nor anybody else nowadays has a use for it (qua slide-rule - leaving aside collectors). Only sentiment has prevented it from going in the bin.

I fail to see what this has to do with a commodity needing to be a use value in order to have an exchange value.

Frankly I don't see the relevance in the term use value outside of relation to exchange value and I definitely don't see the point in arguments about chairs being sat on in woods but no one seeing it etc

Though I would point out that having sentiment is a use value, which is why people pay a lot of money for old shit, that is use value isn't something inherent to an object outside of social relations and context.

The significance is that use values, while social, can be produced without exchange; without being for exchange.

Kambing
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Mar 12 2012 15:13
S. Artesian wrote:
The significance is that use values, while social, can be produced without exchange; without being for exchange.

Without exchange value to contrast, 'use value' is not a particularly useful category, though of course the artefacts do have various uses. Outside of exchange, it is much more useful to unpack 'use value' and actually discuss the various specific and relevant ways in which a particular artefact or class of artefact are used and valued. The uses and qualities are there, but the coherence of the category 'use value' isn't.

S. Artesian
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Mar 12 2012 15:27

The main point for me is that exchange value can't exist without use value.

Edit:

But this:

Quote:
'Value' isn't 'true' in any 'objective' sense: it's a moral and scientific explanation for the proletariat of why the world works in the way that it does.

is mistaken, IMO. How can value be a scientific explanation of the way capitalism ["the world"] works, and value itself have no "objectivity"?

Kind of leads one to the point where you might think the material world has no objectivity, no?

As for "moral explanation"-- then how does historical materialism, the critique of capitalism differ from say, humanism, pacifism, religion, and... Kant?

I mean I know you don't like Hegel, but I think you've taken a gigantic step backwards compared to Hegel with that claim.

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ocelot
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Mar 12 2012 15:23
S. Artesian wrote:
No, your father's old slide rule, because it is perfectly functional, still maintains its use value. It can still be used by those who desire to.

It may have lost its social value, its exchangeable value, as a commodity due to advances in technology-- but that's a question of economics, not use; it may no longer be suited for use where new levels of precision are required, and that may diminish the portion of the total social value that it can claim in exchange, but the slide rule still preserves its function and can be used quite satisfactorily.

You are abstracting from the relation in a completely objectivist or even platonic way. If you want to create a category of 'utility' based on whether or not an item could be used, irrespective of whether anyone wants to use it, then feel free.

But this is not about an abstract category of 'utility', this is about use value. And if no one has a use for something, then it has no use value because use value is a relation between the would-be user and the object that he or she is valueing.

The contents of your bin are no longer use values for you - that's why you put them there. The contents of your toilet bowl could be used as fertiliser, but the fact that you can't find anyone willing to take them, means you press the flush instead.

There is no confusion between use value and exchange value here, just your inability to deal with a social category without abstracting it from its relational nature.

S. Artesian
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Mar 12 2012 15:41

So ocelot, the milk dumped in the streets has no use value before its dumped in the streets?

The abacus, use value or non-use value?

The qualification you add is critical:

Quote:
And if no one has a use for something, then it has no use value

no one I agree.... if no one has a use for an object, it has no use value.

The case of the slide rule, being the case in point, is not a case of no one, but not-this-one, the son of the father who has the slide rule.

Horse manure has a useful property of fixing nitrogen to the soil; improving agricultural productivity. The horse manure does not have to be exchanged for it to be a use value.

The horse manure does not lose its use value when I have no use for it...but the necessary condition for[/] the exchange of the horse manure[i] is that it have no use for me-- that it be surplus. Then the horse manure becomes a commodity.

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ocelot
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Mar 12 2012 15:53

People want milk.

I believe abacuses are still used in parts of Asia.

Why is this so hard?

edit: just for info. The above post this was in response to, was edited after this post, so the line "The qualification you add..." and everything after, was added later.

S. Artesian
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Mar 12 2012 15:45
ocelot wrote:
People want milk.

I believe abacuses are still used in parts of Asia.

Why is this so hard?

Then why would we claim that ships mothballed in an economic contraction have no use-value; or have lost their use-value? They've lost their capital value.

Slight difference.

S. Artesian
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Mar 12 2012 16:05

I have no idea what a Platonic form is-- but I have plenty of ideas on what forms capital, and what forms value.

Now if the milk retains its use value even as the owners of the milk prepare to dispose of of it down a sewer, which [renders it useless-- exactly the reason the owners dispose of it, to render it useless, unusable-- then why are the ships at anchor empty of use-value?

You say because people want milk? Sure they do. And how can the milk be made accessible to those people-- well, it might have to be exported, moved via ship, or truck to where the people who want the milk are. So if the milk has its use value for human beings even when its exchange value has declined to zero, why wouldn't the ships, or trucks?

Yeah, I'm perfectly serious.

Capital value can in fact extinguish use-value, by destroying same, but loss of capital value is not the same thing as loss of use-value.

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Mar 12 2012 16:27
S. Artesian wrote:
Then why would we claim that ships mothballed in an economic contraction have no use-value; or have lost their use-value? They've lost their capital value.

Slight difference.

Wrong way round. Unless accounting rules for shipping companies are radically different from other industries, the ships will remain as assets on the company's accounts. The only thing that will affect their capital value will be the passage of time which will reduce the asset value yearly based on whatever the industry-standard amortization rates are. Physical fixed capital assets are not generally "marked to market" (I stand to be corrected if anyone is better informed on the specifics of shipping company accounting). The fact that there is currently no work for these ships does not in itself affect their capital value.

edit: But n.b. technological development could force writing down or scrapping those assets before service life is up:

Quote:
The rate wars have plunged most of the major container lines into the red for the second quarter in a row for the first six months of the year, making this year the quickest down cycle the industry has ever experienced. Carriers suffered record losses in 2009, healthy profits in 2010 and now near-record losses again this year.

True, the container lines are taking delivery of big new ships and ordering even more of them, but they have to because of the ever-rising cost of bunker fuel. The technology of the engines on new ships is changing so quickly that carriers are forced to buy new ships in order to have any hopes of operating profitably at any point on the future.

If they don’t order new ships and hang on to their older ships, which burn fuel at a much higher rate, they won’t be able to compete with carriers that deploy the newer, more efficient ships that are coming to market in the next few years.

from here (Nov 3 2011)