The time of use value, I mean. I just got home from the Capital v1 discussion group and some more thoughts related to this, on the relationship between use-exchange, among other things. I was talking w/ a friend today about this in relation to Spinoza, who I don’t know quite as well, on the relationship of substance and mode – use being substance, exchange being one mode thereof, and the political issue being conflicts between modes. More stuff to look into as time permits, etc etc.

Marx writes in the first chapter of Capital:

“The usefulness of a thing makes it a use-value,” and “Use values are only realized [verwirklicht] in use or in consumption.” (126.) Does “realize” mean “bring to fruition” or does it mean “make-real”? Read in the second sense, this means that prior to use use-values are un- or ir-real. Put differently, they’re only potential. Treating realization as actualization, prior to actualization – since potentials are also impotentials – use values are not. That is, they’re unbeing as much being. Put differently, use values are retroactively posited after use.

(Let x and n be positive whole numbers where x > n.) Use occurs at time Tx, and at or after Tx we retroactively posit the existence of a use value at some prior time T(x-n). The time of use value then is the future anterior connected to a theoretical labor in the present. Analysis of use value is not ontological – the being of use value(s) – but praxiological – practices of use.

The same holds for exchange value, which is present in “the quantitative relation, the proportion, in which use-values of one kind exhange for use values of another kind. The relation changes constantly with time and place.” (126.) This is because it occurs in acts of exchange, a product of practice rather than being intrinsic to objects, acts which imply an equation of human labor as abstract labor. (An equation which Marx repeatedly refers to as a reduction – 127, 128.) Abstract labor – or rather, labor power on average – itself is composed of “innumerable” instances of labor power. (129.)

The discussion at the end of section 1 is interesting as well. Use values can exist which are not (exchange) values. That is, “[a] thing can be useful, and a product of human labor” – or not a product of human labor, Marx notes a line earlier – “without being a commodity.” (131. The move here in part is akin to his reference to original sin the chapter on primitive accumulation: the capital relation is not natural or ontological.)
Whoever satisfies their own wants and needs “with the product of [their] own labour admittedly creates use-values, but not commodities.” (131.) Use value production subsists under capitalism. I’m producing a use value (for myself) as I type this. The Marx discussion group today was a collective process of use value production. I want to say this form of production is ineliminable from the capital relation. As Marx writes, “[t]he product of labour is an object of utility in all states of society.” (153.) The exchange of labor for wages to get means of subsistence continues simple circulation, as I argued here.

The exchange series is: labor power for money, money for commodified means of subsistence. LP-M-C(ms). At the end of that series, C(ms) drops out of circulation (perhaps) because it is consumed rather than re-exchanged. That dropping out occurs because of consumption, use. C(ms) are appropriated, used by the seller of labor power. These uses often (at least often, probably always) involve some act which is work – cooking food, stringing a guitar to play it, whatever. That is an act of use value production using the purchased item, C(ms), as raw material which produces a new use value which is appropriated (a cooked meal which is eaten, music played, etc). That can be production for one’s self or for another. If the latter, it’s a nonmonetary exchange. It also must be underscored that this, use value production, is not necessarily a positive thing – nonmonetary exchanges can be reactionary, oppressive, exploitive. (If we equate use value production with commons or commoning, then it must be insisted that commons are not always communist. One sense of communism then is the refusal of domination in the unequal distribution and appropriation of surplus labor. It’s not required that we equate commons and use value production, of course.) For instance, many exchanges in the home are, in many parts of the world at many times. These exchanges can be made functional for capitalism, of course, and they often are, but they could also be definitely noncapitalist and yet not be a good thing. Part of how these exchanges can be made functional for capitalist or otherwise be exploitive (in the sense of appropriating the labor of others) is expressed here:

“If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.” (131.) Since use value is only potential prior to use in one sense no thing is useful except in practices of use. That is, all things are useless when abstracted from uses. Put differently, use-value or usefulness is a count-as-useful in relation to some practice of use. A thing can be counted as useless and still be the product of labor. A practice, a use, can be labor – in the sense of being “an expenditure of human labour-power, in the physiological sense” (137) – but not be counted as a use. Therefore the labor in/of that use is not counted as labor. This is part of how the appropriation of labor operates, as in relation to unwaged and reproductive labors, for instance.