While the point of the chapter is to lay out the terms that govern capitalist society, I think we can spin out much of the chapter by continuing our Robinson Crusoe discussion. Marx started by asking how exchange was possible, concluding that it is possible by abstracting completely from use-values. The common element left to a commodity that could serve as a condition of commensurability was that they were products of human labor (p128). He then must also abstract from concrete forms of useful labor to get labor in the abstract. Then the question of unit of measure arises, and it follows that this, too, must be infinitely divisible, non-holistic, and the answer is abstract time (as opposed to phenomenological time or the variable hours of the Church or the agricultural, seasonal variability of day and night, etc.)

The point is that use-value and value are two separate moments of a single thing, the commodity, that physically remains the same even though it acquires “value” when brought into relation with another commodity under the terms of capitalist society (generalized commodity production, selling in order to buy, etc). I didn’t get until recent readings why the equation on page 140 was not reversible. And I think the reason is the “transubstantiation” that takes place in the value relation when a value finds its mode of expression in the use-value of the other commodity. Meaning that all the interesting stuff happens “in between” the two objects that appear to be discrete entities unto themselves.

Which brings us to the key passage, I think, on page 153: “The internal opposition between use-value and value, hidden within the commodity, is therefore represented on the surface by an external opposition, i.e. by a relation between two commodities such that the one commodity, whose own value is supposed to be expressed, counts directly only as a use-value, whereas the other commodity, in which that value is to be expressed, counts directly only as exchange-value. Hence the simple form of value of a commodity is the simple form of appearance of the opposition between use-value and value which is contained within the commodity.” (Emphasis original)

Now the point is to show that this congealed socially average abstract labor-time is, in fact, a simple version and the source of the money form. And from there we can get to the fetishization of money—which although it is only a higher form of expression of socially avg abstract labor time, appears as external to it. Which brings us to Robinson. He doesn’t look at the animals, the sea, and the forest primeval and see money because he is isolated, but he does see discrete units of (his own) abstract labor-time, which Marx has just shown to be the source of the money form. (I suppose in this society of one Robinson’s own labor time is the socially average). The bourgeois economists, because they see money as external to things—which is to say they see the actual superficial appearance of money—can then conclude that because of the absence of money on the island that it is a pre-social state of nature. And then they can begin building a theory from this island, misrecognized as a state of nature, that concludes this sort of valuation is natural and universal.