Re: general, particular Holzkamp, Engeström

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Thu Oct 14 2004 - 02:57:54 PDT

Hi Victor,
You raise many stimulating ideas as always. A point Michael Roth brought
up about how the activity triangle (personally I see it as a kind of
mneumonic) spans two domains, societal and individual, fits in with the
point you make below - how concepts from one domain can be troublesome in
another if mechanically applied. I really agree with you, developing an
underlying metatheory that can tie together our comprehensions of the major
domains - historical, societal, cultural, psychological, etc. - is a
long-term goal, and Marx, Vygotsky and Ilyenkov are key thinkers (among
others) that have helped lay such foundations. I think this goal is one of
the things that unites many of us on this list, but we have a lot of notes
to compare with a lot of people to get there!
~ Steve

At 11:36 AM 10/14/2004 +0200, you wrote:
>There are definate problems in transferring concepts developed by Marx to
>criticise Political Economy into social psychology. Ilyenkov manages to
>do this at least in part by analyzing the formulations of Political
>Economy as ideologies of relations of production rather than as models for
>social analysis. By first, showing how Marx's critique of Political
>Economy uncovers the special societal relations of production
>characteristic of Capitalist economy and then, discussing the roles of the
>Ideas of Political Economy in the individual's participation in these
>relations, Ilyenkov provides something of a social psychology of
>Capitalist society. What I'm trying to say is that the relations between
>social psychological issues of Capitalist society and the critique of
>Political Economy are to be found in the metatheory underlying the
>conceptualisations in Capital rather than in the special ideas developed
>by Marx to criticise the system.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <>Steve Gabosch
>To: <>
>Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2004 10:49 AM
>Subject: Re: general, particular Holzkamp, Engeström
>Hi Michael,
>Thank you for the quotes from Marx.
>I think I understand part of the problem we are having. It seems to me we
>are getting into a little trouble with some word-meaning issues. For
>example, Marx used the term "value" in Capital to specifically mean
>exchange value, not use-value. He always says "use-value" when he means
>use-value, and "value" when he means exchange value. Bruce is using the
>term value in the way Marx did.
>I find it less confusing in this kind of discussion to use the full terms
>use-value and exchange-value - and not just the unmodified term "value."
>Similarly, the use of the term "exchange" seems to be getting a little
>confusing. I suggest, when the term "exchange" is intended to mean
>commodity exchange, to say the full phrase "commodity exchange."
>I also find it handy to use the phrase "activity system" when the
>Leont'evist concept of "activity" is meant.
>Just some suggestions.
>Michael Glassman is right, when everyday words are adopted as technical
>terms, there is going to be trouble. Nevertheless, everyday terms do keep
>getting used this way in the academic world, and indeed, this creates
>havoc from time to time. Finding a way to phrase these terms so the
>intended meaning is clear seems to help - some!
>~ Steve
>At 03:12 PM 10/13/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>>This is true only for use-less things, which by definition involves
>>useless work...
>> Even when there is no capitalism, not exchange, useful
>> work/labor produces value, use-value. Whether it also produces
>> (exchange) value depends on the situation, Marx gives examples, the
>> independent family where things are produced to be used but are not
>> exchanged, old Indian communities where the same relations hold.
>> If you take Damasio's work, everything we do is to create higher
>> emotional valence--which is a form of value created by work.
>>On 13-Oct-04, at 3:03 PM, Bruce Robinson wrote:
>>>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.

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