[OPE-L:5224] RE: RE: Re: [Mike W] Re: use-value as quantitative

From: Michael J Williams (mjwilliams@dmu.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Mar 21 2001 - 11:20:44 EST

My conversation with Steve is becoming a bit 'second order' (tending to be
about external motivations rather than the substance. But anyway, here we go

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Keen [mailto:s.keen@uws.edu.au]
Sent: 21 March 2001 13:49
To: mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:5221] RE: Re: [Mike W] Re: use-value as quantitative

Steve writes:
>I posed it because your interpretation is, from my point of view, entirely
>directed at emasculating my interpretation of the view of the role of
> use-value in Marx's analysis.

It is not directed at emasculating Steve's view, but at getting at the
'truth' of the matter. Of course the background to Steve's arguments is
provided by, as well as being partially constitutive of, his views on
value-theory. In the same way the background to my view is the (evolving)
value-form approach to value-theory.

So when Steve then writes:
>This conventional perspective of Marxian
>economists bemuses me, because--again, from my point of view, it enables
>'Marxists' to dismiss what I see as the foundations of Marx's main
>contributions to political economy.

It is my turn to be bemused, since the value-form approach is not a
conventional Marxian Economist perspective, and it attempts to rescue - if
necessary by re-constructing - some of the fundamental contributions of Marx
to political economy. In particular, my Value-form approach problematises
any simple embodied-labour reading of Marx's (and more pointedly, Marxist)
value theory.

Steve continues:
>From that point of view, use-value plays a role in the
>qualitative-quantitative dialectic in Marx, but has not particulraly more
>significance than it is given by Ricardo--in fact, most Marxists could
>elaborate the fundamental of their theories without especial reference to

Who dat 'most Marxists'? It is certainly not my value-form approach, which
was developed at least partially in response to Ricardian interpretations
especially as they came to a head in Steedman's 'Marx after Sraffa'. What is
more, it also takes seriously the qualitative-quantitative dialectic in
Marx, along with the interplay of universal and specific and the dialectic
of value and use-value. It just disagrees with Steve about interpreting this
latter in a way that hinges on making value and use-value commensurable by
reducing them to the same units (labour time or Money).

Steve then vents his exasperation with 'committed Marxists' (whoever they

>I have completely abandoned any expectation that I can convince committed
>Marxists that this is a misrepresentation of Marx (though I have not been
>as unsuccessful with historians of economic thought). But it still bemuses

But this has nothing to do with me, who as a non-conventional (viz.
value-form) value-theorist, committed to scientific progress via argument
and evidence (as opposed to an a-rational 'commitment') has also had his
fair share of dismissals. More to the point, Steve has not yet made any
response to the point of my entering this exchange - which was to offer an
alternative interpretation of the putatively killer passage that he has
drawn our attention to. Whilst it would be foolish to pretend that I carry
no intellectual baggage in proffering my alternative that should not be an
excuse for Steve not to deal with the specific argument I have adduced.

Steve's bemusement then continues:
>I wonder how Marxists can read passages like the following and still
>refuse to make use-value an integral part of their interpretation of Marx:

>"Secondly, only an obscurantist, who has not understood a
>word of Capital, can conclude: Because Marx, in a note to
>the first edition of Capital, overthrows all the German
>professorial twaddle on `use-value' in general, and refers
>readers who want to know something about actual use-value to
>`commercial guides',--therefore, use-value does not play
>any role in his work.( Wagner p. 198-99.)

>"On the other hand, the obscurantist has overlooked that my
>analysis of the commodity does not stop at the dual mode in which
>the commodity is presented, [but] presses forward [so] that in
>the dual nature of the commodity there is presented the twofold
>character of labour, whose product it is:
>useful labour, i.e., the concrete modes of labour, which
>create use values, and abstract labour, labour as the
>expenditure of labour-power,... that surplus value
>itself is derived from a `specific' use-value of
>labour-power which belongs to it exclusively etc etc., that
>hence with me use value plays an important role completely
>different than [it did]] in previous [political] economy, but
>that, nota bene, it only comes into the picture where such
>consideration [of value, use value, etc.] springs from the
>analysis of given economic forms, not from helter-skelter
>quibbling over the concepts or words `use-value' and
>`value'. (Ibid, p. 200)

But again - it ain't me babe. I accept whole-heartedly that use-value plays
a crucial role in Marx's dialectic. My alternative interpretation of the
original passage was to question the *next step* in the argument - that this
dialectic involves, even necessitates, that Marx is able to reduce value and
use-value to the same (viz. value) units. These two passages also, whilst
making clear Marx's claim for the significance of use-value to his work, do
*not* contain anything that supports this final crucial step. They contain
no reference whatsoever to the commensurability of value and use-value. Come
on Steve, exasperation with interlocutors who seem to wilfully ignore one's
arguments, is a two-way street!

So lets get away from second order conversations apparently attempting to
impugn interlocutors' intellectual good faith, and get back to the

1. What do you think about my alternative interpretation of the original

2. Please draw my attention to whatever it is in the above passages that
asserts, or even implies, that value and use-value can be expressed in the
same (viz. value) units.

Comradely greetings,


At 09:04 AM 3/21/01 +0000, you wrote:

>-----Original Message-----
>From: owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
>[mailto:owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu]On Behalf Of Steve Keen
>Sent: 20 March 2001 20:04
>To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
>Subject: [OPE-L:5218] Re: [Mike W] Re: use-value as quantitative
>Steve asks,
> > Imagine that we could find a professor of linguistics who had not read
> > Marx, and we gave her this paragraph to read. Do you think she would
> > categorically dismiss my construction, and say that yours was the only
> > justified interpretation?
>Indeed I do think that she would be more inclined to accept my
>interpretation, or at the very least to say that purely on the grounds of
>linguisitics and the text taken in isolation she couldn't adjudicate
>them. Why does Steve ask - it is fairly clear what I am arguing, and I am
>not sure what role this hypothetical linguistician is playing here? As a
>matter of emphasis I did not 'categorically dismiss' Steve's
>Rather I provided a counter interprpetation, and opined that in my few the
>relevant text could not support Steve's view.
>For reference, the paragraph is:
>The past labor that is embodied in the labor power, and the
>living labor that it can call into action; the daily cost of
>maintaining it, and its daily expenditure in work, are two
>totally different things. *The former determines the
>exchange-value of the labor power, the latter is its use-value.*
>The fact that half a [working] day's labor is necessary to keep
>the laborer alive during 24 hours, does not in any way prevent
>him from working a whole day. Therefore, the value of labor
>power, and the value which that labor power creates in the labor
>process, are two entirely different magnitudes; and this
>difference of the two values was what the capitalist had in
>view, when he was purchasing the labor power... What really
>influenced him was the specific use-value which this commodity
>possesses of being a source not only of value, but of more value
>than it has itself. This is the special service that the
>capitalist expects from labor power, and in this transaction he
>acts in accordance with the 'eternal laws' of the exchange of
>commodities. *The seller of labor power, like the seller of any
>other commodity, realizes its exchange-value, and parts with its
>use-value.* (capital I, p. 188.)
>Dr Michael Williams
>Business & Management Studies
>De Montfort University
>MK41 9EA
>01234 793036

Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
Campbelltown, Building 11 Room 30,
School of Economics and Finance
s.keen@uws.edu.au 61 2 4620-3016 Fax 61 2 4626-6683
Home 02 9558-8018 Mobile 0409 716 088
Home Page: http://bus.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Apr 02 2001 - 09:57:29 EDT