@voyou Savvy pundits cultivate a fractal stupidity; wrong on so many dimensions you can't criticise one without getting distracted by all the rest. 28 Apr 17 Reply Retweet Favorite

German, the language of real life

A footnote in Capital:

In English writers of the 17th century we frequently find “worth” in the sense of value in use, and “value” in the sense of exchange value. This is quite in accordance with the spirit of a language that likes to use a Teutonic word for the actual thing, and a Romance word for its reflexion.

Marx misses a trick here by failing to point out why English has this strange dichotomy. When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they implanted a French-speaking aristocracy, ruling over a people who spoke Anglo-Saxon. So the language used in much daily practice was (Germanic) Anglo-Saxon, while the language used in law and administration was French. English retains in its vocabulary traces of something Marx pointed out in The German Ideology, the basis of abstract thought (and hence also ideology) in the division of mental and manual labor:

The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. – real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process.

And a few paragraphs later:

Division of labour only becomes truly such from the moment when a division of material and mental labour appears. (The first form of ideologists, priests, is concurrent.) From this moment onwards consciousness can really flatter itself that it is something other than consciousness of existing practice, that it really represents something without representing something real; from now on consciousness is in a position to emancipate itself from the world and to proceed to the formation of “pure” theory, theology, philosophy, ethics, etc.

However, there may be good reasons why Marx didn’t bring up this point in Capital, because by that point his theory of ideology had changed. In The German Ideology, material relations are themselves transparent, and are only obfuscated by the imposition of an”inverted” ideology generated by the ruling class. The working class, then, are in a position to access the truth through material work. Not so in Capital. Marx develops the theory of commodity fetishism to show how material relations can themselves be mystificatory, how material production can be at the same time the production of illusions about production:

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…. The twofold 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.

Hence, when we bring the products of our labour into relation with each other as values, it is not because we see in these articles the material receptacles of homogeneous human labour. Quite the contrary: whenever, by an exchange, we equate as values our different products, by that very act, we also equate, as human labour, the different kinds of labour expended upon them. We are not aware of this, nevertheless we do it.