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Capital - Chapter 1 - Reduction of Complex to Simple Labour

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by ItWillNeverWork, Mar 28, 2012.

  1. A quick thread starter here. The heterogeneous forms of concrete-labour such as tailoring, weaving, computer programming etc, are made comparable by assuming that all forms of labour are multiples of 'simple labour'. But how does this process happen? Is it just an abstract assumption to make the labour theory consistent? Does Marx speak of this issue anywhere else?
  2. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Marx saw this notion of abstract or "simple labor" as his major advance on Adam Smith's labor theory of value, which identified value with labor expended in production alone.

    The idea is that only labor conceived in the abstract can provide an equivalent for commodities, including commodities that are not themselves the products of labor. Marx later says that the worker does not sell his labor, but rather his 'labor-power,' which is his capacity for labor over a given time--or rather his time itself, which is say his life. As Marx puts it in this chapter:

    "Labor, then, as the creator of use-value, as useful labor, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself." (Trans Fowkes 1976, p.133)

    So it is "human life itself" which is alienated in the form of value. This concept of "labor-power" is the descendent of Hegel's Geist.
    Ibn Khaldoun likes this.
  3. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    there's actually two distinctions at play here - and it looks like both IWNW and Phil are mixing up the simple/complex labour distinction that marx makes with the concrete/abstract labour distinction that marx makes (an easy mistake to make for someone reading Capital for the first time I woud say)

    If what IWNW is referring to is this passage from chapter 1 (and his comments about complex & simple labour in the title makes me think he is, however the reference to heterogeneous labour in the post makes me thinks he isn't), then the distinction being talked about here is actually the simple/complex distinction, which is different from the concrete/abstract

    This is in fact separate to the concrete/abstract labour distinction which Marx of course goes on to talk much more about - the reduction of skilled labour however to multiplied simple labour however he does not say that much more about, as he makes clear in the last sentence of the quote above. The complex/simple distinction however is not really of much analytical benefit once abstract labour is introduced. The key thing about this complex/simple distinction is it is just a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one (and therefore requires no kind of 'abstraction', real or imagined)

    A piece about this by Andrew Kliman is here:-

    Also while i'm here:-

    yet more nonsense from philip on this one - so the value of commodities that are not the product of labour derive their value from the abstraction of the labour (that doesn't exist) in those commodities

    And also, despite what Phil will tell you, the underlying processes that give rise to abstract labour are of course, very real - you can't as phil suggests, create abstract labour by just thinking about it
    Smokeandsteam likes this.
  4. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Yes, of course they do. That's the whole point. All value is alienated labor-power, not just the value of the products of labor. One would have thought this obvious.

    More crazed and desperate misrepresentation. Of course I suggest no such thing.
  5. But doesn't that presume simple and complex labours within the same industry to be qualitatively commensurable? Why would complex tailoring be any more comparable to simple tailoring than it is to simple or complex weaving? By comparing complex to simple within the same industry, an abstraction is still being made, so how is that abstraction different from the abstraction of comparing separate industries?
  6. In one of the David Harvey lectures he briefly touches on the topic of the value of uncultivated land in desirable places. Isn't this an example of value being granted to commodities that have not (as yet) absorbed any labour? The value of other commodities of a similar type gets somehow transferred over, doesn't it?
  7. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Not the value "of other commodities a similar type," but value in general, in the abstract, is applied to commodities that are not the products of labor. This is made possible by a mental act of abstraction from individual acts of productive labor.
  8. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    If you're talking about the piece from Kliman, then if you look at it the answer to your question is there in the first sentence (and also the 2nd & 3rd last paragraphs)

    Personally I don't find the complex/simple distinction of much analytical use (it both seems a bit clumsy and also somewhat redundant) and to an extent Marx probably didn't either as he basically introduces it and wraps it up within one paragraph (the one i quoted). It perhaps plays a part though in just assuming away any elements for confusion on the part of the reader when first reading it, i.e. it simplifies a part of the discussion and 'abstracts' away potential niggly points to clear the way to make the more substantive points, as the aim at this stage is not to let niggly bits of detail (however important they may be) get in the way of the essence of the points being made (or in the case of chapter 1, the points being stated).
  9. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    First off, let's get some basic terminology correct

    labour power is the commodity which labour sells to capital in exchange for wage - the value of labour power, like all commodities, is the value required to produce it - in conceptual terms this resolves into the wage, i.e. the value of labour power is, the value of what is required to produce it and going on the assumption, as marx does in volume 1, that all commodities exchange for their value, then the wage paid to labour is the value of labour power

    once bought, the use value of that labour power (the ability to produce value) is productively consumed, this then creates more value than it itself was bought for, thus giving the ability for capital to appropriate the difference between value produced from labour and value paid to labour, i.e. surplus value

    so, back to your point, all value is not labour-power, but all value is labour activity expended. If as you said all value is labour-power, then because the value of labour power is effectively wages (remember labour-power is the just the name for potential working activity bought by capital), then no value would ever be extracted from capital because the commodities that are produced in the production process by labour would end up having the same value as that which was paid for labour, leaving a surplus of zero

    now, to the crux of the point - now that we have established that value consists of nothing but alienated labour activity - your previous assertion that commodities that do not contain any labour nonetheless have value can be seen for what it is, not only logically incoherent with your previous correct premise (i.e. that all value is labour), but patently absurd

    Things can, however, have a price that deviates from their value (and things can also have a price but no value). There are both structural & accidental reasons for this - some of the the structural ones are dealt with in volume 3 (although strictly speaking that element is a different thing from what's being discussed here), which is too much of a derail here, however Marx points to the general point in chapter 3 here, when pointing to the capacity for not just a quantiative incongruence to arise between price & value, but also a qualatitive incongruence - i.e. things can have a price that don't have a value (i.e. conscience, honour, etc..)

    To recap then, your convulsions above are in response to this post of mine below :-

    So you didn't suggest such a thing, here, here or here?

    Once again phil, i think it's plain to see, you're simply not fit for purpose
  10. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    I think Harvey's explanation of that particular point was horribly muddled and confusing - the point is though that it is not value but price that is being talked about - the post above with the quote from Chapter 3 deals with that (sorry for going ahead of the chapter that the thread relates to)
  11. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    No fool, obviously I didn't. Read them again.

    I'm suggesting that concrete labor can only be made into abstract labor by thinking about it. I'm not suggesting that one can make abstract labor just by thinking about it.

    Am I? NO OBVIOUSLY I am not.

    And so you are wrong. You might think an apology was in order.
  12. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    yes because concrete labour can only be turned into abstract labour by thinking about it, no need for the market or the whole host of other activities that are at play here or anything like that to intervene to actually make the transformation at the social level, real abstraction so to speak - nah, just have a wee ponder and bam, there's your value

    to get our of your previous error, you will now no doubt come back with some banal observation that these real activities which make the transformation are done by people who are able to think or some other banal observation that adds nothing to the analysis and instead is predicated on you trying to save face

    here's phil earlier thinking his concrete labour into abstract all on his own

    notice again the inability to respond to the substantive points made in the post - too busy again are we philip dear?

    not fit for purpose philip
  13. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge This is definitely the darkest timeline

  14. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Yes, obviously. Anything can only be turned into anything abstract by thinking about it.

    This is really, really obvious. It is literally so obvious that anyone can see it. Is there anyone reading this, other than Love Detective, who cannot see that the act of abstraction is necessarily psychological and not physical?

    No of course there is not. In fact I can't believe that Love Detective doesn't see it himself. By making such clearly fallacious objections, he hopes to distract us from the increasingly-clear fact that he has no idea of the most basic concepts with which he is trying to deal.
  15. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    exactly as i forecast above

    still busy with work yes

    not fit for purpose philip

    as for having no idea of the concepts in which you are talking about - the very fact that you couldn't even get your initial post on this thread on the right topic is indicative of who has problems with the basic concepts they are (trying to) work with
  16. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Hah. If I don't respond to one of your points, it's because I basically think you've got that bit right.

    Now: would you care to show us how something can be made abstract other than by an act of human thought, as you apparently imagine it can, please?

    In your own good time.
  17. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    No, I'm here now aren't I?

    So how about it? How can concrete labor turn into abstract labor outside the human mind?

    Whenever you're ready, please?
  18. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    once you have responded to the veritable backlog of points I have made to you over the last day or so, then and only then, will you be in a position to demand that I answer anything from you, understand?
  19. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    through exchange, a process that cannot be realised purely by just thinking about it, as you consistently imply in earlier posts both on this and other threads
  20. magneze

    magneze mnemonic beef

    Money is an abstract form of human labour, yes?
  21. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    an imperfect representative form of value itself i would say

    and certainly not one that can be brought about purely by thinking about it as philip's addled brain seems to keep on telling him
  22. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Dude, you are attempting to argue that the process of abstraction is an objective process. Who is the fetishist now?

    Obviously the process of abstraction--any process of abstraction--is in reality a conceptual, psychological process, a process of ideas and of ideas alone.

    What changes in the material commodity itself when it is abstracted in exchange? Nothing. What changes is the way human beings conceive it.

    Well this is elementary stuff, so I won't bore others with it any longer.
  23. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    christ you're struggling to dig yourself out of your mess aren't you - i guessed above you would resort to some banal observations to try and get your way out of this

    as we have noted before, value while being immaterial is at the same time objective - and the real social processes of both capitalist production & commodity exchange when generalised across society give us a set of social relations that get their power from us, yet stand over us

    these things are perfectly objective, they are real social/human processes that are carried out, producing and reproducing the objective material relations we live under - you can't just shut your eyes and imagine into reality their introduction or dissolution

    you are hiding behind a lot of things here phil, pretty poor for someone who is meant to be a professional academic - i mean if someone like me who left school at 16 can demolish you so effortlessly it really doesn't say much about you and your so called profession

    (noticed also the cop out line at the end of your post, so you can run off, just like you did on the other thread)

    as i said, not fit for purpose
  24. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Again, representation of any kind has no existence outside the human brain. The translation of labor-power into value is always also a transformation from material into symbolic form.
  25. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    Nothing "stands over us." Wriggle and squirm all you like, you can never get past the fact that such things as value, representation and abstraction are not material things. As such they are not capable of "standing over us." They are all in our minds.

    I'm sure it must be nice to be have the leisure, as you evidently do, to sit around all day spouting ignorant bullshit onto a computer. However some of us do have to work for a living.
  26. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    more tosh - first off labour power is the commodity which labour sells to capital - value itself is created in the process of production, a material process that involves the productive consumption of that labour power that capital has purchased - this is not a material to symbolic process, if no use values are created through the labour activity then no amount of closing your eyes and thinking really hard is going to magic that value into existence

    And your squirming again with your language - the process that involves the 'creation' of that representation is a very real process, one that involves real people doing real things, not as you suggest, just thinking about it

    awaits further banality that people think about things while they do it......zzz
  27. love detective

    love detective secret pint

    again you conflate immateriality with objectiveness to try and square the circle you've enveloped around yourself - very dishonest and disingenuous

    to repeat, just because value is immaterial, this doesn't mean that it is also subjective - far from it in fact - it is thoroughly objective

    i'm unemployed at the moment so I wouldn't exactly say it was nice to have to sit around all day not working, but that is the position I find myself in

    mind you, if the world really was like how you say it is above, i wouldn't need to bother trying to find a job to pay the bills, i wouldn't need to be dominated by the dull compulsion of the market and the 'law' of value that stand over us (along with their various recourses to extra-economic exertion should they waver), i can just close my eyes and think really hard about it and it will go away, because that's all that's required isn't it - thinking, there's absolutely no material things that arise out of those processes that stop me from just wishing them away. All that stuff is just in my mind - can't wait to tell my partner the good news that all our problems have been solved by Saint Philip of Dwyer. I might just pop down the shops now and get the food I would have otherwise paid for by just thinking about the exchange that would have taken place between the shop's commodities and my money form - bingo, another problem solved

  28. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge This is definitely the darkest timeline

    Hold off that line of thought until chapter three. For now, look again at what Marx writes on p142:

    "Human labour-power in its fluid state [...] creates value, but is not itself value. It becomes value in its coagulated state, in objective form. The value of the linen as a coagulated mass of human labour can be expressed only as an 'objectivity', a thing which is materially different from from the linen itself and yet common to the linen and all other commodities."

    In other words, it is the process of labour that has the social weight, but the end product that has the value.
  29. phildwyer

    phildwyer Gorau arf arf dysg

    No, value is created through a process of abstraction from the individual acts of labor performed in production. That, to repeat (with apologies to those who know this stuff already) was Marx's advance on the political economy of Smith and Ricardo.

    And once again, abstraction is a purely mental process.
  30. magneze

    magneze mnemonic beef

    ... and by the process of exchange we convert that value into money? (C-M) How much is mediated by the amount of labour, supply, demand and other market conditions as I understand it from Chapter 3.

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