I've had a really rough time with the following passage from chapter 2. Any of your thoughts would be welcome:
Some questions: I having difficulty really getting at the distinction between value and value-form in the emphasized sentence. Value would be determinate even before the exchange, but exchange gives it an expression? Is that what he's getting at? And what is this about money being a symbol, or not a symbol? Is he thinking of nominal money? Because I have some serious difficulty in separating nominal money from a sort of ephemeral or spectral evaluation of things as if they were commodities that hold the potential for exchange. Anyhow.
We have seen that the money-form is merely the reflection thrown upon a single commodity by the relations between all other commodities. That money is a commodity is therefore only a discovery for those who proceed from its finished shape in order to analyse it afterwards. The process of exchange gives the commodity which it has converted into money not its value but its specific value-form. Confusion between these two attributes has misled some writers into maintaining that the value of gold and silver is imaginary. The fact that money can, in certain functions, be replaced by a mere symbols of itself gave rise to another mistaken notion, that it is itself a mere symbol. Nevertheless, this error did contain the suspicion that the money-form of the thing is external to the thing itself, being simply the form of appearance of human relations behind it. In this sense every commodity is a symbol, since, as value, it is only the material shell of the human labor expended on it. But if it is declared that the social characteristics assumed by material objects, or the material characteristics assumed byt the social determinations of labour on the basis of a definite mode of production, are mere symbols, then it is also declared, at the same time, that these characteristics are the arbitrary product of human reflection... [all emphasis mine]
So, I am doing some research on data-lust--or, what I see as data-lust--in contemporary aesthetic and popcultural practice (algorithmzzzz!), and I am reading about this douche rational choice theorist, in an article written by a douche fanboi who's get all moist and misty relating the glories of his pet theorist. Anyhow, I'm reading and reading, and I'm coming along to the point in the article when the author relates rational choice theory in political science to previous mathematicization and formulization in other disciplines. And he writes the following:
For Bueno de Mesquita, getting his methodology accepted by the policy-making establishment remains somewhat of an uphill slog. The most pointed criticism of rational choice has been that, unlike with more traditional political scientists, very little cross-pollination takes place between rational-choice academics and government policy-makers. Bueno de Mesquita says it’s just a matter of time before that changes. “Because people who are in a position to appoint people weren’t trained in this way, they don’t feel as comfortable as with people who were trained in what I would describe as a less rigorous form of study of politics. And, so, the folks who do more rigorous work typically don’t get invited in,” he says. Of course, the same was true of economics 40 years ago when nontechnical types like John Kenneth Galbraith dominated the field. Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman changed all that, and Bueno de Mesquita sees himself playing the same role for politics.
Yes, because the dons of failed economic practice are the people you want to claim as your intellectual compatriots!
Let us look at the matter a little closer. To the owner of a commodity, every other commodity is, in regard to his own, a particular equivalent, and consequently his own commodity is the universal equivalent for all the others. But since this applies to every owner, there is, in fact, no commodity acting as universal equivalent, and the relative value of commodities possesses no general form under which they can be equated as values and have the magnitude of their values compared. So far, therefore, they do not confront each other as commodities, but only as products or use-values. In their difficulties our commodity owners think like Faust: “Im Anfang war die Tat.” [“In the beginning was the deed.” – Goethe, Faust.] They therefore acted and transacted before they thought. Instinctively they conform to the laws imposed by the nature of commodities. They cannot bring their commodities into relation as values, and therefore as commodities, except by comparing them with some one other commodity as the universal equivalent. That we saw from the analysis of a commodity. But a particular commodity cannot become the universal equivalent except by a social act. The social action therefore of all other commodities, sets apart the particular commodity in which they all represent their values. Thereby the bodily form of this commodity becomes the form of the socially recognised universal equivalent. To be the universal equivalent, becomes, by this social process, the specific function of the commodity thus excluded by the rest. Thus it becomes – money. “Illi unum consilium habent et virtutem et potestatem suam bestiae tradunt. Et ne quis possit emere aut vendere, nisi qui habet characterem aut nomen bestiae aut numerum nominis ejus.” [“These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.” Revelations, 17:13; “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelations, 13:17.] (Apocalypse.)The bolded parts in particular. What I took away from chapter 1, the analysis of the value-form, was that the universal equivalent "logically" followed from the simple, isolated, accidental value-form. But it seemed then that the simple value-form was still sufficient for expressing the value of the commodity at least to some degree. So even in an equation like
Hoard: money immobilized, purposely kept out of the exchange process as the embodiment of exchange-value
Means of circulation (see also “Medium of circulation” and “Means of purchase”): merely transient monetary aspect of commodities; money as means of circulation is always means of purchase
Means of exchange: a commodity which is the sole carrier of exchange-value; physical depository of exchange-value; an object insofar as it is an active carrier of exchange-value
Means of existence: the main function which use-values directly serve; something that satisfies human wants or needs directly; means of satisfaction of needs
Means of payment: only adequate equivalent of the commodity; absolute embodiment of exchange-value; last word of the exchange process; appears as absolute commodity inside sphere of circulation, not outside as in hoard; absolute form of exchange-value; universal commodity of contracts; accumulations of money as means of payment = reserve fund
Means of purchase: that which causes commodities to move by realizing their prices
Measure of value (see also “Price” and “Nominal gold or nominal money”): something is the measure of value if the exchange-value of all commodities is measured in it, is expressed in their relation to a definite quantity of it containing a definite amount of labor-time; condition of something being the universal equivalent; something in which the exchange-value of all other commodities is expressed; reification of labor-time; nominal money; standard of price; an exchange-value compared with the exchange-value of other commodities; the money name of commodities (nominal gold)
Medium of circulation: medium of exchange insofar as it is adapted to the process of circulation (C-C); that which represents the transformation of commodities by its changes of place; gold as coin; money when it’s not just imaginary, a real thing present side-by-side with other commodities; quantity is the crucial factor (compare with “Standard of price”); money’s appearance in C-M-C; one of the two principal functions of money in C-M-C (see also “Standard of value”)
Medium of exchange: any commodity which helps bring about the metabolism C-C; carrier of exchange-value
Money of account: what commodity is transformed into—in the mind, on paper, or in words—whenever the aspect of exchange-value becomes fixed in a particular type of wealth; value of the commodity expressed in dollars and cents
Nominal money or nominal gold: gold as the measure of value; quantity of money serving as a name for a definite quantity of labor-time; imaginary existence of universal abstract labor-time
Price (see also “Measure of value” and “Nominal money or nominal gold”): gives exchange-value a form of existence which is only nominally distinct from the commodity (not yet completely independent as in Money); quantity of gold into which a commodity is nominally converted
Standard of value (see also “Measure of value” and “Medium of circulation”): money as money of account, gold as nominal gold; physical material is the crucial factor (compare with “Medium of circulation”); one of the two principal functions of money in C-M-C; nominal money or nominal gold
Suspended coin: the coin that remains left over after M-C in the process C-M-C