File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_1998/bourdieu.9804, message 15


Date: Mon, 6 Apr 1998 16:41:17 +0100
Subject: Re: Value and explanation


Some comments on Simon's mail of April 4:


>At issue is which idea of value is to be employed in making an explanation
>on a particular economic or social feature. An idea of value which
>represents social exchanges as being mediated by equivalent exchanges of
>different forms of wealth (social capital) does imply approval of the
>existing method of distribution as it proposes that exchanges are made
>voluntarily by exchanging parties.

This surprises me somewhat -- I do not see what kind of argument could be
advanced to support the claim that there is an approval of reality in the
use of particular concepts. What sort of epistemology is that?

>The discussions on the labour value in the area of symbolic production,
>stemming from Mikhail's first note, have been seeking to establish some
>notion of equivalence between the amount of labour (time?) embodied in a
>commodity (in this case an artwork of some kind) and its economic dollar
>value. I have interpreted Carsten's desire to balance the books between
>high and low-brow sectors by including the labour of consumption of
>high-brow art as an attempt to establish a logic within value relations, in
>particular an attempt to equate the high price of high art with it the
>amount of labour time embodied in it. Carsten seeks to include the labour
>needed to participate in production of use values specific to the sector.

Nor do I follow here. My intention was certainly not to establish an
equivalence between labour (or rather, Simon is right, I probably meant:
investment of time) and economic value. What I have been talking about is
the equivalence of time investment and artistic value, i.e. the value
specific to art. That this sort of value is not immediately convertible to
economic capital is perhaps clearer when one looks at the case of
literature where some of the great heroes of French literature (e.g.
=46laubert, Mallarmé, and Proust) never earned a penny on their writings.

>As this specialised knowledge must also be held to a significant degree by
>the consumers of the sector's product for the sector to be differentiated
>as high brow, I have interpreted Carsten's point as proposing that the
>labour value arising from a sector encompasses a labour of consumption. If
>that is the proposal, the idea of value becomes very slippery.  I extended
>this logic to say oil sheiks could argue they are the only ones wealthy
>enough to really understand the intrinsic (use) value arising due to the
>labours of their super-exploited workers, that their consumption could be
>seen as form of labour required for the creation of use values by their
>domestic help. This is the philosophy of the art patron, who believes value
>is created through the labour of the insightful purchase: cheque book
>chauvanism, surely?

I am not sure that I agree on this, but then I should perhaps never have
ventured onto this terrain of economic terminology of which I know next to
nothing. (By the way, one of the latest issues of Bourdieu's journal Actes
de la recherche en sciences sociales deals with economic theory.) Still,
while being severely handicapped here, I don't think it could be put in
this way: if one can at all talk about a "labour of consumption", in the
artistic field or in other fields, it will never simply follow the logic of
economic economy. That is the difference between specialized fields like
art (or wine or law or whatever) and the cases mentioned by Simon where the
logic of economic exploitation seem not to be refracted by such a
specialized logic. Does that make more sense?

best wishes
Carsten Sestoft
University of Copenhagen


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