Rob's point requires a distinction between actual and potential, I think.
The factory in use, like all commodities that have succeeded in being
purchased, is not immediately for sale, that is, it is not for sale in
actuality, even if it is potentially.
There are two other aspects that need looking at as well, perhaps.
One is the possibility that the factory was built in-house so to say,
without being bought on the open market. This is like a cobbler making or
assembling his own tools -- he can calculate the extra return he will make
(or not, as the case may be) on the basis of the usual market price of
whatever it is he has made for himself. In this case the home-fabricated
tool (means of production) is a factory. It's a way of cutting corners in
the system but it doesn't shake the system as such. A good way for huge
conglomerates to siphon extra surplus value over to themselves and get that
important edge on their competitors, always provided they can build the
factory cheaper than it is being sold in the market.
The other aspect is the question of other societies (other modes of
Rob writes that "surplus produce, for instance, was bought and sold
thousands of years ago", but by writing this he's actually begging the most
important question -- which is how the *exchange* (which is what he should
have written) is mediated. Now thousands of years ago, such exchanges of
fortuitous surplus were the kind of thing that was pushing societies
towards commodity production. As soon as the surplus was sufficiently
non-fortuitous, the things were no longer produced for use (and therefore
exchanged only if too much piles up by chance), but produced directly for
exchange and thus for sale -- ie they'd already become commodities, however
primitive the mechanism of exchange might yet have been.
If we skip to the future, we can see that for a long time to come "price
labels" will be attached to things to reflect the amount of labour put into
them in the system of social production, but as socialism advances these
labels will less and less reflect the blind operations of the Law of Value
(ie as commodities) and more and more reflect the planned and plannable
input of known quantities of useful social labour. So the social content is
the absolutely essential thing in all this. As in fact Rob clearly
recognizes in acknowledging the self-presentation of damn near everything
in the capitalist mode of production as a commodity, making it easy to
discuss the ramifications of the whole business with him. Whereas it is
next to impossible with George Pennyfarthing because he hasn't even
accepted the most minimal consequences of Marx's fundamental principles of
economic analysis, ie the social character of human labour in the
production and reproduction of human society and its reflection as value
in the commodities that embody this labour in the capitalist mode of
>Was cleaning out my backlog when it suddenly occurred to me that George
>might have a point (although I don't know how important a point it need be).
> Is a 'commodity' something that distinguishes itself from its hypothetical
>being under another economic system purely on the criterion that it was
>produced with the sole raison d'etre of being sold (after all, surplus
>produce, for instance, was bought and sold thousands of years ago - and
>publicly built infrastructure also comes to mind as an example)? If not,
>If so, how would a factory (quite probably assembled out of things
>themselves made to be sold), which may be sold at any time, but is not
>necessarily produced with that objective in mind, be different from anything
>else that was made with sale not uppermost in the processes that built it?
>It is built from commodities, by way of labour power, in order to produce
>commodities, and it can be sold at any time. For Jim, that makes it a
>commodity. Certainly, it *presents itself* as a commodity, as capitalist
>relations are such that all things have a price and are so measured. So the
>sentence George dislikes rings true to me. That central alienating relation
>certainly pertains. But does it matter that it may not have been produced
>to be sold? And if so, why?
>Sorry to be so dense, but I've suddenly come over a bit vague.
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