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» NEIL SMITH: What I remember from those days is how textual
the discussion was.
And my sense from talking with students here
is that while that's still a core of what you're trying to do with the book,
that the
way you're teaching it has really evolved
and changed in its own way.
And, in one sense it's a much larger, it's no longer just around a small seminar table
where you're having a reading group, it's a much larger group. You've certainly got a lot of the same mix of
academics, students, faculty, activists, and so on who are involved in it.
But at the same time my sense is that your approach to the
book has changed somewhat too. So I wonder if you might want to try and
spin that out a bit. » DAVID HARVEY: One of the great things about doing this all this time-
and when you think about it,
teaching the same book for nearly forty years sounds like an incredibly boring thing to do.
And most people, if they taught the same course for forty years,
would go nuts
just doing it. But
every time I go through it I find a fresh angle on it.
And the fresh angle is sometimes something I didn't see in the text before which now jumps out
at me as being very significant.
And the other thing that happens is that circumstances change,
people's interests change,
the intellectual background with which they come to
Capital changes, so
actually taking this text and sort of,
putting it with
the changing historical and geographical circumstances is actually… actually in itself,
a very interesting exercise. I've always found a great deal of excitement about that.
But the other thing that happens is that,
there are many things I see in the book now which I didn't see before - in part
because I've gone through it with so many different people seeing it from different angles,
that I start to see it from their angle, and then and I see things that I didn't see before.
But partly also because I think my own intellectual interests have grown and shifted
and therefore,
in a sense I'm
changing the way in which I think about Capital and teach Capital, depending very much on
the kind of circumstances that I'm writing about today.
[Music]
I'm curious to know how many of you
actually read these two chapters?
Wow. How many didn't?
Don't do it again.
One of things I suggested last time was,
a good idea when you're looking at
a particular section, to
go over what the main idea is, because that way you can chart your way
through what's going on.
And last time we dealt with
section one
of Chapter One
and I suggested that you could decompose this into a very simple
sort of structure
which looks like this.
Marx starts with the commodity
as the foundation
for his investigation of a capitalist mode of production,
immediately suggests
it has a dual character: it has a use-value
and it has an exchange-value.
The mystery about the exchange-value was that the tremendous heterogeneity which existed
of use-values is somehow or other rendered
compatible, commensurable.
And so
Marx argues there must be something that lies behind
exchange-value which explains that commensurability.
And what it is that lies behind is the notion of value.
And he defines that as
socially necessary labour time.
In order to be socially necessary
the labour expended on something has to be a use-value for someone.
So Marx reconnects
to use-value and so you start to see value
as a coming together of both use-value and exchange-value in the concept of social necessary labour time.
Now if you ask yourself this question of what is the structure of the
next two sections,
they go something like this:
He concentrates on
labour time.
He's already
distinguished between
the tremendous variety of labour times that might be actually spent
and something which he calls abstract labour.
So here he takes a concept which was just simply
referred to in the first section
and splits it out and says, well, socially necessary labour time
has two aspects:
concrete labour
and abstract labour,
and he talks about the difference between the two.
But in the end there's only one labour process, it's not as if one labour process is doing the concrete
and one's doing the abstract.
No, there's one labour process and it has this dual character.
It is both concrete, and it is abstract.
The question is how do you find out
what the abstract value is in the commodities which you've produced?
And the answer to that can only be found at the moment when
abstract and concrete labour come together at the moment of exchange.
So we're now going to look at exchange and the way in which exchange generates a way
of expressing value,
representing value, because we know that value is a social relation,
therefore it's immaterial.
So what we got out of exchange, coming out of exchange, is
a duality again.
Relative and equivalent forms of value.
And these relative and equivalent forms of value eventually coalesce at the end of this
long, and in my opinion and somewhat turgid, third section
into the idea that there is
a way in which value gets expressed.
And it gets expressed
in the form of a money commodity.
You want to take this further into the next section, the money commodity conceals something,
it conceals the social relations.
So the next section is about
the way in which
there are social relations between things, and material
relations between people.
Now you can see a certain pattern
emerging here in the nature of the argument.
There is an unfolding going on.
There is an expansion of the argument going on.
And actually if you look at the logical structure
of the argument in Capital you see it is in continuous expansion of this kind.
Now the classic way of thinking of the Hegelian logic is of course
thesis-antithesis-synthesis.
But these are not synthetic points.
These are points which internalize a tension,
a contradiction
that needs to be
further expanded and looked at.
In this section, the first section,
we have the argument that there is a distinction between abstract and concrete labour, but now
we expand it.
And out of that comes an understanding of how
exchange processes produce a representation of value
in the money commodity,
the money form,
the universal equivalent, as he puts it.
So you see how this process
of representation unfolds in Capital.
But of course at each point
in this he's going to make many other observations.
This, if you like, is the sort of
skeletal structure of the argument. But as he built his argument he builds in
extra elements.
And as those extra elements are built in,
so what we see is a gradual
expansion not only in the terms of this kind of linear way that it sort of expands
in this way as well. It goes from
a very narrow conception of the commodity to a broader and broader and broader conception
as he works through these different elements.
So let's look very concretely then at
this section two.
He starts off on page hundred and thirty-two
where he makes the very modest claim that "I was the first
to point out and examine critically this twofold nature of the labour contained in commodities.
As this point is crucial to an understanding of political economy, it requires further elucidation."
This is a polite way of saying:
to the degree that classical political economy never made this distinction,
they got their political economy all wrong,
and I'm going to get it right because this distinction is fundamental.
Now the first part looks at concrete labour
and in much the same way that he's looking at the heterogeneity of use-values,
he's looking at the immense heterogeneities of
concrete labour processes,
producing different items- shirts and shoes and apples and pears
and all the rest of it,
different skills involved
different techniques involved, different raw materials involved,
and, therefore, the labour process is itself heterogeneous.
It is not simply that you're producing heterogeneous products
you're also witnessing a heterogeneity of labour processes,
spinning and weaving,
shoe making and bread baking and all the rest of it, call for different skills that
the heterogeneity of it is simply stunning.
So he goes over that heterogeneity.
In the process however
he makes one move to broaden the argument.
And that move is, I think, of singular importance
and this move occurs at the bottom of page hundred and thirty-three,
well about halfway down, he says:
"Labour, then, as the creator of use-values as useful labour
is a condition of human existence
which is independent of all forms of society."
Now, usually you don't
find Marx saying that in Capital, because he's interested only in how things work under
capitalism. But here he is saying
use-values have to be produced no matter what kind of society you're in.
He says "it is an eternal natural necessity
which mediates the metabolism between man and nature and, therefore, human life itself."
What we're doing here
is at this point, we're introducing
the whole idea of a metabolic relation to nature
as being something which has to be integrated into the argument,
integrated into the analysis.
He doesn't pay that much attention to this in Capital, but
the point of him making this statement here is to say:
there's no way which you can examine
this whole process without actually looking at this
metabolic relation to nature.
And he goes on to explain a little bit, "the physical bodies of commodities
are combinations of two elements: the material provided by nature
and labour.
If we subtract the total amount of useful labour of different kinds which is contained
in the coat, linen etc, a material substratum is always left.
This substratum is furnished by nature without human intervention.
When man engages in production he can only proceed
as nature does herself."
That is you have to proceed in accordance with natural law.
You "(…)can only change the form of materials. Furthermore,
even in this work of modification he is constantly helped by natural forces.
Labour is therefore not the only source of material wealth, i.e. of use-values(…).
As William Petty says, labour is the father of material wealth,
the earth is its mother."
That gendered metaphor is very common of course from
seventeenth-century onwards, and so Marx is simply repeating
something that had been there from the Enlightenment onwards.
But, notice something here:
material wealth is not the same as value.
Material wealth,
it's going to be the total quantity of use-values available to you.
The value of those use-values
can vary in all sorts of ways.
You can have a lot of use-values
and very little value because there's very little labour input,
or you can have
very few use-values and a lot of labour input, so the relationship between wealth
and value is not one-on-one at all.
So, Marx's conception of wealth
is about the material assemblage
of use-values which are available to us.
He then goes on to make some comments.
This heterogeneous labour contains a bit of a conundrum.
Different skills, different capacities for productivity
of different labourers,
and we have to look at that which he does over the next two pages.
And he says in order to really advance his analysis,
what he has to do is to create a simple standard of value.
And this standard is going to be called, as he says on hundred and thirty-five,
"simple average labour".
Now simple average labour,
is not constant, he points out: "(…)it is true it varies in character in different countries
and at different cultural epochs,
but in a particular society it is given."
This is a move that Marx will often make.
For purposes of analysis I'm going to assume it's given, even though I know it varies
all over the place.
But for purposes of analysis I'm going to assume there's something there
called simple average labour,
which is what the abstraction of value is about.
Furthermore, what I do is I take the issue of skills
and complex labour, and simply say:
"More complex labour counts only as intensified, or rather multiplied simple labour,
so that a smaller quantity of complex labour is considered equal to a larger quantity
of simple labour."
He then adds: "Experience shows that this reduction is constantly being made."
He doesn't tell us what experience it is that shows us this.
This is actually a rather problematic argument and it goes under the title of
'the reduction of skill to simple labour problem' in a lot of marxian theorizing.
And it poses certain difficulties for the way in which certain people have used Marx's
value theory. I want to signal
the fact that this passage conceals
something which is a bit problematic
and which is being a matter of some controversy
in the field of Marxian studies.
What i'm going to do, therefore, is to
ask the question
which we have, I think, have to ask of this. What experience is it
that shows this reduction
is being made?, and how is that reduction being made?
And we will come across some examples where we will find
that argument laid out.
So on the bottom of that paragraph he says: "In the Interests of simplification, we shall henceforth
view every form of labour power directly as simple labour power;
by this wish shall simply be saving ourselves
the trouble of making the reduction."
As I've indicated, this is
a strategy that Marx sometimes uses. He hits a complication,
says: okay I recognize the complication, I going to simplify it away,
and for purposes of argument go on as if
this datum of simple average labour is adequate
to my argument.
On page hundred and thirty-six/ hundred and thirty-seven
he starts to talk more about the
abstract qualities of labour.
He shifts from the examination of the concrete,
both looking at the relation to nature and the problem of skills,
and goes to look more concretely,
if I can put it that way, at the abstract side of this argument.
And of course in the abstract side we´re dealing with a quantitative relation.
And he has to say certain things about the temporal duration of labour,
how the temporal duration of labour works.
And the first thing he notices on the top of hundred and thirty-seven
is that, right at the bottom hundred thirty six, is that "(…)an increase in the amount of material
wealth may correspond to a simultaneous fall in the magnitude of its value."
Value is dependent upon human productivity.
Highly productive people can produce a large amount of material wealth
very quickly.
And they can work less hours, so actually the amount of
value that they make can be very low but the amount of material wealth they generate can
be enormous.
So again, he's going to emphasize that distinction between material wealth
and value.
And he goes on to point out that while changes in productivity
affect material wealth, they don't necessarily have any effect at all
on value creation.
We will see instances where this is the case but,
nevertheless, the change in productivity
is itself not directly connected to transformations in value.
That leads into the bottom of hundred thirty-seven, to a definition:
"…all labour is an expenditure of human labour-power, in the physiological sense,
and it is in this quality of being equal, or abstract, human labour that it forms the value
of commodities.
On the other hand all labour is an expenditure of human labour-power in a particular form
and with a definite aim,
and it is in this quality of being concrete useful labour that it reproduces use-values."
Just simply means that if it takes so many hours of
simple labour to produce a coat,
and you produce ten coats,
the amount of value is ten.
If you produce fifteen coats it's fifteen.
»STUDENT: But the value per coat remains the same. »HARVEY: The value per coat remains the same.
He then goes on to talk about what happens when the value per coat goes down
which is why the changing productivity then comes in.
Section three: the value form,
or exchange-value.
Again, what we see is
an opening argument which
specifies the nature of a problem.
And he begins with this discussion about the objectivity of commodities
and the fact that, even though they have objective qualities,
nevertheless, he says about the middle of page hundred and thirty-eight,
"Not an atom of matter
enters into the objectivity of commodities as values;
in this it is the direct opposite to the costly sensuous objectivity of commodities
as physical objects."
He then goes on to say: "(…)let us remember that commodities possess an objective character as values only
insofar as they are expressions of
an identical social substance, human labour,
that their objective character as values is therefore purely social.
From this it follows," he says,
"that it can only appear in the social relation between commodity and commodity."
Now, this is a little bit strange,
in the sense that Marx is saying
that the value of a commodity is immaterial.
Not an atom of matter enters into the value of a commodity.
Marx's foundational concept- value
is immaterial,
but objective.
This doesn't fit very well with the image of Marx, right, as someone who kind of is a
grubby materialist for who everything has to be sort of fixed and material and if it's not material
then it's nothing.
Here is his fundamental concept of value
which is immaterial but objective.
And it's immaterial because it's a social relation.
Can you see social relations?
Can you actually have iotas or atoms or molecules of social relationships?
You can't trace them that way,
yet we know that social relationships are objective.
There's a social relationship between you and I
and you could look at what's going on in the room and say: okay there's a social relationship
between teacher and taught.
And you can talk about it and it has objective consequences in the grade you get and all that
sort of stuff, but
you can't actually measure it in terms of atoms, and movement and you can't actually find the molecules
floating through the air, you know,
from my brain into your brain or from wherever you know.
It's not like that.
It's immaterial but objective.
So Marx is saying: value is immaterial and objective like that, it's a social relation which becomes
objectified in the commodity.
And that process of objectification
is of course also an objectification of a process
in a thing
because the process is socially necessary labour time.
So the process is objectified in the thing.
How it is objectified in the thing
is a matter of some considerable interest.
And furthermore: how the commodity expresses
that value relation objectively, as a thing.
And Marx's answer to that is:
you cannot go to a commodity
this table
and dissect it and get the chemical composition and everything else, you can't go to this table
and find out what its value is internal to the table.
You only find out what the value of this table is, when it is put in an exchange relation with
something else.
Later on he will actually use the notion of gravity
as a similar example.
it's very difficult, impossible in fact, to take a stone
and dissect it and find gravity inside of it.
You can only find gravity when you put the stone in relationship to another stone, it's
only a relationship between bodies.
So it's immaterial but objective.
So this is Marx's fundamental concept and it's very important that you
you recognize this at the outset.
So when somebody comes along and says: well, Marx is just one of those boring materialists who doesn't
have any…well, how come?
His foundational concept is immaterial but objective
and what is this about.
And the immateriality is of course
socially necessary labour time.
But in order to figure out what socially necessary labour time is you've got to have a
form of appearance.
So, on hundred and thirty-nine, again he makes the modest claim:
"Now, however, we have to perform a task never even attempted by bourgeois economics.
That is, we have to show the origin of this money-form, we have to trace the development
of the expression of value contained in the value relation of commodities
from its simplest almost imperceptible outline
to the dazzling money-form.
When this has been done, the mystery of money will immediately disappear."
What then follows is, I think,
a very boring exegesis of how this works.
And we can simply go over the general line of argument in order to
actually look at some very important, again,
seeming sidebars like the relation to nature which actually now going to become integrated
into the argument.
The argument goes like this:
I have a commodity,
I don't know what its abstract value is.
I'm desperate to know and have a measure of the abstract value
in my commodity.
You have a commodity.
So I say: Okay,
I'm going to measure the value,
abstract value of my commodity in terms of your commodity. You have the equivalent form,
I have the relative form.
If we were in a barter situation
you would have the relative form, relative to my equivalent.
There are as many equivalents as there are commodities, and as many relatives as
there are commodities as well.
So this is the simple version
that kind of says:
I only find out
what this table is worth when it's exchanged with something else,
and therefore it is your labour input which is going to be the measure
of abstract labour in mine.
He then expands it and he says: Well, what happens when, for example,
I have shoes and you don't want shoes, but on the other hand
I want the shirt you have. So I trade my shoes for your shirt, and then you take the shoes that you've traded
and trade them on, in other words, you can imagine
something going on and on and on and on…like that.
or you could also imagine somebody sitting there with
cans of tuna and they're the only person who've got cans of tuna.
And everybody wants to trade with cans of tuna, so suddenly cans of tuna turn out to
be very significant and therefore
multiple commodities are exchanging with the same thing.
So Marx goes through these various
forms of this
and at the end of the day we start to see crystallizing out
the idea that there is one commodity,
or a particular bundle of commodities which start, actually,
to be a stand-in
for the equivalent.
And out of that we see crystallizing the universal equivalent.
One commodity becomes
the central equivalent for all exchanges,
and that one commodity
we call the money commodity and the most obvious
one to look at would be gold.
So one commodity crystallizes out.
There are a number of points which have to be made about this and Marx is going to make
this point several times.
In order for this to happen,
exchange has to become generalized,
it has to become, what he calls, a 'normal social act'.
It can't be just an occasional exchange,
it has to be generalized and it has to be systematic.
If it's not generalized or systematic then
it's unlikely that
gold is going to emerge as the universal equivalent.
But what you can see him doing here
is very different from the argument
of classical political economy. He's saying that the money form
arises out off the exchange relation.
It's not superimposed from outside.
It's not that somebody had a good idea and said: oh let us have money.
Nothing of that kind,
no, it arises, in Marx's view, out of
simple acts of exchange which gradually expand
to the point where they become generalized
for the whole of society.
Now, there's an interesting question here:
Is this a historical argument or a logical argument?
Actually we're often going to find that arising in Capital, and it's something you
should think about.
In the nineteenth century there was a tendency sometimes to interpret Marx as making a historical argument
as well as a logical argument.
I think most people who are familiar with
works in archaeology and anthropology and history and all the rest of it would now kind of say
you can't really treat this as a historical argument.
There are too many
symbolic systems like coins and so on, floating around, of various kinds, historically and archeologically,
and all the rest of it,
in the absence of kind of clear exchange relations of this sort.
So, it's probably best not to treat this as a historical argument.
But what it does do, and I think
this is the way to look at it is:
It actually constructs a logical argument
about the relationship between the money form and commodity exchange
and what that would say historically would be this:
that while there may have been all kinds of different
systems, that you might call monetary systems
floating around, exchange of
cowry shells or stories or whatever,
while there may have been all kinds of systems of that kind
floating around to the degree that
capitalist commodity exchange becomes generalized so it disciplines all of those forms
to this singular relationship between
the money form
and the commodity form.
So in that sense you could kind of say: the logic of capitalism,
and a capitalist system, would say that, as
exchange proliferates and becomes a normal social act,
what this means is that
money and commodities will move into this kind of relation,
no matter what the original
foundation of the monetary form may have been.
But then there are some very specifics about this argument.
And I want to just pay attention to
occasional bits of language which I think are significant.
On hundred and forty-two for example,
in the middle there,
he's talking about human labour in general, however he goes on to say: "(…)it is not enough
to express the specific character of the labour which goes to make up the value of the linen.
Human labour-power in its fluid state(…)"
Now, I've often and will often
draw your attention to the way in which Marx concentrates on the fluidity of things.
"(…)human labour-power in its fluid state, or human labour, creates value, but is not itself value.
It becomes value in its coagulated state, in objective form", through objectification.
So again, there's this process-thing relationship.
And that is always kind of lurking
and you'll always find passages where Marx
will be re-emphasizing that.
But then there's something odd about
the way in which these
relative and equivalent forms of value work together.
And he identifies three peculiarities: the first is identified on page hundred and forty-eight:
"The first peculiarity which
strikes us when we reflect on the equivalent form is this:
that use-value becomes the form of appearance of its opposite, value."
That relation is entailed in the very beginning of this argument.
It's the use-value you have which is the equivalent of
my relative.
And it's that use-value, it's not the generality, it's just that use-value,
and we can never going to escape from that
contradiction.
That a specific use-value,
in the end of the day it's going to be gold,
becomes a form of appearance of its opposite, value.
The result of that, on hundred and forty-nine.
is he starts to talk about the way in which
- and this is where you start to get a precursor of the fetishism argument -,
he says: "The relative [value-]form of a commodity, the linen for example, expresses its value existence
as something wholly different from its substance and properties,
as the quality of being comparable with a coat for example;
this expression itself therefore indicates
that it conceals a social relation."
Now in the fetishism section we're going to
be dealing a lot with the way in which things get concealed.
But here he is kind of saying: that concealing
goes on in this logical relationship which is being built up
between commodities
and their monetary expression, and he then goes on a bit further down that paragraph,
to say: "Hence the mysteriousness of the equivalent form,
which only impinges on the crude bourgeois vision of the political economist when it
confronts him in its fully developed shape, that of money."
He then goes on to sort of have a little
cut at the classical political economists for their failures.
So he says on hundred and fifty at the top:
"The body of the commodity, which serves as the equivalent, always figures as the embodiment
of abstract human labour and is always a product of some specific useful and concrete labour."
Specific concrete labour is what makes gold.
But gold is supposed to be an expression
of abstract human labour.
Second peculiarity at the bottom of that page:
"The equivalent form therefore possesses a second peculiarity: in it,
concrete labour,
becomes a form of manifestation of its opposite: abstract human labour."
Third peculiarity,
top of hundred and fifty-one: "(…)the equivalent form has a third peculiarity:
private labour takes the form of its opposite, namely labour in its
directly social form."
You can see all sorts of contradictions emerging out of this.
The expression of value is a particular commodity,
a particular use-value produced under particular concrete
conditions of labour, which is
in principle appropriable by any one individual,
and
at the same time, it's meant to be the general expression
of the whole world of commodity production.
Tension. Just to give you an example: you don't have to take
the private appropriation.
If gold is the money commodity, if gold is the one
commodity, which is the center of all of this,
then who are the producers of gold?
Now there was a very interesting moment towards the end of the nineteen sixties
when the two most important producers of gold in the world market were
the Soviet Union and South Africa.
Capitalism was not terribly happy.
I mean,
the Soviet Union and South Africa could actually mess up the whole gold supply system
by flooding the market or doing something or other, you know.
So, in a sense,
one of the reasons, one of the many reasons actually, that we went to a
de-metallic, a non-metallic
monetary base from the nineteen seventies onwards had everything to do with the fact
that the powers that be in Washington and London and Tokyo and all the rest of it, decided that,
hey, we can't keep gold as a base or other reasons why they couldn't keep gold as a base,
we can't keep gold as a base because
of the political liability that lies in. So these contradictions that he's talking about
here are likely to erupt,
in very specific ways,
who controls the money supply, who controls those use-values, what are the conditions
of labour?
What happens
as happened in eighteen forty eight when suddenly gold was
discovered in California,
and there's a flood of gold into the world market? What happened when
the Spaniards went into
South America and stole all the gold from the Incas and all the rest of it
and flooded Europe with gold
in the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries creating the grand inflation? You know, in other words,
the fact that a specific commodity
has this capacity to be the universal equivalent,
with all of those particularities about it,
creates a problem.
It is as it were a simple relationship between a particularity at an universal,
and the particularity
is standing in as a measure of the universal.
Tension, contradictions,
monetary contradictions fly all over the place later on in the analysis.
But what he's doing here is laying in
a little bit of a basis for that.
Also on hundred and fifty-one
he points out something else which is very important about exchange.
He is very fond of quoting Aristotle.
And he notices that Aristotle says:
well, if things exchange
there must be something equivalent
in the exchange.
So, that what Aristotle began to lay out was the notion that exchange implies equivalence.
But Aristotle couldn't have a labour theory of value.
Why not? Because of slavery.
No free market in labour, this kind of stuff.
So Aristotle saw something very significant about the nature of exchange
and about the nature of economies,
which is the equivalence principle.
It didn't necessarily mean there's equivalence between people but there's equivalence somewhere in the system
that says that is equivalent to that.
And that equivalence principle
is something which is going to be very significant in the way in which markets work.
So Aristotle,
on hundred and fifty-one, says: "There can be no exchange without equality (…) and no equality
without commensurability."
This is something
which is very important for how markets work.
Now, what happens
as this universal equivalent starts to become
more and more present in the argument is this:
and he points this out again on hundred and fifty-three towards the bottom,
he says: "The internal opposition between use-value and value, hidden within the commodity,
is therefore represented on the surface by an external opposition, i.e. by a relation
between two commodities such that the one commodity,
whose own value is supposed to be expressed, counts directly only as a use-value, whereas
the other commodity,
in which that value is to be expressed, counts directly only as an exchange-value."
That is: what we begin to see, is
the beginnings of an emergence of something which is going to be
crucial to the argument.
An internal opposition
within the commodity between
use-value and value
is eventually going to be expressed as an external opposition between the world
of commodities
and the world of money.
Those two worlds
suddenly become separate from each other.
And as they become separate from each other they can be antagonistic to each other.
in other words: you go from an internal opposition to an external
opposition,
with the potentiality for an antagonism.
So, the end of the story then is about
how the expanded form of value
morphs into an universal equivalent.
And that therefore, what this means is that money becomes
the expression,
the money commodity becomes the expression of value.
He says on hundred and sixty, he says this, in the middle of the page:
"Finally,
a particular kind of commodity acquires the form of universal equivalent,
because all other commodities make it the material embodiment of their uniform and universal
form of value."
Then notice the next sentence: "But the antagonism between the relative form of value and the equivalent
form, the two poles of the value-form, also develops concomitantly
with the development of the value form itself."
And that takes us into the final section just on
the money-form.
What we've done here
is looked at the way in which
concrete and abstract come together in an exchange
how the relative and equivalent forms of value
build in certain ways,
generate this money commodity.
Then that leads us into fetishism, but
let's have any questions you have about this section and the preceding section.
»STUDENT: What's interesting, you asked about whether Marx is attempting,
or we can use this as either a logical or a historical argument, what's
interesting is that, people have come to apply this approach to a historical analysis
and they have this concept of, contingency and codification, so that capitalism develops as
a series of accidents (»DAVID HARVEY: yes), which become codified, and then there's also the question of consciousness.
And then also brings to mind, I think, this notion of the true in the form of the true and how,
what can we say about the social relations in the capitalist society when…in capitalism you have
expressions embodied in things that are in contradiction to something else,
like, for…, the expression of value is in a contradictory form in the particular use-value
of something, and this idea that truth is when representation and the thing itself coincide,
and are these the only ways to have absurdities in a society?
»DAVID HARVEY: Well they're not absurdities so much as I think Marx is all the time talking
about the internalizations of contradictions.
And those internalizations of contradictions also become generative.
And it is the tensions there…
And here we will get a kind of complicated
argument, which
I don't want to go into an any great depth but a complicated argument, which says:
you know, are we talking about Marx's mode
of representation here?
And his talking about contradictions? Or are we talking about real contradictions that exist?
Now, I've already indicated,
what I find fascinating about Marx is that he sets up,
just in this chapter, this notion of a contradiction within the money form.
And then when I'm looking at and kind of say: Well, why did they go off the gold standard
in the late nineteen sixties, you know, and then I kind of thought to myself:
Well, actually this helps me understand something about that.
And I think it was very real, and if you go to the literature you find: indeed it was real.
There was this nervousness about the empowerment of the
Soviet Union and South Africa.
So, you know,
the relationship between Marx's argument and the realities around us, and the tensions
we feel in our daily lives, is always a complicated one, and you have to
work that through for yourself,
and work it out for yourself. But what you have see in doing this: he is making
a logical argument here, where he's
talking about the way in which these contradictions get internalized.
In something like money, right, what _is_ money?
It's a very interesting kind of question, you know, I mean how many of you have thought about
what is money?, where did it come from?
And, if you go to Dickens' Dombey and Son, you know, there is this Mr. Dombey and
little Paul is dying and he kinda says:
Papa, what's money?
And Mr. Dombey, the great entrepreneur, can't give him an answer.
And little Paul's mother has died, so he says: Well, can money bring her back?
And Mr. Dombey doesn't know what to say.
What is money? What is it?
And we're with it all the time, we use it all the time, but it's deeply contradictory.
Also in terms of our relationship with it, in terms of the fetish.
I mean, even I wake up sometimes and sort of go and check what's happening to my
stocks in my pension fund, you know, sort of…
So we get a fetish about it, you know, well, what is it?, you know. Oh it went up by two
percent, yeah!, you know.
Or: it went down by ten, you go: oh my god!, you know, so I have a contradictory relation
to collapses of the stock market. On the one hand I like it politically,
on the other hand I hate it personally,
because there goes my pension fund, you know.
So, so these kind of contradictions and tensions are there all the time in our daily lives.
And so I think we need to think about them.
One of the interesting things about this section is, that is written in a completely
different style.
I mean, the last section is Marx with his dull accounting hat on, you know,
this equals that and that equals that.
This is Marx kind of
going off with
mysteries and…
werwolves and all the rest of it.
It's a very different writing style.
And one of the things that's happened as a result of that, is that
quite a lot of people actually regard this as some kind of extraneous piece of argument
in Capital, some sort of
thing, that's set off on the side.
And that therefore they don't take serious
note of it too much, when they're talking about the general theory
that Marx is laying out in Capital. The other
side kind of doesn't pay much mind to the general theory of Capital and treats the section on the
fetishism as the golden piece,
the golden nugget in Marx, and kind of
expands it into great social literary
theory and all the rest of it.
I think it's very important to recognize that
Marx imported this into the second edition from an appendix, as he did the third section.
He rewrote them and brought them into the second edition, and therefore it was a very conscious
move on his part
to do this. But it also says something about Marx's technique, that
he feels perfectly happy switching writing styles
as he moves from one kind of topic to another.
And he matches his writing style to what it is that he's really trying to convey.
So, I think one of the questions we have to
ask is: what is the
positionality of this
in Marx's general line of argument? And I think that the positionality
is already partially being revealed with
his talk of how things get concealed,
how things become mysterious, how
things get buried,
how we can't see quite what's going on, how
there is a complication of this contradiction between
the money form with its particularities and the universal equivalent, which it's
supposed to be functioning as.
So these kinds of relations
have already been set up in such a way that they start to become the focus, as happens
with all these other pieces of the argument. They become the focus.
Ideas which are being latent there, suddenly become the focus of general
kind of argument.
And what he's interested in here is really
two sets of things.
First is the unraveling of the,
the notion of fetishism of the commodity,
in which
an ordinary sensuous thing
gets transformed into something, which he says on the bottom of one hundred sixty-three,
that "transcends sensuousness".
Something which,
on hundred and sixty-five, he says: "(…)sensuous things, which are the same time suprasensible or social."
Now, the enigmatic character of a commodity,
as he puts it,
arises out of it's social character.
He says at the bottom of hundred and sixty-four: "The mysterious character of the commodity form consists therefore
simply in the fact
that the commodity reflects the social characteristics of men's own labour
as objective characteristics of the products themselves, as the socio-natural properties
of these things."
A bit further down:
"What we find", he says is,
but this "is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves
which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form
of a relation between things."
And he then makes a brief sidebar about religion,
but then goes on to say: "I call this the fetishism
which attaches itself to the products of labour
as soon as they're produced as commodities,
And is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities."
This inseparability from the production of commodities is extremely important.
It says that fetishism is not something that
you can sort of just brush away.
It's not a a matter of consciousness,
it's a matter of
something that's deeply embedded in the way in which
commodities get produced and exchanged.
As he goes on to say,
right at the bottom, which is the,
of hundred and sixty five, which is the key passage really:
"In other words, the labour of the private individual
manifests itself as an element of the total labour of society
only through the relations which the act of exchange establishes between the products, and,
through their mediation, between the producers.
To the producers, therefore,
the social relations between their private labours
appear as what they are", note that, appear as what they are,
"i.e. they do not appear as direct social relations between persons in their work,
but rather as material relations between persons
and social relations between things".
Now, the argument in a way is simple enough.
People under capitalism do not relate to each other
directly as human beings.
They relate to each other through the myriad of products
which they encounter in the market.
But when we go into the market and we ask the question: Why does this cost twice as much as that?
What we're encountering is an expression of a social relation
which has something to do, in Marx's view,
with value, socially necessary labour time.
Now, what are the ramifications of this?
There are a number of ramifications.
First off,
we can't possibly know
about the conditions of labour
of all of the people who worked to put breakfast on our table.
We can't possibly know it.
It's so intricate, it's so far fetched, it's so far flung,
And when you take the inputs that are going into the inputs that are going to the inputs,
the coal that makes the steel that goes into the tractor that goes into…
Millions and millions and millions of people are involved in putting breakfast upon our table.
And the big question then arises: Well,
where does our breakfast come from?
I used to like to start my
introductory geography classes with that question: Where does your breakfast come from?
Now,
go and think about it.
And the first answer was: Well, it came from the supermarket. Well no, come on, go back a bit further than that.
And what do you know about the people who produced it? And by the time we got into about the third
week, people would say things like: I didn't have breakfast this morning.
I think it was a kind of sense of guilt that was kind of bubbling up, you know, and the typical response
is kind of something like that.
So, the point here is that
the social relations
between things
mediate between us and everything that is going on out there.
Now, Marx doesn't make this argument, but,
you know, I've had this argument for instance with
religious folk who insist upon, you know, good moral behavior or something of that kind and,
and it's always about face-to-face relations, I'm good with my neighbor and good with the person
next door,
I help the person on the street I see, this kind of stuff.
And you kind of say, well what do you do about all those people who are putting breakfast on your table?
What's your moral responsibility to all those people? And the answer is: "Well, no, I am not
interested in that." Well, that is where our real
social connectivity to the world of labour lies.
And it becomes a very complicated to find out, so occasionally we do find out that,