[OPE-L:5675] Re: Response to Fred - 1

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Mon May 28 2001 - 10:10:26 EDT

Nicky, thanks a lot for your long and very interesting reply to my
question about the key passage in Section 4 of Volume 1.  I will read your
posts more carefully and think some more about them as time permits.  But
first of all I am afraid that I still do not understand how you interpret
this passage from Section 4 in a way that supports the VF interpretation
of Marx's theory.  Perhaps you could just briefly summarize this one point
again for me please.

To refresh our memories, the passage again is:

"Political economy has indeed analysed value and its magnitude, however
incompletely, and has uncovered the content concealed within these forms.
But it has never once asked the question why this content has assumed that
particular form, that is to say, why labour is expressed in value, and why
the measurement of labour by its duration is expressed in the magnitude of
the value of the product."

As we can see, this passage is about Marx's critique of political
economy.  Marx applauded political economy for discovering the content of
value that lay underneath the forms of appearance of value,  i.e. for
discovering that labor is the common property of commodities that
determines their prices. However, Marx's critique of political economy (in
this passage and elsewhere) was that they never asked WHY this content
assumes, or is expressed in, this particular form; i.e. they never asked
why labor is represented as prices.  The reason why political economy
never asked this WHY question is that they took the relation between labor
and prices for granted, because they considered capitalism to be the
natural form of social production.  

Marx's critique of political economy was NOT that they failed to recognize
that the content is "form-determined", i.e. that labor is determined by
prices (or that labor is "jointly constituted" with prices).  This would
be the opposite of Marx's theory, which assumed that prices are determined
by labor.  Rather, Marx's critique was that they failed to show why labor
must necessarily be expressed as prices. 

Marx elaborated his critique of political economy in the following
footnote to this passage:

"It is one of the chief failings of classical political economy that it
has never succeeded, by means of its analysis of commodities, and in
particular of their value, in discovering the form of value which in fact
turns value into exchange-value.  Even its best representatives, Adam
Smith and Ricardo, treat the form of value as something of indifference,
something external to the nature of the commodity itself."

We can see that the failure of political economy is that they did not
explain how value is turned into exchange-value.  The failure is NOT that
they did not explain how exchange-value determines value.

There are many other passages in Marx's manuscripts in which he stated his
critique of Ricardo and political economy in a similar way, i.e. as the
failure to derive the "necessity of money", or the necessary connection
between labor and money.  I don't know of any passages in which Marx
stated his critique of Ricardo, etc. as the failure to recognize that the
content is "form-determined".  If there are some such passages, please
send the references.  

Nicky, also I think you misinterpret Murray on this point.  As I read
Murray (1993), he says essentially what I have said above.  The title of
Murray's paper is "The Necessity of Money: How Hegel Helped Marx Surpass
Ricardo's Theory of Value," which says a lot in itself.  According to
Murray, Marx's critique of political economy is that they did not show the
necessary connection between labor and money.  Murray calls Ricardian
theory a "one-way street" from prices to labor, in contrast to Marx's
two-way street of also deriving money and prices from labor (showing the
necessary connection between them).  Murray argues that Marx used Hegel's
"essence logic" (in which essence must necessarily appear in something
other than itself) in his derivation of the "necessity of money" in
Section 3 of Chapter 1, and in this way surpassed the Ricardian
"one-way" logic.  The second-way is the key part that is missing in
Ricardian theory.   

MURRAY:  "In this [Ricardian] model of essence and appearance, science
must be a one-way street, externally (since there is no internal relation
between independent entities) relating the appearances to their real basis
in the world of essence.  Just why *this*essence should have *these*
appearances is never raised."  (p. 39)

The title of the subsection on pp. 47-54 is:  "Essence Logic at
Work: Marx's Theory of Value".  In this section, Murray writes:

"Marx presents his theory of value in two movements: First he moves from
exchange-value to value, that is, from appearances to the underlying
essence that explains their behavior; then, in the analysis of the
value-form, Marx show why is necessary that value appear as something
other than itself, as exchange-value, a thing - money." ...   (p. 48)

"The first movement captures the non-dialectical thinking about essence
and appearance in which Ricardian value theory is confined.  Not so for
the second movement, which answers the question never raised in Ricardian
theory: Why does value appear in the form of exchange-value?"  (p. 49)

This is exactly what I have been arguing.  Marx's critique of political
economy is that the second movement is missing.  Marx's second movement
explains why the underlying essence of value, which exists separately from
money, must necessarily appear in the particular form of money and
prices.  Marx's critique is NOT that political economy failed to explain
how the underlying essence of value is determined in some way by money and

Banaji (1979, in Elson's edited volume) presents essentially the same
interpretation of Marx's theory of the essence and necessary form of
appearance of value, and of Marx's critique of political economy for the
failure to derive the necessary connection between the essence and the
form of appearance of value.  Banaji also interprets Marx's derivation of
the necessity of money as similar to Hegel's "essence logic".  

There are other issues to discuss:

1.  whether abstract labor is physiological or social?  (I agree with
Rubin that it is social.)

2.  whether or not abstract labor exists as a separate entity from money
and prices?  (I argue yes, although as explained above, necessarily
expressed as money and prices.)

3.  whether or not the prices that value-form theory is trying to explain
are disequilibrium actual market prices (as opposed to Marx's equilibrium
values and prices of production)?

But I think I will stop here for now and focus on this key passage from
Section 4 and Marx's critique of political economy.  

Thanks again very much for this very interesting and fruitful discussion.


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