Re: general, particular; education, economics

From: Jay Lemke (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 14:32:13 PDT

Michael's second quote from Marx makes an interesting point in relation to
the question of student labor-of-learning as being arbitrarily excluded
from the exchange system. Namely the very fact that it is a system, that
under not just capitalist, but all forms of political economy, society
itself is largely predicated on the bonds of exchange, of material
interdependence, which enable us to survive individually as members of a
surviving society.

This does not imply that all value should be commodified, or that the money
economy is/should be universal. But it does imply, I think, that the
survival of individual and society depends on a just valuation of all
contributions to the web of exchange ... and in this case students'
labor-of-learning is not being counted or valued in the currency in which
all other labor is valued under our particular form of political economy.
And that has to lead to economic "distortions" (not unlike those that arise
from not fully valuing the services provided to society by ecosystem
resources), which manifest themselves, I propose, in part as a lot of kids
under-contributing to the needs of society because they are being excluded
from its webs of exchange in respect of their labor-of-learning. And in
many other ways.


At 01:59 PM 10/13/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>I think I am using the term activity only when it something done is useful
>and can be exchanged--I garden but do not farm; farming presupposes the
>exchange situation.
>here directly from Grundrisse--English translation
>Production by an isolated individual outside society—a rare exception
>which may well occur when a civilized person in whom the social forces are
>already dynamically present is cast by accident into the wilderness—is as
>much of an absurdity as is the development of language without individuals
>living together and talking to each other. There is no point in dwelling
>on this any longer.
>And from Kapital, English translation Chapter 1 , section on fetishism
>As a general rule, articles of utility become commodities, only because
>they are products of the labour of private individuals or groups of
>individuals who carry on their work independently of each other. The sum
>total of the labour of all these private individuals forms the aggregate
>labour of society. Since the producers do not come into social contact
>with each other until they exchange their products, the specific social
>character of each producer’s labour does not show itself except in the act
>of exchange. In other words, the labour of the individual asserts itself
>as a part of the labour of society, only by means of the relations which
>the act of exchange establishes directly between the products, and
>indirectly, through them, between the producers. To the latter, therefore,
>the relations connecting the labour of one individual with that of the
>rest appear, not as direct social relations between individuals at work,
>but as what they really are, material relations between persons and social
>relations between things. It is only by being exchanged that the products
>of labour acquire, as values, one uniform social status, distinct from
>their varied forms of existence as objects of utility. This division of a
>product into a useful thing and a value becomes practically important,
>only when exchange has acquired such an extension that useful articles are
>produced for the purpose of being exchanged, and their character as values
>has therefore to be taken into account, beforehand, during production.
> From this moment the labour of the individual producer acquires socially
>a two-fold character. On the one hand, it must, as a definite useful kind
>of labour, satisfy a definite social want, and thus hold its place as part
>and parcel of the collective labour of all, as a branch of a social
>division of labour that has sprung up spontaneously. On the other hand, it
>can satisfy the manifold wants of the individual producer himself, only in
>so far as the mutual exchangeability of all kinds of useful private labour
>is an established social fact, and therefore the private useful labour of
>each producer ranks on an equality with that of all others. The
>equalisation of the most different kinds of labour can be the result only
>of an abstraction from their inequalities, or of reducing them to their
>common denominator, viz. expenditure of human labour-power or human labour
>in the abstract. The two-fold social character of the labour of the
>individual appears to him, when reflected in his brain, only under those
>forms which are impressed upon that labour in every-day practice by the
>exchange of products. In this way, the character that his own labour
>possesses of being socially useful takes the form of the condition, that
>the product must be not only useful, but useful for others, and the social
>character that his particular labour has of being the equal of all other
>particular kinds of labour, takes the form that all the physically
>different articles that are the products of labour. have one common
>quality, viz., that of having value.
>On 13-Oct-04, at 1:14 PM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>Michael, I would like to please return to the post you opened this thread
>>with, where you discuss Engeström and Marx. Your statement that "Marx
>>clearly says that all activity implies the exchange situation ..."
>>perplexes me. I found the p88 quote you mention below - its on p84 of
>>the Progress MECW volume 35 I have - but I am still working on
>>understanding what you mean by "the exchange situation" - and why you say
>>Marx claims that "all activity" implies it. So far I am not seeing this
>>in Marx. Certainly, Marx explains that all exchange originates in the
>>creation of commodities through labor activity. In this sense, the
>>opposite idea can be attributed to Marx - that all exchange implies the
>>labor activity situation - but I am not grasping what you actually say,
>>that all activity implies the exchange situation.
>>- Steve
>>At 08:45 AM 10/13/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>>I am referring to chapter 1 in the German edition--
>>Marx says :
>>(p.55) that production for your own needs produces use-value but not
>>(p.57) in the use-value of each commodity there is a certain purposeful
>>activity or useful labor
>>(p.61) All labor ... produces value (of commodity)
>>(p.88) The two-fold social character of the labour of the individual
>>appears to him, when reflected in his brain, only under those forms which
>>are impressed upon that labour in every-day practice by the exchange of
>>products. In this way, the character that his own labour possesses of
>>being socially useful takes the form of the condition, that the product
>>must be not only useful, but useful for others,
>>((THis translation was taken from the English version on
>>The product of labor must be useful, importantly, for others...
>>So labor already implies the usefulness of the product for others... Marx
>>is not interested in production for my own needs, like my labor of
>>running an organic garden and eating my own vegetables year round.
>>On a final note, the English translation is atrocious. Marx wanted a
>>readable work, and was proud that commentators described the Kapital as
>>readable, even by non-academics. The English translation does not, in my
>>view, do justice to the original, and leaves out many of the important
>>shades of meaning... tradutore traditore
>>On 13-Oct-04, at 1:09 AM, Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>Michael, where does Marx say this?
>>"Marx clearly says that all activity implies the exchange situation ..."
>>~ Steve

Jay Lemke
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259

Ph: 734-763-9276
Fax: 734-936-1606

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