Wednesday, 16 May 2018

More On Commodities

Having magically discarded unwanted use-value and done the cookery to homogenise, congeal and crystallise labour into a commodity, Marx sets up a nice straw man:
A use-value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because abstract human labour is objectified or materialised in it. How then is the magnitude of this value to be measured? By means of the 'value-forming substance', the labour, contained in the article. This quantity is measured by its duration [in] hours, days etc.
Cue an internet meme about, who wants to live under a system where the value of something is greater the slower and dumber the producer?

The straw man is duly knocked down, making Karl appear entirely reasonable:
It might seem that if the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labour expended to produce it, it would be the more valuable the more unskilful and lazy the worker who produced it
sounds like Britain in the 70s... but it
only needs, in order to produce a commodity, the labour time which is necessary on an average, or in other words is socially necessary. Socially necessary labour-time is the labour-time required to produce any use-value under the conditions of production normal for a given society [...] The individual commodity counts here only as an average sample of its kind.

Marx goes on to ponder, in the first real-world example cited in the book, that:
The same quantity of labour provides more metal in rich mines than in poor. Diamonds are of very rare occurence on the earth's surface, and hence their discovery costs, on an average, a great deal of labour time [... William] Jacob questions whether gold has ever been paid for at its full value [...] The total produce of the Brazilian diamond mines for the eighty years ending in 1823 still did not amount to the price of 1½ years' average produce of the sugar and coffee plantations of the same country, although the diamonds represented much more labour, therefore more value.
Karl Marx "Capital Volume I" (1990) pp129-30

Could the explanation be that the theory is a hopeless hack that has fallen at the first fence?

Or is this a Conspiracy Theory in the making? I will read on with my expectations raised as high as my hackles.

Friday, 11 May 2018


Pictured: Homo neanderthalensis confronts humans with shirts.

In my young days the Neanderthals were primitives without language or culture who radiated into Europe before being overrun and wiped out by our ancestors; unsurprisingly as they were nasty, brutish and short, and no good to be said for them.

No language because they had no hyoid bones. True, only a few chunky pieces of skull and long bone had been found at the time, but no hyoids and therefore no language or anything that goes with that.

Humans definitely did not interbreed with them, no siree, fastidiousness in matters of mating being a characteristic of the Homo sapiens of course.

Today, after the discovery of a hyoid at Kebara in Israel, some apparent settlements, a few smeary bits of art, they are pictured as a cross between Noble Savage and Eco Warrior, who would undoubtedly have opposed Brexit and Capitalism, re-nationalised the railways and so forth.

The few percent of Neanderthal genes found in Europeans, Western Russians and their descendants is proof of local interbreeding and proposed as the likely cause of smoking, alcoholism and other such defects, it doesn't seem to sit well with us. This explains why alcoholism and chain-smoking are unknown in Asia or Africa.

Monday, 23 April 2018

St George's Day

Pictured: A typical happy Englishman. He possesses neither flat hat nor whippet, but the cheerfulness of the Englishman in a tight corner is legendary.

A happy St. George's Day to all my reader!

St. George battles the Dragon, medieval church graffito at Marsham, Norfolk. The "fringe" at the bottom of the Dragon may show it is a mummer's costume, or it may just be a bit badly drawn.

It is also probably Shakespeare's birthday (the baptism was recorded, not the birth date) but I have had enough for today of being happy or wishing happiness to others.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Persian Perplexity

Not sure the Microsoft Translator has quite got the point. But if the Trump crazy has indeed fucked your milk cow Bay mondem, there is surely yet another gripping Investigation in the offing. Stormy Daniels, move aside.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Vanishing Concrete

A simple geometrical example will illustrate this. In order to determine and compare the areas of all rectilinear figures we split them up into triangles. Then the triangle itself is reduced to an expression totally different from its visible shape: half the product of the base and the altitude.
It's that "totally different from its visible shape" that is weird: true, a 
does not look like a
but what of it? A lot of what, according to KM...
In the same way the exchange values of commodities must be reduced to a common element, of which they represent a greater or lesser quantity. This common element cannot be a geometrical, physical, chemical or other natural property of commodities [because exchange values are quantities not qualities!!] clearly, the exchange relation of commodities is characterized precisely by its abstraction from their use-values.
Karl Marx "Capital Volume I" (1990) p127

So in abstracting the formula for the area of a triangle, I have extinguished all the triangles, made the triangleyness of the triangles disappear?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Marx Out Of Ten? A TL;DR Production

The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind. The nature of these needs, whether they arise, for example, from the stomach, or from the imagination, makes no difference.
Okey dokey.
The usefulness of a thing makes it a use-value. [It is] the physical body of the commodity itself which is the [...] use-value or useful thing.
Yeppity yep.
Exchange value appears first of all as the quantitative relation, the proportion, in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of another kind [...] A given commodity, a quarter of wheat for example, is exchanged for x boot-polish, y silk or z gold [...] clearly, the exchange relation of commodities is characterized precisely by its abstraction from their use-values. Within the exchange relation, one use-value is worth just as much as another, provided only that it is present in the appropriate quantity [...] As use-values, commodities differ above all in quality, while as exchange-values they can only differ in quantity, and therefore do not contain an atom of use-value.
Good-o. As a kiddiwink I learned that 2 apples + 2 pears = 4, 2 hats + 2 pencils = 4, that 2 + 2 = 4 without reference to any physical objects. Within the exchange relation, as within the arithmetic relation, the material existence of a given commodity is not a consideration: 2 quarters of wheat exchanges for x boot-polish and z gold, or for 2z gold, or for x boot-polish and y silk, indifferently.
If then we disregard the use-value of commodities, only one property remains, that of being products of labour.
Well, we haven't disregarded use-value at any point, just agreed that it is not a consideration within the exchange relation. But, yes, another feature of commodities is that they are the product of human labour.
But even the product of labour has already been transformed in out hands. If we make abstraction from its use-value, we abstract also from the material constituents and forms which make it a use-value. It is no longer a table, a house, a piece of yarn or any other useful thing. All its sensuous characteristics are extinguished.
Wait, what? We have agreed to understand the exchange relation as an abstraction in which the use-value of a particular commodity is not a consideration. That "already" adds a temporal dimension: we are no longer within the exchange relation; we seem to be present at the slow-moving funeral procession
of use-value, witnessing the corpse being taken solemnly away, life and identity extinguished.
Nor is it any longer the product of the labour of the joiner, the mason or the spinner, or of any other particular kind of productive labour. With the disappearance of the useful character of the products of labour, the useful character of the kinds of labour embodied in them also disappears; this in turn entails the disappearance of the different forms of concrete labour. They can no longer be distinguished, but are all together reduced to the same kind of labour, human labour in the abstract.
Off to Boot Hill with specific human labour and use-value both, then? The simple operation of proposing that abstraction, the exchange value, seems to be having a vampiric effect. But when I accepted that 2 + 2 = 4, I did not drain the world of apples, pears, hats or pencils, nor of the distinct labour of the farmers, hatters or factory hands who grow or make them, any more than now when I accept the abstraction of the exchange value notion.

If I buy a pencil, say, I am certainly thinking of its use-value, which has not in any way disappeared or been extinguished from the commodity by virtue of its being in an exchange relation.

I am admittedly not thinking of the people who worked the pencil-making machines, nor of the people who designed or built them, nor of those who mined or smelted the ores that compose them, nor of those who made the graphite or the paint &c &c... call me inattentive.

Others did, though, pay individual attention to the myriads of people involved in making the existence of the pencil possible - trained them, hired, employed, promoted them and so on. They are only "reduced to the same kind of labour" by my human inability to pay attention to much at all at any given time.
Let us now look at the residue of the products of labour. There is nothing left of them but the same phantom-like objectivity;
the ghosts wafting around in the wake of the funeral procession... and Marx was a failed poet/playwright, could the outbreak of dramatic rhetoric in these last few paragraphs have some purpose to it?
                     they are merely congealed quantities of homogenous human labour, i.e. of human labour-power expended without regard to the form of its expenditure.
Ah yes, earlier to distract our attention from the inexplicable soul-reaving powers being taken on by the mere mental operation of 2 + 2, and now to disappear the use-value without disappearing the human labour, drawing attention away from the miraculous survival of one (albeit congealed) but not the other.
As crystals of this social substance, which is common to them all, they are values - commodity values [Warenwerte].
I have the feeling that this fraudulent (done by sleight of hand, masked by rhetoric, not established by argument) reduction of all commodities to nothing other than homogenised and congealed human labour (the warenwerte) is going to be the big thing in Volume I.
We have seen that when commodities are in the relation of exchange, their exchange-value manifests itself as something totally independent of their use-value. But if we abstract from their use-value, there remains their value [warenwerte], as it has just been defined. The common factor in the exchange relation, or in the exchange-value of the commodity, is therefore its value [warenwirte].
Karl Marx "Capital Volume I" (1990) pp125-28

Absurd, like asking after getting rid of those pesky apples, pears, hats, pencils etc and arriving at 2 + 2 = 4, "but please, Sir, what is 2 + 2 made of?"

It is an abstraction, there is no external "common factor" needed to in some way give it, or its terms, substance.

Scores on th'doors? 9/10 for entertainment, if nothing else. Sorry, that's a use-value... 9/10 for sheer bloody effort on Marx's part. No, not Karl Marx, that would be non-homogenised, ummmm...

Shall I plough on with the rest of the book? Ignoring the introductions, prefaces, appendices and so on, I have got to page 4 of 936.

If I do, I undertake not to paralyse the gentle reader with any more posting on the matter, and I am a blogger of my word,

And if you believe that, ...