Heinrich's Intro to Capital

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Angelus Novus
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Oct 29 2012 14:03
sabot wrote:
Although I'll still follow along with the Harvey lectures and possibly Reading Capital Politically.

For accompanying literature, I'd recommend the book in the thread title over both Harvey and Cleaver, FWIW.

S. Artesian
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Oct 29 2012 14:18

Agree, Heinrich is the better choice.

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Khawaga
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Oct 29 2012 14:54

Thirded. Heinrich is by far the best companion to Capital compared to Haevey, Cleaver and Fine.

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sabot
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Oct 29 2012 17:14

Hmm...sounds like I'm going to have to locate a copy of Heinrch's book for myself.

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Noa Rodman
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Oct 29 2012 17:52
S. Artesian wrote:
It is most definitely not a definition, evaluation, positing of an historical epoch, a mode of production.

It is a mode of production, as Marx continues:

Quote:
This mode of production presupposes parcelling of the soil and scattering of the other means of production. As it excludes the concentration of these means of production, so also it excludes cooperation, division of labour within each separate process of production, the control over, and the productive application of the forces of Nature by society, and the free development of the social productive powers. It is compatible only with a system of production, and a society, moving within narrow and more or less primitive bounds.

It is present in all historical epochs, but its classical form is just prior to capitalism.

Quote:
The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of the proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of negation. This does not re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisition of the capitalist era: i.e., on cooperation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production.

The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labour, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process, incomparably more protracted, violent, and difficult, than the transformation of capitalistic private property, already practically resting on socialized production, into socialized property.

S. Artesian wrote:
Petty industry existed; commodity production existed prior to capitalism; but the mode of production was not determined by commodity production.
We may reckon "petty production" means any thing we want it to mean... but that's not what Marx said, he said "petty industry." And more than that, in those conditions where petty industry does exist, it, by its very existence as petty industry, does not dominate, does not organize, the mode of production. Marx points this out exactly in the paragraph Noa produces to satisfy his own "reckoning":

Quote:
Of course, this petty mode of production exists also under slavery, serfdom, and other states of dependence. But it flourishes, it lets loose its whole energy, it attains its adequate classical form, only where the labourer is the private owner of his own means of labour set in action by himself: the peasant of the land which he cultivates, the artisan of the tool which he handles as a virtuoso. ...

At its best, it flourishes. But where does it dominate social production? Pre-conquest Mexico, you think? I don't. The Incas? Nope. Feudal France, Germany, Poland.... wait those are "states of dependence" . England? Not hardly. Where do the petty producers dominate the economy; dominate the society as an organized force? Where is this utopian of petty commodity producers?

I reckon in England:
ch. 27

Quote:
In England, serfdom had practically disappeared in the last part of the 14th century. The immense majority of the population [1] consisted then, and to a still larger extent, in the 15th century, of free peasant proprietors, whatever was the feudal title under which their right of property was hidden. In the larger seignorial domains, the old bailiff, himself a serf, was displaced by the free farmer. The wage labourers of agriculture consisted partly of peasants, who utilised their leisure time by working on the large estates, partly of an independent special class of wage labourers, relatively and absolutely few in numbers. The latter also were practically at the same time peasant farmers, since, besides their wages, they had allotted to them arable land to the extent of 4 or more acres, together with their cottages. Besides they, with the rest of the peasants, enjoyed the usufruct of the common land, which gave pasture to their cattle, furnished them with timber, fire-wood, turf, &...

Even in the last decade of the 17th century, the yeomanry, the class of independent peasants, were more numerous than the class of farmers. They had formed the backbone of Cromwell’s strength, and, even according to the confession of Macaulay, stood in favourable contrast to the drunken squires and to their servants, the country clergy, who had to marry their masters’ cast-off mistresses. About 1750, the yeomanry had disappeared,

S. Artesian
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Oct 29 2012 21:21

1. Except in the 14th, 15th, centuries, the English peasant is not a "simple commodity producer," as the peasantry, particularly with its access to commons is not producing for markets but for subsistence. Surpluses may have been brought to market; however subsistence was not dependent upon the need to exchange all product.

2. The yeomanry in the 17the century are, by that time, commodity producers; organized by and for the production for exchange. They are not peasants.

We should note conflate the yeomanry, as a class, with the Levellers who do represent a "left wing," and are committed to this "democracy" of small producers.

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Oct 30 2012 14:24
Noa Rodman wrote:
S. Artesian wrote:
It is most definitely not a definition, evaluation, positing of an historical epoch, a mode of production.

It is a mode of production, as Marx continues:

Quote:
This mode of production presupposes parcelling of the soil and scattering of the other means of production. As it excludes the concentration of these means of production, so also it excludes cooperation, division of labour within each separate process of production, the control over, and the productive application of the forces of Nature by society, and the free development of the social productive powers. It is compatible only with a system of production, and a society, moving within narrow and more or less primitive bounds.

It is present in all historical epochs, but its classical form is just prior to capitalism.

Yes Marx uses the phrase "mode of production" here, but what is meant by it?

To recap, the orthodox theory of history runs roughly like this:

1. The law of value is a trans-historical law which has existed since the pyramids (and will continue to exist under socialism)

2. History progresses in single line through a sucession of stages, or historical epochs - primitive communism -> ancient slavery -> .feudalism -> capitalism (-> socialism).

3. The transition from each stage up until capitalism has been governed by the development of the forces of production, manifesting itself in the progressive growth of the commerce and commodity production of the urban centres (commercialisation model)

4. Each historical epoch is defined by its characteristic "mode of production", which in turn is defined by its characteristic form of exploitatation - chattel slavery produces the ancient slave mode of production, which defines that epoch of history; wage work defines the capitalist mode of production and hence capitalism as a historical epoch. There is a strict one-to-one relationship between form of labour exploitation, mode of production, the totality of social relations and historical epoch.

In relation to 1, that is dismissed not only by the "value form" theorists, but also by a close reading of Marx (which those of us who got there by this latter method, long before we'd heard of German value form theory, can attest to).

In relation to 2, that's slightly out of scope (the classical locus of its contestation is around the "what was the USSR?" question - see the Marcel van der Linden book), but is usually entangled with 1 & 3.

3. Is of course challenged by the Political Marxism tendency - Brenner, Wood, Teschke, Gerstenberger, etc.

4. Is challenged by Banaji - at least the one-to-one mapping of form of exploitation to mode of production - as totality of the social relations of a given historical epoch.

So the use that Marx is making of the term "mode of production" in v1 ch. 32, as quoted above, bears some looking at. I would argue that there are two possible uses for the term. The first, most common one (that S. Artesian is using, afaics, when he refers in sequence to "a historical epoch, a mode of production") is the identification of it with the totality of the social relations of production of a given historical society. The second possible use, I contend, is the more prosaic one of a type of production carried out according to a particular set of relations of production, irrespective of the overall totality of social relations. imo, this second, particular case is the only one that makes sense in the overall reading of passages like "Of course, this petty mode of production exists also under slavery, serfdom, and other states of dependence" - although, of course, you could argue that it is ambiguous what Marx means by "states of dependence" - given whether or not Marx is "orthodox" in asserting a one-to-one relationship between forms of exploitation and (epochal) modes of production, or whether he is more like Banaji.

In any case, the idea of a "petty industry" mode of production, that can coexist with "forms of dependence" that occurred under ancient slave "modes of production", and feudalism, is already in conflict with the unlinear "orthodox" theory of history. Unless you are positing the idea of "Russian doll" styles of "modes of production within modes of production", which is sorta conceeding the point.

Dave B
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Oct 30 2012 22:08

Karl starts with an analysis of a ‘type’ of circulation C-M-C, simple commodity circulation, and ‘proceeds ’ in chapter four to a ‘contrary’ and distinct type of circulation peculiar to capitalism, M-C-M, or specifically, upon further elaboration, to M-C-M';

Quote:
The circuit C-M-C starts with one commodity, and finishes with another, which falls out of circulation and into consumption.

Consumption, the satisfaction of wants, in one word, use-value, is its end and aim. The circuit M-C-M, on the contrary, commences with money and ends with money. Its leading motive, and the goal that attracts it, is therefore mere exchange-value.

And on the other hand;

Quote:
M-C-M' is therefore in reality the ……… formula of capital as it appears prima facie within the sphere of circulation

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch04.htm

So what is this C-M-C actually about?

Short of using cartoons, pop up picture books, toy dolls and hand puppets.

A commodity appears from ‘somewhere’.

It is taken to market to be sold at its value, for money, in order that the money can be used to buy something of equal value for it to be consumed.

Or for;


Quote:
Consumption, the satisfaction of wants…..’

In this process if all commodities are exchanged at their value, which is the working assumption of the first chapters of volume one, there is no possibility with this alone, for the augmentation of value, money capital and concentration of wealth (much).

You don’t get to be ‘richer’ and accumulate wealth by ‘just’ selling what you own at its value (and what you don’t need for yourself) to order to exchange it through the medium of money for something you are going to consume.

Like on Ebay.

Or in other words, by following the general formula C(a)-M-C(b); where everything exchanges at its value, and the last C(b), as the end of the circuit, is for consumption.

On its own buying ordinary commodities like coats and wine with money M in order to consume them is not capitalism, otherwise I would be a capitalist.

What isn’t explained, initially, is the ‘diverse social modes of production’ that produce the C(a) in the first place, and for that matter C(b), that are to circulate and exchange at their values; according to C-M-C.

What could be the social modes of production of C(a), and C(b) in simple circulation that doesn’t break the logical Greek and ‘commensurate’ Aristotelian construction of the idea of “Values” on page 4.

It could perhaps be;

Neolithic stone axes mined in Great Langdale, Cumbria, a popular commodity at the time, they turned up all over the place.

Pre Romano-British bronze age tin mined in Cornwall .

Modern ‘primitive’ communists, and good old proper ‘anarcho-syndicalists’, like the American Shakers (recent archaeological evidence of their rubbish tips showed that they traded) and the current very modern ‘primitive’ subsistence communists like the Polynesian Islanders, the Anutans, who produce and trade the luxury commodity shark fins for soup ( to pay for the education of their children on the mainland – ‘wanting’ for little else).

Subsistance farmers who deliberately produce more of something than they needed, to buy stuff that they can’t realistically produce for themselves. As opposed to some accidental surplus (although that can be important).

‘Idle’ time production. In most geographical regions subsistence farming can be highly seasonal and thus the quiet times can be utilised in cottage ‘artisan’ industry, manufacturing, in order to pass the time of day ‘usefully’ in the cold winter months etc. They might discover they are good at it and become full time tailors and linen weavers. Exchanging their linen for the kinds of things they had previously produced for themselves, badly.

As capitalism ‘has not invented surplus-labour’ nor the commodities in which it is embodied; commodities that are taken to market for C-M-C could be surplus value and surplus labour themselves. Eg from the non capitalist feudal lords. The Feudal Lord’s in fact could theoretically accumulate wealth for themselves; but spendthrifts like they were they sold there ill gotten gains on consumable feudal bling and wild parties for their ‘retainers’ [Adam Smith] .

[Although some of aristocratic supporters of Cromwell learnt and appreciated that ‘political’ and capitalist economic trick of ‘accumulation’ before their more conservative peers.]

The different priest-class accumulators of surplus labour spent it on pyramids [there is something from Karl on that somewhere] and church’s and other monuments etc, as each according to their wants, in their own variation on conspicuous consumption.

The commodity C(a) in fact could even be the surplus product belonging to a capitalist; but a capitalist won’t last long exchanging all his surplus product at it’s value to buy consumables.

Then he would be a ‘bad’ capitalist.

A Capitalist or rich exploiter may even actually sell his C(a) for money to buy ‘labour power’ to serve at the diner table, clean his toilet and the modern variation, on ‘Adam Smith’s’ non productive labour eg pyramids, churches; and Calvin’s [theologian of expanding productive labour] catholic indulgences etc.

But non of the above C-M-C involves the innovation of using money to make more money by buying labour power to produce a use value to be sold for more than it cost. Or;

M-C-M'

Circulation simple, or capitalist, is a phenomena, consequence or effect.

All scientist start with an investigation of effects to understand the causes that produce them.

They work back first then forwards.

Actually what C-M-C represents is the ideal model that Proudhon was striving to go back to and where it all started, from in his own analysis of capitalism or for him the degeneration of C-M-C.

I could do the ‘states of dependence’ and patriarchal society thing and have done before, but I am bored now.

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Oct 31 2012 09:57
Dave B wrote:
What could be the social modes of production of C(a), and C(b) in simple circulation that doesn’t break the logical Greek and ‘commensurate’ Aristotelian construction of the idea of “Values” on page 4.

It could perhaps be;

Neolithic stone axes mined in Great Langdale, Cumbria, a popular commodity at the time, they turned up all over the place.

LOL.

Yeah, I heard they listed stone axe futures and options on the Neolitihic stock exchange. roll eyes

The archeological evidence of manufactured goods travelling over long distances in pre-historic times, gives no information as to the particular historical set of social relations that governed their production and circulation. The use of the imprecise term "trade" by bourgeois archeologists to cover this circulation in no way implies that these items were commodities or that their circulation was carried out through exchange. Unless you evacuate from these terms any specific or analytical meaning, but to do so would also eradicate their utility in demonstrating Engels' (ridiculous) contention that the law of value has been in operation throughout human history. The "archeological evidence" that people in the prehistoric era manufactured goods for exchange and that they were exchanged for other manufactures, in a C-M-C way, in proportion to the socially necessary labour time required for the production of each, is non-existent. To even consider it is to both a) project bourgeois social categories, concepts, practices and values back through human history, as eternal categories (thus making capitalism itself eternal); and b) to basically piss on Marx's project of examining the social relations of different eras in their historical specificity.

Dave B wrote:
As capitalism ‘has not invented surplus-labour’ nor the commodities in which it is embodied; commodities that are taken to market for C-M-C could be surplus value and surplus labour themselves. Eg from the non capitalist feudal lords.

The distinction between surplus labour and surplus value is fairly central to Marxian value theory. Its fine for someone to choose to ignore that, but not if you're claiming that is a valid reading of Marx, cos it ain't.

Dave B wrote:
The different priest-class accumulators of surplus labour spent it on pyramids [there is something from Karl on that somewhere] and church’s and other monuments etc, as each according to their wants, in their own variation on conspicuous consumption.

Really? Did they hide those acumulated surplus labour notes under their mattress before they went out on a shopping spree and "spent" them on a new cathedral? Srsly...

And I could go on and on. Dreck.

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Oct 31 2012 19:13
Kautsky in The Agrarian Question wrote:
Under simple commodity-production, the surplus-product takes the form of commodities and receives a value. This cannot yet be termed surplus-value since although human labour-power produces values, at this stage of development it does not yet have a value itself, not being a
commodity.

Nooooooooo!

Dave B
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Oct 31 2012 19:25

Surplus labour is the expended (past) labour time embodied or ‘objectified’ in the surplus product and the amount or quantity of that surplus labour is the surplus value.

So much so that he often uses the two interchangeably especially in volume III, eg

Quote:
As a law based on the fact that under given conditions the appropriated mass of surplus-labour, hence of surplus-value, increases……

……..or total mass, of the surplus-labour (surplus-value, profit) appropriated by it……

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch13.htm

Surplus labour is sort of qualitative and surplus value the quantitative expression so it’s a bit like saying ‘time’ and ‘hours’; nuanced difference that is not worth dwelling on, in most cases.

Actually he also used all three, surplus product, surplus product and surplus value interchangeably in one sentence, occasionally.

I ‘collected’ them I think in file somewhere.

Detailed evidence of exactly how and why stone axes and flint as raw material or finished product was moving around Europe etc isn’t clear.

The evidence on Cornish tin trading is much more extensive and begins with written historical records itself. Cornwall was the sort Saudi Arabia of its day, tin being the most important material of its time, from the bronze age.

When it hasn’t been melted down and mixed up again etc it can be traced in ancient artefacts from the isotope ratios in the tin and trace elements etc.

I know an archaeologist who did a Phd on it , a Trot, who didn’t seem to have a problem about bronze age commodity production.

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

Cathedrals were built over long periods of time employing wage labour, ‘one’ of the first examples of it, presumably from ‘surplus value’ generated from church enterprises consisting of non private, collective of exploiters.

Kautsky somewhere compared Bolshevik state capitalism to the economic organisation of the medieval church.

There are early references to wage labour in construction of temples of Herod the Great, in Josephus I seem to remember.

On page four Karl starts from a logical ‘Aristotelian’ commensurable and thus;

an a-historical analysis of the commodity.

He returns to Aristotle on value etc much later, as a kind of intellectual joke referenced back to the beginning.

I got it at the time anyway.

But on the logic of commensurability, it is a piece of piss for scientist familiar with the first law of dynamics, and thinking like Karl does is like sucking eggs for us.

If you so happen to be familiar with the language of 19th century philosophical intellectualism enough to not chuck the thing in the bin after 10 pages.

Incidentally the other transcriber of Deville’s better take on it , also a scientist and a productive wage labour worker, was born into classic simple commodity production family in the Punjab.

Her Uncles are still at, under more stressed circumstances for Indian peasant farmers.

She understood it as it stood without having ever read a word Marx.

S. Artesian
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Nov 1 2012 23:57
Quote:
Dave B: As capitalism ‘has not invented surplus-labour’ nor the commodities in which it is embodied; commodities that are taken to market for C-M-C could be surplus value and surplus labour themselves.

That's the whole point, the point that Dave B. does not understand. Of course capitalism did not "invent" surplus labour. Surplus labour, the ability to produce more, and produce more socially, than is needed for individual subsistence, is the "species" characteristic of human labor.

The species characteristic however is mediated, meaning it exists, is expressed only in its social manifestation as the appropriation of the surplus labor.

What distinguishes capitalism is that mediation, which is value. What capitalism does invent, or rather, organizes, is surplus labor as surplus value. Surplus labor, or surplus product, is not always, historically or in the future, surplus value. That surplus value is the unique determinant, "contribution," of capitalism.

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Jan 22 2013 21:50

Jesus, this thread is massive.

I'm just wondering if there's version of Heinrich's Intro Capital is available as free .pdf ?

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Jan 22 2013 22:39

I have a PDF copy of dubious provenance, complete and relatively clean. A quick google will grant you what you seek.

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Jan 23 2013 09:00

Thanks Tien. The only places I can find it for download online seem to come back with a dead link. I might try a torrent search, but do you remember where you found it?

Angelus Novus
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Jan 23 2013 09:29

I realize books are often unaffordable for most people living outside of North America or Western Europe, and that ultimately the distribution of online PDFs is probably inevitable, but I really wish that people would stop to reflect for a moment that Monthly Review Press is not a corporate conglomerate.

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Jan 23 2013 09:34

snip

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 23 2013 09:35

I've been wondering if there's some kind of psuedo-communist publishing model along the lines of crowdsource funding - do work (translation, subbing etc) - publish freely online/print on demand hard copy. As long as the expenses of the project can be reasonably anticipated (and itemised, i guess), it should be viable.

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Jan 23 2013 09:43

Rather than universally free to download, the pay what you can afford/ what it is worth to you model seems more appropriate - though this might be 'nothing' in many cases. Then another prompt at the end of the book/article/whatever for donations/ tips.

The topic of a new thread, probably.

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Jan 23 2013 09:46

New thread here.

S. Artesian
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Jan 23 2013 15:42
Angelus Novus wrote:
I realize books are often unaffordable for most people living outside of North America or Western Europe, and that ultimately the distribution of online PDFs is probably inevitable, but I really wish that people would stop to reflect for a moment that Monthly Review Press is not a corporate conglomerate.

Not to mention, there are libraries, you know, where you can borrow the book and read it, supporting thus the author and a public institution.

And who would have thunk-- many libraries know provide electronic books for reading on your computer.

petey
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Jan 23 2013 21:07

still haven't gotten very far into the book sad
fucking books, there are so many of them.

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Feb 23 2013 21:32

I just finished reading Heinrich’s book. Have to agree on some of ocelot’s earlier comments on vol. 2., and although I really liked how the book was concise, I felt it could have explain things in more detail at times. Other than that though, it’s a great book. The book really helped me grasp some concepts that I was previously struggle with in my early readings of Capital. Also agree with others on the latter chapters of the book (fetishism, Capital and the State). I may bring up q’s about the book later (I just don’t have time at the moment). Anyways, I’d like to thank Khawaga, and others who encouraged me to read this.

Oh, any update on whether The Science of Value will be released?

On the PDF thing, even though I bought the book, I really wouldn’t mind PDF of this for my tablet.

44
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Mar 2 2013 21:13

Has anyone read Paul Cockshott's critique of Heinrich?

http://spiritofcontradiction.eu/paul-cockshott/2013/02/15/new-age-marxis...

I haven't finished Heinrich's intro yet, so I just skimmed this, but it seems Cockshott is basically defining abstract labour as a mental abstraction--as the ability to think of heterogeneous concrete labours as applications of 'human labour in general'--and then criticising Heinrich's exposition from that definition, even though Heinrich's point is that it's not a mental abstraction but a real abstration (which, even though I'm having trouble with the concept of a real abstraction, makes a lot more sense in terms of the law of value operating "behind the backs of the producers", since it doesn't have to take place in people's minds).

I'm also suspicious of Cockshott's insistence on the precapitalist existence of abstract labour, value, and so on, which allows him to project their existence forward into his vision of a "new socialism".

Angelus Novus
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Mar 2 2013 23:17

I briefly tried to engage Cockshott on an email discussion list, and it's pretty clear he thinks that Marx's value theory is the same as Adam Smith's. When I pointed out that Marx himself stated that his discovery of the twofold nature of commodity-producing labor was what distinguished him from classical political economy, Cockshott replied that "the German's" arrogance caused him to not recognize the achievement of "the Scotsman."

Uh, yeah. What do you say to somebody like that?

Dave B
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Mar 3 2013 01:16

Abstract labour is as Ricardo explained it ‘toil and trouble’ of which there are many different concrete kinds.

The authors of Genesis 3;19 understood what abstract or generalised labour was even if modern ‘Marxist intellectuals’ don’t.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food”

In fact for real workers in capitalism it is ‘concrete labour’, not ‘abstract labour’, that is the ‘subjective’, ‘meaningless’, ‘alienating’ and arbitrary thing of the air; as one kind of concrete work is much the same as another.

You clock in, do as you are told, and clock out, and so called ‘abstract labour’ is the only real thing, un-free time.

Even a modern multi tasking flexible worker in a factory today might be doing a different type of concrete labour one day to another, or from hour to hour.

What one person might find difficult another finds easy.

And that one type of concrete labour is more troublesome than another for an individual is subjective according to say your physique, skill or intellect etc etc.

So in that sense ‘toil and trouble’, abstract labour, is the objective universal irreducible reality that matters to them.

You need to be a self justifying elitist intellectual with its own vainglorious and self aggrandising attachment to the importance of its own special ‘concrete labour’, to be fixated with it.

They don’t want to be told, or think, that their own concrete labour is the same as everybody else’s, abstract

In fact it is the workers; being constantly hired and fired, and living in a community of others engaging in mutually understood universal abstract ‘toil and trouble’ that can educate intellectuals stuck in their own narrow blinkered horizons of their own special ivory tower concrete labour, about the universal ‘social’ meaning of abstract labour.

Scientists don’t have a problem with real abstractions (which become scientific objects); once it moves beyond observation of relationships and cataloguing.

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

RC
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Mar 3 2013 03:40

44 writes:

Quote:
I'm having trouble with the concept of a real abstraction

A real abstraction is a strange thing. A theoretical abstraction is a normal activity of the mind: you grasp a thing that has many different qualities. In science, you figure out how the qualities are connected and the logical unity. If an abstraction is carried out in reality, one quality is separated from the unity of the thing and asserted against all the other qualities. For example: the wage laborer is an abstraction; he or she is a human being with a lot of qualities, but the only one that counts is their ability to work. He or she is defined as a person who is reduced to their capacity to work, as someone separated from any other means. Their interests and needs don't count. In abstract labor, which takes the form of producing commodities, all other qualities of the labor -- that it makes use values, etc -- are abstracted from, and the only quality of labor that counts is the negative side: it is mere toil, drudgery. In theory, to say that labor only has this quality would only be a mistake. But in real life, it is quite harsh. Its only possible with force. As Hegel said “to make abstractions hold in reality is to destroy reality.”

Cockshott wants to measure everything because he thinks that’s what science does; he isn’t interested in qualities.

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Mar 4 2013 16:21

Cockshott confuses abstract labour (historically specific) with social labour (not)

Quote:
But Marx has another explanation for what abstract labour is, based on the division of labour.

Quote:
So far as they are values, the coat and the linen are things of a like substance, objective expressions of essentially identical labour. But tailoring and weaving are, qualitatively, different kinds of labour. There are, however, states of society in which one and the same man does tailoring and weaving alternately, in which case these two forms of labour are mere modifications of the labour of the same individual, and no special and fixed functions of different persons, just as the coat which our tailor makes one day, and the trousers which he makes another day, imply only a variation in the labour of one and the same individual. Moreover, we see at a glance that, in our capitalist society, a given portion of human labour is, in accordance with the varying demand, at one time supplied in the form of tailoring, at another in the form of weaving. This change may possibly not take place without friction, but take place it must

.(Capital Vol 1, page 12 of the Marxist Internet Archive pdf file)

In this formulation – which Heinrich ignores – labour is abstract as part of the pool of human labour available to society. Workers can change occupation, either from day to day, or at different points in their life time. Insofar as they can potentially move from one activity to another their ability to work is abstract. This is most obvious with an unemployed person. They have an abstract ability to work in a variety of different jobs, until they get a job, this abstract ability to work does not take a concrete form.

Go back to the quote from Marx’s letter to Kugelmann where he says “It is self-evident that this necessity of the distribution of social labour in specific proportions is certainly not abolished by the specific form of social production; it can only change its form of manifestation.” What is the social labour that is being distributed?

Clearly it is abstract labour. It is only after social labour has been distributed into different activities that it takes on a concrete form.

So abstract labour is the abstract expenditure of human physiological effort and society has only a certain amount of this effort available to it which can be expended in different concrete forms.

This concept is indeed ‘naturalistic’ and ‘a-historical’.

One of the spirit guys tells me that Heinrich has agreed to respond to Cockshott's piece. Someone get the popcorn... twisted

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
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Joined: 7-08-06
Mar 4 2013 17:30

Doesn't seem like he gets labour power either.

S. Artesian
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Mar 4 2013 23:39

Cockshott's a Ricardian. He believes the law of value is operative at all times; and will be operative with socialism.