[OPE-L:6984] Re: Re value-form

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au)
Date: Sat Apr 13 2002 - 22:30:05 EDT

After giving it some thought and finding some spare time, I'm not sure that
I understand your claim that 'empty forms' lack 'causal efficacy'. After
all, if exchange mediates between producers or solves the problems of
barter, it surely has 'causal efficacy' in at least one sense.
I think I agree with your claim that in other modes of production,
exchange-value does not 'express a content  but is simply used by a foreign
content as a mere mediator'.  Your expression 'mere mediator' suggests to
me that what you mean by 'causal efficacy' is the system building causal
efficacy of 'self-valorising value'. That is, taking the parallels that you
admirably draw between 'self-valorising value' and Hegel's 'geist,only in
the case of capitalist commodity production does the commodity form and
'value' as its substance have the kind of causal efficacy that hegel
ascribes to 'Geist'. But I don't think I understand or agree with a
stronger claim.
As to your claim that only in a value form of that kind of causal efficacy
do we have value determining manitudes, if we accept that the pattern of
exchanges values can be discerned in other cases (but not as an expression,
as you put it, of 'a content') it is surely  an empirical matter whether as
you put it 'in such pre/post-capitalist exchange systems, exchange ratios
would be arbitrary or tautologically reducible to
intersection of preference schedules.' The law of supply and demand in the
form that prices move higher when supply falls short of demand and lower
when it exceeds demand is not a tautology  and is even false in non
perfectly competitive markets (which cannot exist), although it isd a good
approximation for a wide range of markets and circumstances. Nor need it be
the case that exchange ratios are 'arbitrary' in the sense that they are
matter of random fluctuation behind which no pattern can be discerned,
though they might be 'arbitrary' in the sense of not expressive of a
content'.  Paul Cockshot's sort of analysis could show that the pattern
lies between that of correspondence with embodied socially necessary labour
contents and that of a uniform return on investment. It could also be
argued that this is no mere accident by analysing the forces generally at
work in commodity exchange.

Perhaps the following might both accommodate something like what you are
saying and could also be something that I agree with. Alternatively, it may
not be possible to achieve that - but I think our conceptual categories
should not become so rigid that they pronounce as meaningless, confused or
wrong reasonable claims (resting on analogies perhaps) such as that slave
owners appropriate surplus value from their slaves, or merchants
appropriate surplus value from buying cheap and selling dear. (Of course,
slave owners do not HIRE workers to be worked for a profit, but buy them as
though they were cattle. Formally, they are in the same position as a small
capitalist, who hires a few workers to tend a herd of cattle - where these
human animals, of course, may yield profits on a scale that milking cows
cannot, because of the competitive advantage of their costs of production)
But let me try this out for agreement: The organising principle of
capitalist commodity production is universal self-valorising value: let us
call this V. V has systematic effects, reproducing and expanding capitalist
commodity production, and lends its peculiar stamp to commodity exchange
within the capitalist mode of production. Capitalist production and
capitalist commodity exchange each produces the other as itself. Capital as
a whole provides an account of self-valorising value as the principle of
capitalist commodity production, in which more abstract elements of
commodity exchange take their specific form from their place in a system of
self-valorising value as a whole.

In other social formations, commodity exchange might exist but it will not
be 'the other' of a single mode of production (competitive capitalist
exploitation, as you put it) which penetrates and develops the system of
production and exchange. It plays a role in the economy of these social
formations but is not the developmenta principle of the social system as a
whole. The pattern of exchanges is either accidental or, if it has a
substance - call it 'value' - that does not play a developmental role such
as Value does.

Surplus Value exists only in capitalist commodity production but surplus
value may exist in other social formations.

Please let me know what you can accept in the above (less than carefully
considered email expression, typos, etc, aside),

>Hello Ian,
>I more or less agree with Tony. But I would use dfferent terminology. I
>believe that, given the peculiar socially constituted relations of
>exchange, we can have value as an  'empty form'. That could be so even with
>MCM if that were restricted to merchant capital and not indusrial capital.
>BY an empty form I mean one that does not express a content but is simply
>used by a foreign content as a mere mediator e.g. the use of money to
>overcome problems of barter. In such pre/post-capitalist exchange systems,
>exchange ratios would be arbitrary or tautologically reducible to
>intersection of preference schedules. Only competitive capitalist
>exploitation allows the value form to appropriate a universal content that
>in turn determines magnitudes.
>The empty form can of course be the sub-structural basis for a legal
>superstructure as in Pashukanis.Such empty form could be called an
>organising structure but perpahs not 'principle' if the latter means some
>sort of causal efficacy is involved. I associate causal efficacy only with
>self-valorising value, i.e. industrial capital.
>Chris A
>>Thanks for that interesting clarification (or different slant). I agree
>>that in Schweickart's 'economic democracy', the self-valorisation of
>>capital would no longer be the organising principle of society. I think,
>>though, that there is an argument for saying that commodity exchange is an
>>organising principle of the society and, if one does not absolutely
>>counterpose the spheres of production and exchange, that the market
>>functions as a social relation of production within that society. But I
>>have no fierce objection to taking the term 'value' as the substance of a
>>system based on M-C-M' and to take something else as the substance of a
>>system based on C-M-C'. I was only concerned that all categories relating
>>to commodities might be pronounced smeaningless outside the context of the
>>categories of capitalist commodity production.  If the possibility of
>>embryonic elements of M-C-M', such as merchant's capital, which have
>>existed since at least the ancient world, is existed, then there could be
>>no substantive difference at all over the substantive organising principle
>>of capitalism, though differences might still perhaps remain over the
>>organising principle of the phenomena of commodity exchange,
>>>If I can jump in here, I think it is important to distinguish "exchange
>>>value," a property of individual commodities, from "value," an organizing
>>>principle of society as a whole.  The former is present in any and all
>>>historical contexts where commodities have been exchanged.  The latter is
>>>historically specific to capitalism (and brings about historically specific
>>>qualities to the property of exchange value).  In Schweickart's model
>>>commodities are exchanged, and so these commodities have exchange
>>>value.  But if all new investments in the economy are allocated through a
>>>democratic decision process, and if the capital/wage labor relation has
>>>been dismantled, then I myself would say that value (the "self-valorization
>>>of capital") is no longer the organizing principle of the society.  And
>>>those are two crucial features of Schweickart's model.
>>>         Tony
>>>At 09:22 PM 4/4/02 +0900, you wrote:
>>>>given your account, what would you say about Schweickart's 'economic
>>>>democracy'? That this is a form of capitalism, that 'value' exists in it
>>>>but is not actual, that what exchanges are not commodities but some other
>>>>form of the product of labour?
>>>>At 04:47 PM 4/3/02 +0100, you wrote:
>>>> >Re [6868]:
>>>> >,Hi Andy.
>>>> >>
>>>> >>> This notion of 'identity' puzzles me. If value *is* money, then what
>>>> >>> is the value-*form*?
>>>> >>
>>>> >>I'll let one of  our VFT comrades answer your question concerning
>>>> >>their perspectives.
>>>> >
>>>> >It maybe that someone has said value is money. But speaking for myself I
>>>> >would stress hat value is only actual in the entire system of capitalist
>>>> >commodity production and exchange. Aspects of its 'concept' are as it
>>>> >'distributed' over varioius points each of which are systematically
>>>> >required to complement the others. Just to stick with form, I beleive
>>>> >has commodity form, money form and capital form. Money has some sort of
>>>> >'visibility' as 'value for itself' (Marx Gr.) but all these forms are
>>>> >required (just as in Hegel Being/Essence/Concept are jointly required to
>>>> >make up the thought totality) for example the commodity must be a product
>>>> >of capital. Certainly value cannot be identified with any element
>>>>taken in
>>>> >isolation (e.g. money or labour); nor can it be given a two-word
>>>> >definition, its concept must be *developed* systematically. (Althugh
>>>> >made some major blunders, he did stress this in a couple of places.)
>>>> >
>>>> >Chris A
>>>> >
>>>> >
>>>> >>
>>>> >>For myself, I would express the relation as follows:
>>>> >>
>>>> >>Within a system of generalized commodity production and exchange,
>>>> >>commodities are defined by the duality of use-value and value where
>>>> >>the value-form is a necessary form of appearance of value and money
>>>> >>is a necessary form of appearance of the value-form. Thus, value, the
>>>> >>value-form, and money are all necessarily linked to each other and to
>>>> >>the commodity.  I guess that means I have a "single-system" (as
>>>> >>distinct from a "dual system") interpretation.
>>>> >>
>>>> >>So that we don't all repeat ourselves endlessly, is there anybody that
>>>> >>wants to say something about this topic that they have _not_ said before
>>>> >>on this list?
>>>> >>
>>>> >>In solidarity, Jerry
>>>> >
>>>> >
>>>> >17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England
>>>> >
>>>> >
>>Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
>>Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
>>Philosophy Dept, School of Humanities,
>>Flinders University of SA,
>>Humanities Building,
>>Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
>>Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784
>17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Philosophy Dept, School of Humanities,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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