[OPE-L:7578] Re: RE: Re: Re: Chris A on VF theory

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Sat Aug 31 2002 - 13:30:08 EDT


>I am not sure of what the 80-90% disagreements with R&W exactly consist
>(or whether the disagreements are the same for Riccardo as for Chris).
>In any case Geert can answer for himself.  Below, I restrict to stating
>only what I see to be some important points of disagreement and some
>important points of agreement with Chris.
>1.  A common point in vft theories is the importance attributed to the
>starting point as an abstract universal concept for the domain under
>investigation.  Did Marx begin with the commodity as a concept or did he
>begin with perceptions?  Chris (1997, after Banaji, 1979) defends Marx's
>analysis of the commodity as an 'analytic' category with 'value' the
>true synthetic abstract universal starting point.  I begin more like
>Geert with: dissociated labour.   What is meant by this term
>dissociated?  In my view three things.  First, the form of macroeconomic
>organization: allocation of labor, production, distribution and
>consumption are separate processes.  Second, the form of microeconomic
>organization: labor power and the means of production are separated
>prior to production and must be reunited in a production process that
>takes place in privately organized independent units.  Third, the aim of
>production is external to the useful objects produced, motivated instead
>by a drive for monetary profit.  Given that ultimately we want to arrive
>at a fully determined concept of capital as value form, dissociation in
>these THREE senses seems an appropriate starting point [NOTE: This view
>is consistent with Reuten and Williams, 1989, but not with Eldred et
>al,1982/85, who have a much simpler idea of dissociation than this.  For
>the Sydney-Konstanz writers 'dissociation' is only dissociation of
>production and consumption and they begin like Marx with the commodity].
This way of stating the differences is not quite right. Dissociation is a
common starting point. For example I wrote in my 1993 as follows
"To sum up this introductory material: the sociation-dissociation
contradiction is the presupposition of the entire epoch, and hence our
presentation; it is association through exchange that gives this
contradiction 'room to move'; the first concrete category is therefore this
mediation, and we study its further development; this first category of
movement determines goods as commodities, and hence the first object of
analysis is the commodity, a unity of use-value and exchange-value; this
doubling is a relation in which the form, the abstract universal, dominates
the matter, the particular use-values; the value form is therefore the
theme of our categorial dialectic."
 The difference is that R&W move quickly to the productive enterprise with
its homogenised inputs and outputs even before money. I confess I can make
no sense of this at all. I have put it to Geert that there is no
homogeneity (e.g. between living labour which is not value and the
commodity which is) but even if we ignore that, what possible homogeneity
could there be except money? And this is incomprehensible except as a
category arising out of exchange. So I would not look at the productive
enterprise until the capital form has been developed.

>2.  The meaning of value form: I am not sure if the emphasis on
>form-determination has quite the same meanings in vf theories.  It is my
>reading (please correct this if wrong Chris) that Chris takes
>dialectical relations as possible only because Capitalism really IS an
>inverted reality in Hegel's sense.  I have some problems with this.
>Does Neuton's law exist before our formulation of it, does length exist
>before a concept of length becomes socially necessary and so on).  Chris
>says 'yes' to the existence question (as I understand, Chris?), I say
>'no' (I believe Geert also says no, Geert?).  For me the social world
>may be mathematically tractable or may be tractable in a Hegelian sense
>- i.e. WE give to it these meanings; they are social constructions that
>are more or less effective depending on the particular problem at hand.
This is hugely idealist! Even Hegel would answer Yes to all. I regard it as
absurd to doubt natural laws preexist our knowledge of them. The same for
the social world prior to theory (cf Marx on how his discoveries change
nothing in the object). Not very tricky is the role of everyday conceptions
in securing social reproduction. More tricky is social practice. I beleive
people act so as to produce an ideal reality without being aware of it. To
put it paradoxically - by acting as if value existed they make it exist
('measuring' it in money etc.).

> The commodities produced 'ideally' represent an amount of
>>money, ideal money, and the activity of labor 'ideally' takes on the
>form of abstract labor.  I do not know yet if this view is consistent
>with Napoleoni's treatment of living labour as activity and result (or
>how it is different from Riccardo's engagement with this view).  A
>possible difference may be the *sense* in which production is considered
>to be form determined: for me, form (value) dominates content
>(use-value) subordinating production to valorisation imperatives, hence
>the value form is the 'prime determinant' of production (to borrow from
>Chris). Without the actualization of the valorization requirement,
>transformations of the 'ideal' into the 'actual' do not happen, the
>dissociated system of production collapses.
>BUT: Although form dominates content it is nevertheless true that the
>creation of useful products is a NECESSARY moment in the capitalist
>valorization process: form cannot exist without content.  No difference
>with Chris (I hope!) on this last statement.  The difference is that I
>do not see a metamorphosis of value from 'property' to 'non-material'
>substance as a necessary part of a systematic dialectical presentation.
>This is because I do not agree with him as to the commodity money
>starting point.  So we are back at square one.
No. This is not the issue. non-commodity money is also acceptable as a
bearer of this immaterial substance - just because it *is* immaterial. Only
if value is a substance can it be accumulated. I take it as obvious one
cannot accumulate a relation; as for a property - you cannot accumulate
length you can only accumulate things with length. Ranciere somewhere
coined the term 'metonymic causality' to refer to the active role of the
supposed 'property' - this is not far off but understates the ontological
inversion involved when value makes UV its 'shell'.

>4.  Labour as the source of value.  Chris's most important and decisive
>disagreement with R&W, in my view, is his rejection of their
>conceptualisation of 'nature' as 'freely' available to capital.  I think
>that this criticism of Chris is correct.  The crux of the R&W argument
>in chapter 1, section 9 (pp.68-73) is that labour power and nature are
>not commodities (they are not produced within capitalist relations of
>production.  Crucially, there is no relation between cost of production
>of labour power and the wage, labour power has a price but no value, it
>also does not have use-value - only labour has use value, and there is
>no NECESSARY association between the price of labour power and the use
>value that capitalists actually extract - it depends on class struggle,
>state imposed sanctions, etc).  The important point is that, unlike
>means of production (which exchange among capitals) labour power
>represents a purchase external to capital.  If nature is freely
>available, it follows that the labour power, converted into a use-value
>for capital (i.e. labour in production) is the source of value.  What is
>wrong with this argument - and I believe that Chris is right about this
>- is that nature is excluded by assumption, at any rate without adequate
>argument.  HOWEVER: I consider that the R&W insight need not be
>abandoned.  What is needed, in my view, is an extension of the argument,
>such that the capital-labour exchange relation is seen to be
>macroeconomic in character while the capital-capital exchange relation
>is microeconomic.  This way the purchase of labour power can be
>rethought (without losing anything of the R&W insights) as an 'external'
>purchase made by capitalists while the purchase of means of production
>AND land is conceptualised as an 'internal' purchases, or exchange among
>capitalists.  This *tentative* idea of further determining the exchange
>relation comes originally from Graziani (1986), although he does not use
>it for this purpose. I want, in other words, to develop the NECESSARY
>consequences of the second 'dissociation' in R&W (i.e. separation of
>workers from means of production).  This is for me a 'work in progress'
>and I would be very interested to know if there are any strong
>objections to this (Geert? Chris? Riccardo?).
Yes my major difference from R&W is on how to derive LTV )here I am at one
with Riccardo).
a. I do not think your solution works. I have written before that there is
now one calss of propertied people that live off rents and profits
indifferently. But it is still the case that rent as a value form is
peculiar in that it is a deduction from the value created by capital that
arises because of a  contingency external to the CONCEPT of capital.
b. R&W - and I think your para - is fuzzy on the source of value: it is
living labour and quite definitely not labour power. Incidentally this last
is in one way more 'internal' than land when one considers that it has to
be reproduced on the basis of values produced by capital and that this
determines its 'value' in a sense.
c.Note that I do not accept the 'external purchase' argument at all. The
point that land is also purchased externally was a debating point. The
purchase argument smacks horribly of pre-Marxist theories of SV based on
cheating: since the capitalists cannot cheat themselves this leaves only
the workers to be cheated either by being given less than the value of
their labour of charged more than the value of subsistence goods. At a
macro level this amoutns to the same thing. Lexis apparently believed this
was true and happened because of the market power of the owners. Engels had
trouble replying.
Now you will say that yours is not a circulationist position because you
refer to the use value of LP in production. But LP can be used only in
conjunction with the other factors; the use value of machinery and land is
equally distinct from their purchase. That is why Marx insisted that the UV
was a joint product. So why shuld capital pay special attention to living
labour? Because this points us to a social relation of production (not of
circulation), rather than a natural process, scarce resource, general
input, or peculiar commodity, or or...
In a totaly automated economy there would be no external purchase of LP but
Steedman says there will still be profit. My answer is this revenue is rent
i.e. springing from  natural rather than social relations.

>5. Interpretation versus reconstruction.  My way - and I want to
>emphasise this strongly ONCE AND FOR ALL - is NOT Marx's way.  To recap:
>the commodity is the wrong starting point (according to me). I prefer
>the R&W 'dissociation' because it allows me to conclude that 'real
>abstraction' is ALSO an abstraction FROM labour time in production.  I
>am coming even closer to Eldred here: I agree with him, that there is no
>sense in retaining labour time as causal in price determination (he
>concedes, according to Chris's latest OPE-L that it can be so, ceteris
>paribus - so what?).  For me the 'determining' element [I don't like
>causal] is value form and the only quantitative theory possible IS a
>monetary one. This is because I do not need, as Marx does, to make a
>long (classical) preliminary inquiry into what enables commodities to
>exchange; therefore, I do not need commodity money.
To be fair to Marx if he had written the Introduction he decided to omit I
think he would have been happy with dissociation as the reason why things
appear as commodities.
Dissociation includes beside the social division of labour the dissociation
betwen workers and means of production so we can have abstraction in
production (as in my C&C article) so I do not see real differences here. I
too dislike 'causal' terms especially if it is thought production causes
circulation. But if it was understood as reciprocal causation so that all
determinants were simultaneously determined it might be OK. The reason I do
not like it is that for me the system is mediated by logical signals (which
can get distorted of course). But some would see no problem about saying
that when someone shouts 'Fire' this 'causes' evacuation of the building
even tho it is a signal.

>6.  'Formalism' and 'Substantivism': I do not know what these words
>7.  Forms of exchange as 'prime determinant'.  I agree with Chris.  The
>only reason that we are in production with dynamics affecting living
>labour and labour forced to struggle with capital is because the whole
>thing - level and structure of employment, duration and intensity of
>working day, distribution, composition of output etc - is all determined
>by value-form imperatives!  Once we understand production as a
>form-determined process, then a study of dynamics becomes interesting.
>AT this point, I am happy to introduce Schumpeter's dynamic competition
>and the struggle of firms for extra profits.  But I do not begin here.
>I begin by showing HOW this process is determined by value form
>imperatives.  And I do not end here by concluding that production is
>fundamental, I end by concluding that this whole struggle in production
>is NECESSARY to the existence of capital as value form.  MORE THAN THAT,
>it shows up a FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION in capital as 'value form' -
>that capital is NOT really and can NEVER be the autonomous 'subject'
>that form determination in the Hegelian sense seems to demand (the
>theory of the capitalist system cannot close with the resolution of
>contradictions as Hegel's does).  On this last point in parentheses I
>believe value form theories are in general agreement (whatever our
>disagreements about how this system is to be theorised).


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