Re: general, particular Holzkamp, Engeström

From: Bruce Robinson (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 15:03:06 PDT


Marx emphatically does not say that all labour produces value. Firstly, labour only takes the form of value under capitalism or more precisely commodity production. Secondly, if I go out and dig my garden, I perform an act of labour (transform nature) without exchange and it is not measured in value terms. It has use value to me and no one else (except perhaps my neighbours who are fed up with looking at weeds but that is hardly a pre-condition;)). To say Marx is 'not interested in this' (which is true because he is talking about commodities) is not the point.

In the second quote, Marx is obviously talking about exchange where the commodity has to have use value for the buyer - i.e. an other. This is not necessarily true for labour in general, which he defines at the start of Ch.7 as 'Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature.' (from the Penguin translation is better).

I'm not sure where your quotes come from as I don't know which English edition (and i only have three!). Perhaps you could give the whole paragraph or context in English and German.

  (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

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