[OPE-L:7573] Re: Re: Chris A on VF theory

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Fri Aug 30 2002 - 19:39:40 EDT

>>I hope I do not use the expression THE VFT but simply VFT. The former
>>suggests a well-defined theory whereas I hope the latter suggests a class
>>of similar looking theories.

>my observation came simply from the fact that what you posted (may
>be, showing there some kind of 'defensive' attitude against
>criticisms to VFT) gave the impression of a more compact front than
>it actually is now.
>in your definition of VFFT,  I am happy to feel part of the 'value
>form' group


(definitely, I am deeply influenced by Rubin and at least
>the first Backhaus, the one I know from translation). and, as you, I
>disagree with 90% of R&W (weel, may be a bit less, let'us say 80%;
>and with 10% of you!), but I find relevant the point of contacts, and
>I learn a lot ffom them.
>I think, however, there ARE open issues in those who rightly stress
>the centrality of the value form in Marxian Theory. I also I think
>that a most effective answer to criticisms is in discussing OPENLY
>these 'internal' contrasts. Sometimes, some 'outside' criticisms
>against value form people come from 'good' points which would be
>counterproductive to deny. in my opinion, of course
It would be good sometime to get people together to see what common ground
could be elucidated

>>Certainly I read it in the Rubin sense. I would also say your 'true'
>>determinants are the developed value forms. This contracts with a
>>'substantialist' account on which everything comes back to changes in LT
>>consequent on some immanent technological development.
misprint - by contract I meant contrast
>I  don't believe in 'immanent' technological development, or that
>'everything' come back to changes in LT (also the reverse is true:
>changes in LT come back to other dynamics).
>I simply, and strongly, believe in what you call the
>'counterproductivity of labour' .
>Let me quote at length from you, RPE 99: but as you well know, the
>following quotes are ALL expressing positions on we two held exactly
>the SAME position, line by line, since many years (I don't think this
>position, at present, has other proponents, either within or outside
This is interesting - you really think we form a 'school' of two?? What do
others think of thepara below?

>"Money is the only measure of success; it is the EXISTENT form of
>'abstract wealth' (Marx) and this means that the ACTIVITY producing
>it is itself posited as abstract, that the LIVING labour employed in
>the capitalist labour process counts only as an abstraction of
>wonderful. then you clarify that  when living labour is 'pumped out'
>by capital in  production, this happens in a social setting where
>"workers are actually or potentially RECALCITRANT to capital's effort
>to compel their labour".
>therefore, you urge for a "reinstatement  of 'a labour theory of
>value' precisely on the ground of the NEW definition of exploitation
>as the subjection of a recalcitrant labour force to the power of
>capital. Capital can ONLY produce value in negating its negation,
>i.e. through winning the class struggle AT THE POINT OF PRODUCTION.
>My new way of conceptualising the labour theory is to say then that
>the MAGNITUDE of value is DETERMINED by the socially necessary
>EXPLOITATION TIME". and, of course, for us, "this exploitation TIME
>comprise the WHOLE of the working day". complete agreement.
>necessary consequence: "the TIME of this exploitation is an
>APPROPRIATE MEASURE of value". it could not be said in a better way.
>this is what, according to me, Marx meant when he spoke of the
>immanent measure of 'intrinsic' or 'absolute' value (as Finelli and I
>explain in our paper, this 'absolute'  value is in fact a relation).
>THIS, again, is what I mean when I speak of 'production' as the
>dominant element in capitalist totality. of course, even in you (I
>guess), if 'value' comes from 'exploitation' in your (and my) sense,
>and if this 'exploitation' has a 'time' dimension, this dimension is
>NOTHING BUT the whole working day extracted from the
>'counterproductive' working class. This IS production, not
>circulation of course. as it is evident, however,, this anaysis
>cannot move a SINGLE pass without also considering circulation, and
>the value form affecting exchange in the 'wider' Rubinian sense.
>>from the quotes from you it's also clear that you (as me) cannot but
>regard "the changes in the labour process as consequent upon the
>value form of production. the direction of the determination is the
>here, however, I would like to engage in some 'translation', because
>I guess some difference among us may appear.
>we are in complete agreement if we take the 'capital relation' as an
>instance of the value form, exactly, as you say, 'the value form of
>production' (but not only: see what follows). then, since for me this
>'capital relation' comprise the wage form, and the advance of the
>money wage (for me, that's the essential role of 'finance' to
>industrial capital) and since the value-form determines even the
>material structure of the capitalist labour process, what you say is,
>in a sense, almost obvious. it cannot be otherwise in this
>perspective, which I ttake to be Marx's here, though not always 100%
>clear. no 'naturalist', or 'substantialist' vision is possible in
>this view.
I query this point about wages. First it is necessary to distinguish
empirical matters and conceptual matters.
1) Empirically in no case whatever are wages advanced prior to labour (for
obvious reasons).  So the only question is whether they are advanced prior
to sale of output. Here there are enormous variations, starting with a
comparison of wage perodicity and production period. the former With casual
labour may be a day but it may be a year when agricultural labourers were
paid out of the proceeds of the harvest; I beleive weekly is the norm. On
the latter Anyone who has ever employed a small building firm will be
familiar with demands to 'pay something on account' to keep the cash flow
in balance while the job is being done.
 I seem to remember Geert claiming that today workers are generally paid
after the sale of the output; so this would destroy your position
completely empirically if it were true (which I doubt). Incidentally I very
much doubt bank loans are for wages empirically; I guess they are for
But IMO the key issue is not empirical but conceptual.
2) I think it is very important at a volume 1 level not to have wages paid
in advance because this strongly suggests it is a value input to production
and should hence be transferred along with c. Absolutely central to Marx is
that labour produces its own wages as  part of the added value, so
conceptually, when studying the 'constitution' of capital, both the wage
and the sv are ex post. But c counts as input regardless of credit
arrangements empirically.
Now assume this is understood and we have already constituted capital
circulating. Here the question of before or after becomes indeterminate in
the sense that expenditures and receipts happen continuously. But in
calculating  its profit in its annual accounts wages come into cost price
regardless of when paid.
(BTW I raise the issue of whether 'variable capital' is correct terminology
given it is not v that varies since it does not appear as a constituent of
final value but only as a deduction from it. Any 'variation' is due to the
absorption of living labour which is not a value at all.)

>at the same time, what is circulated on the commodity market cannot
>but be, through money, what you says, i. e. the 'exploitation TIME'
>extracted in production PROPER.
>though, I would stress - again - that in this 'capital relation' an
>'exchange' moment is ESSENTIALLY there, the exchange on the labour
>market, and the (money) wage. what happens in this phase of the
>capitalist circuit (finance, wage), cannot but influence this
>production stage. I repeat because I find myself accused once to be a
>'production' guy, another a 'circulation' guy, etc.
>but I don't know if we agree on the following step: I would go
>further, and I would say that, since abstract labour is labour which
>is NOT immediately social, the 'value form' implies COMPETITION, not
>only total capital vs. working class. a competition where the
>sociality of labours is not presupposed. since these 'labours' are in
>fact the collective workers organized by capital (Napoleoni), this
>competition is dynamic competition. this competition, a struggle
>among capitals to secure extra surplus value (Grossmann), it is
>clearly expressed on the commodity market, 'final' exchange and
>retroacts on production.
?? Abstract labour *is* immediately social - that is the point of its
replacing concrete labour which is not - of course it requires money for it
to exist.
If you mean abstract labur in production then to avoid Alfedo's criticicism
one still has to say this production socially determined production not
But I agree about competition.

>so, as you see, from my interpretation, both initial and final
>moments of circulation are deeply affecting production. but this
>influences, which are powerful, are effective ONLY IN SO FAR the
>counterproductivity of labour is won. this, again, is the CENTRALITY
>of production, and of class struggle, in my (our?) approach. and this
>we have only in (our?) Marx. no other social scientist ventured
>there. and this is why I became a Marxian (if I may claim this label).
Yes. I think we pretty well agree. The problem is in the terminology. Every
Marxist says production is central. So what VF must stress is that the
terms are set by its being production for exchange which deeply penetrates
it e.g. for me it is impossible to explain from production as such why time
is of the essence (and why only certain time counts), it can only be done
from the capital form. The sense in which production is central is that the
material existence of the surplus depends upon winning the calss struggle
at th pointof production.
>(a) I say, relative to the beginning of Capital, that the referring
>of labour to value is not-convincing, and you say something similar.
>but, unlike you, I am ready to accept this reference as a
>preliminary, subjective argument to be posited elsewhere in Capital,
>vol I, in the further development of value form determinations. that
>is: you prefer not to speak of labour as some immaterial substance of
>'value' until you come into the immediate production process.
>this difference is not very relevant to me. I mean:  can FULLY accept
>your argument without changing almost nothing in my approach. I
>simply (as in other places) I try to reconstruct Marx's argument with
>the least changes as possible (and, as you know, this notwithsanding,
>I have to change a lot!).
>this is for me is an instance of the positing of the presupposition.
>BUT when what was presupposed is eventually posited, we see a BIG
>change. the 'hypothesis' of labour value in the first chapter of
>Capital was FORCED to refer to 'naturalistic', 'energetic',
>'physicalist' elements, giving some ground to Ricardian readings of
>Marx (Geert is at his best here). when the presupposition is posited,
>this qui pro qui disappears. completely.
Yes OK but we do not *have* to presuppose it

>(b)   another instance of positing the presupposition is relative to
>money. money as equivalent is deduced at the beginning of Capital
>>from general commodity exchange, in the stage of the argument when
>the concept of capital has not been developed. when this develepment
>happens, as you know, I think that the element of finance becomes
>more and more central, and that this finance dispels the impression
>that the general equivalent must be money as a commodity. so, I have
>labour theory of value without money commodity.
OK but I think ch 1 is a necessary stage in the derivation of M as form
regardless of LTV.

>>Yes indeed. I think my value-form theory goes 'deeper' than most in that it
>>goes beyond saying value is a 'property' ascribed to commodities when
>>interpellated by money as 'the sole existence of value'; For me value
>>passes in the exposition from a property to a 'substance' (e.g. the
>>metamorphoses is the change in shape of a continuing substance) to a
>>'subject' (with capital). By 'substance' I mean an immaterial substance of
>>course, so this allows me to gain some of what 'substantialists' gain by
>>their labour-embodied' views.
>though I guess this immaterial substance (as you know, here again
>we're on similar ground: I took this point from the last page of
>Colletti's Marxism and Hegel!) is no less 'objective', socially

>>Of course things become more complicated in vol 3 where transfer of capital
>>is allowed. Here I might agree a uniform rate of profit - i.e.
>>commensuration not just of Cs but of Kapitals, is effected in financial
>here we are: yes, this is probably the most relevant disagreemet. I
>am uncertain of the point in the derivation where I would go back and
>posit 'finance' (bank finance, not financial markets) as the
>necessary prior to the starting of production. at present I would
>say, at a certain point in vol. III. my friend Marcello Messori would
>have probably said in the early 80s: right at the beginning of
>Capital (but as something presupposed, not to be posited). my
>uncertainty here comes from the fact that IN THIS CASE I do not see
>any susbtantial difference between choosing one way or the other, at
>least from the point of view of ECONOMIC analysis (you know, I'm not
>yet ready to follow the VFT who thinks that quantitative and
>economics etc. are all bullshit...). this is as in our first
>difference I detected: don't think that going one way or the other
>change much. and this a problem to be resolved, of course.
>only one point: we both starts ex post. the problem on ex ante is the
>following: it is contingent, or more concrete, the separation between
>money capital (banks) and industrial capital (firms)? I don't think
>so. this distinction must be either considered as soon as possible or
>it must be admitted as one which chaange fundamentally the outlook
>when we are at the more concrete layer. since once there money is
>flows into the circuit only through money creation from banks ex
>nihilo. of course, one may say that historically there are examples
>of commodity-money', that banks have had the role of the intermediary
>etc. but here I follow a methodological point by Schumpeter. the
>'essence' or nature of a social phenomenon is  best known starting
>>from the most developed form. so the 'essence' of money has to be
>appreciated with a developed banking system. btw, this method to be
>seem to be Marx's.
Sure - dialectics sees only the completed form grounds the simpler (whether
logically or historically).
So if we could argue the separation was necessary to the concept of capital
in general (not just a convenience e.g. for centralising hoards) then we
could agree. It seems to me that expositionally we first study competition
in commodity markets for sales, and then study 'competition for capital'
when each industrialist tries to raise funds.'Competition for capital'
closes the concept that began with competition between capitals. I think
Sekine said this about 'capital as a commodity'.


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