[OPE-L:7571] Re: RE: Re: Re: Chris A on VF theory

From: Riccardo Bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Date: Fri Aug 30 2002 - 12:15:43 EDT

Hi Nicky,

	nice to read you after some time ...

	Your mail is really wonderful: clear and compact and 
enlightening. Moreover, I must add that the sympathetic and 
charitable reading of R&W, and the ability with which you stress the 
points of agreemnet with Chris, makes me think that if I would ever 
find somebody as fair to me as you are here to R&W and CA, I would be 
in heaven!

	Quite legitametly, since I said that it is important to 
discuss openly the agreements and disagreement within the VFT, you 
engage in a quite detailed (and very didactic: and I love it) 
overview of many points of the vft itself, from a peculiar point of 

	I am not able now, for reason of time and work, but also for 
personal insufficiencies, to make a similarly general intervention.

	So what follows, in a slightly different order than yours, is 
to put here and there some 'signs' for furher, future, private or 
public discussion. They are not meant to be exhaustive or final 

	For not making the mail longer than it actually is, and to 
let you understand better how I locate myself relative to you mail 
sometimes I take the liberty to refer to some of my publications in 

	WARNING: the mail is VERY long, and I wanted to revise it but 
I have no time (and disappear fro more or less ten days). there may 
be an English more personal than usual from me, and many 'misprints' 
or truncated reasonings. so who proceeds do that at his/her own 
risks. apologies



answer to Nicky

>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.

This I would have liked to have had from the beginning. I would have 
understood much more the way you proceeded before, in which Marx is a 
pale antecedent of your view. Here you recognize that you (as others) 
depart from Marx on the starting point, on 'real abstraction', on 
labour time in production, on quantitative issues, etc. And you 
dusagree in such a fundamental way that it's a bit strange to claim 
Marx as a forerunner. (I leave aside for later the issue of value 
theory and money as a commodity).

I have nothing against distinguishing interpretation and 
reconstruction. Simply I would go in THIS order: before the 
interpretation, then the clarification of the problems, then the 
reconstruction, then the justification of starting from/and departing 
from an author. I also have nothing to do with profound breaks with 
Marx, or anybody. As you know, I'm far from being an orthodox. For 
myself, I think I'm a very humble theorist relative to a giant, so 
first I try to understand his moves, and try to avoid unnecessary 

The main point, however, I stress, is that the way of proceeding 
would have helped me, in reading you, to understand better where you 
were starting from Marx, and why, and where you were departing from 
him, and why.

>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).

Of course, the percentages of agreement/disagreemnet were some kind 
of a qualitative joke, with some quantitative content (but not 93% 
precise). I would, however, be curious of your opinion on the many 
points of agreement between Chris and me (which were explicit from 
his and mine essays in Rivista di Politica Economica 1999, but very 
clear also before; and also evident in many meeting of the ISMT) , on 
which you are silent.

>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?

Here my present guess is that Marx's starting point is 
phenomenological. The relevant reference, here, is Hegel, but the 
Hegel of the Phenonenology of the Spirit.

here it would be interesting from you to understand: what's your 
interpretation? what's your reconstruction?

>I begin more like
>Geert with: dissociated labour.

that's most on which I agree in the following, but I point to some 
problems to me.

Let me here advance an hypothesis. We should distinguish 
(interpretation) the mode of inquiry and the mode of presentation. 
Most of dissociation issues are very relevant, and were very relevant 
for Marx, in the first sense, so your first meaning is central in the 
Grundrisse. But Marx was looking again and again for the right point 
of entry of the presentation, and it was THE commodity, as the 
elementary form of bourgeouiss wealth, not yet apprehended as a 
product of capital. His search was so accurate that he had - how 
many? - at least seven version of the beginning of Capital. Then 
'dissociation' is interpretation or reconstruction?

For me, dissociation is a wonderful point of entry to Marx. Not to 
Marx's Capital. Though, of course, ALL the three characteristic you 
quote are defining capitalism.

>    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.

funny, I would have called this the MICROeconomic organizaton of 
capitalist (asocial) society - to borrow from Rousseau.

>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.

funny, I would have called this the MACROeconomic starting point.

>   Third, the aim of
>production is external to the useful objects produced, motivated instead
>by a drive for monetary profit.

I don't understand 'external to the useful objects produced'. but 
yes: production is for capitalist exchange, this is the driving end 
of the process..

>  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].
>The key question that comes out of this is hardly original (it goes back
>to Adam Smith):

and today Arrow and Hahn.

>  how does such a dissociated system manage to exist?

and reproduce.

>First condition of existence: a means of association - lets call it
>'exchange'.  Exchange aligns production and consumption, and is also the
>pre-requisite for labour to be aligned with means of production; hence
>exchange constitutes the social interdependent of independent producers.

I agree. Grundrisse, btw.

>Given the 3rd point of dissociation (above) - i.e. that a quantitative
>(rather than a qualitative) divergence of inputs and outputs is the
>driving force of social production - the exchange relation must
>necessarily be one where the exchange ratios have a non-arbitrary
>unitary form of expression (otherwise rational capitalists might as well
>gamble in a casino).  Value is the social expression of this unitary
>form - in opposition to the heterogeneous particularity of useful

agree: provided it is explained how value is the regulator of the 
distribution of labour. Look at Rubin, which, I guess, we all take as 
the starting point of VFT, or at least it is of my view (ch. 9,) and 
all the talk  he doesabout the 'state of equilibrium', constant 
tendency to equilibrium as reaction against the constant upsetting of 
this equilibrium (may I remind my RRPE 85?). "The phenomena related 
to value can only be grasped in close relation with the working 
activity of society".

>So, like Chris, I believe that we are dealing with a
>VALUE-FORM of the exchange relation: the value form gives historically
>specific social functions to THINGS as mediators of production relations
>(as Chris said in his mail).

I agree completelely

>Let's now call the social form of things
>under the value form of exchange: commodities.

No: commodities are definitely NOT (only) the social forms of things. 
Because commodity is a double entity, value AND use value (you have 
the corrrect formulation below).

may you explain 'value form of exchange'?

>   The commodity is a value
>form determined product - as such it is an entity of double character
>(use-value and value).

this is much better, BUT it contradicts the fomer phrase.

>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 agree with Chris.

>  I have some problems with this.
>Does Newton'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.

I doubt that existence issue (in the sense of independence from the 
observer) is apt here, and the reference to mathematics enlightening. 
I think that all your problem, relative to natural science, may be 
resolved if you look at Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening. As 
for Marx, he of course thought that   the commodity was a very 
strange 'thing' indeed (!): that social 'objectivity' had nothing to 
do with natural 'objectivity', BUT THAT NEVERTHELESS THAT THE LAWS HE 
PARTICULAR PROBLEM AT HAND, and that 'we' give these meanings to the 
social world (this, from an Italian point of view, looks like 
Vattimo's postmodern rereading of Nietzsche and Heidegger). Then: 
reconstruction on your side? May be: I guess here Marx is in one of 
his high points.

>For me the concept of form-determination works well in the explication
>of HOW the value form determines the doubling of all entities and
>processes in capitalism into (material form) and social (value form).

? into what? 'natural'?

>  >From the initial doubling of the commodity,

I understood you did NOT started from the commodity. But if you do, 
ok, I'll agree.

>I would go (like Chris) to
>increasingly complex form-determinations with functions corresponding to
>increasingly complex production relations: commodity, money, capital,
>profit, etc.  In this system of form-determinations, money has a
>function central to the existence of value, that of measure.

Here, of course, you're right (measure as coming down from the role 
of general equivalent). Though the problem here is: how this money 
came in in this process? So, at a point in this system of 
form-determinations 'finance'  as the necessary injection of money.

>  In
>commodity markets, the products of labour are validated as socially
>necessary only in so far as they exchange for a price (the monetary unit
>of measure); likewise labor power – the capacity to perform
>physiological labor – is verified as potentially useful

'potentially useful' in which sense? skince we both agree that the 
commodity is dual, and from it a doubling of all  entities and 
processes, and that value form is what gives all of these the 
specific social function, this 'labour' is useful in the sense of 
producing use values and in the sense of granting profits to the 

>only on labor
>markets when labor power itself takes on a value form, wages.

that's strictly speaking wrong. ther's no 'verification' here. Here 
we simply have that firms succeed in having finance on the 
expectation: (i) that they will be able to get the labour 'activity' 
they expect in adequate quantity and quality; (ii) that the output 
will be sold.

I would elaborate on 'wages' (money wages, I suppose) as the value 
form of labour power. Another time.

>IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT POINT: In addition to abstraction from the
>useful characteristics of labor-power and its products, MONETARY

That's definitely 'reconstruction': probably, it should be understood 
from the "In addition to abstraction from the useful characteristics 
etc.", which, to my memory, is what Marx does. This, I guess, is 
against both Chris and me. Unless there is some 'trick' here. What do 
you mean by 'actually' expended? Of course, we should talk of the 
socially necessary labour time.

We may however try to find at least an agreement on the 
'interpretation' issue: has this anything to do with MARX's LTV? 
There 'labour' - to be more precise, as we should always do - LIVING 
labour is the use value of labour POWER, a 'fluid' activity whose 
'immanent' measure is TIME, so that its 'congealation' in objectified 
DEAD labour is value, whose substance (content) is abstract labour, 
and whose necessary form of manifestation is in money terms. This 
activity is spent in PRODUCTION. If one abstracts from labour time, 
one abstracts from labour. Or am I wrong?

Rubin: "The SPECIFIC character of Marx's labor theory of value lies 
in the fact that Marx does not base his theory on the properties of 
value, i.e. on the acts of equalization and evaluation of things, but 
on the properties of LABOR in the commodity economy, i.e. on the 
analysis of the working structure and production relations of labor" 
(81), so that, as Rubin says, "we confirm the general connection 
between 'value' and 'labor'" BUT "here our STARTING POINT is not 
value but labor" (ivi). So, when we're talking of 'forms' we are 
talking of the form taken BY LABOUR, in a specific social function.

We probably agree on this. Where we disagree is that Rubin is the 
first to remind thaat "when we consider value in terms of content and 
form, we relate value with the concept which precedes it, abstract 
labour (and in the last analysis with the material process of 
production), the content. On the other hand, ONCE we have determined 
that value does not represent labor in general, but labor which has 
the 'form of exchangeability' of a product, then we must pass 
DIRECTLY to exchange value". If you do ONLY the second move, you risk 
to lose labour. So, tthe challenge is to show how the 'material 
process of production' is form-determined.

I agree with Chris that in this form determination the time 
dimension, in important sense, is still there.

As I'll show you later, the issue here is that in this sequence

abstract labour => value => exchange value

you mixed up on the content/form issue, and do NOT see that the 
content is not concrete but, as Rubin says, ABSTRACT labour.

if you go to Rubin you should see that he NEVER breaks with the idea 
that this 'content' has a time dimension, to be NECESSARILY 
represented in money terms.

so, may we agree to disagree, giving however fro granted that SOME 
people as Rubin, me, and I guess from prior mails and writings Chris 
do NOT accept your formulation above?

>  Labor time is socially necessary only in terms of its
>proven ability to create value in the form of money.

on this, of course, ALL agree. but this contradicts the prior 
sentence, to me. unless, again, there is a trick here, the 'poven 
ability'. how can labour to be 'proved' a priori, ex-ante, to be 
'value in the form of money'? this seem to me very neoclassical. of 
course, abstract labour is immediately private, not immediately 

to me, as I've said many times, the KERNEL of KM stays in two things 
that your formulations either cancels or downplay: (i) the 
UNCERTAINTY in the extraction of living labour from labour power; 
(ii) the UNCERTAINTY of the 'coming into being' of value as ideal 
money into actual money. Here you've cancelled the second. In denying 
the relevance of time in value creation WITHOUT already presupposing 
what others would call the realization of commodities you are denying 
the first. but more on this later.

>Thus, in its
>determinate value-form, the labour expended in production

i.e., LIVING labour

>  itself takes
>on a double character as concrete particular labour and as socially
>necessary abstract labour,

I agree

>(it is the SAME labour,

I agree again

>but with a value form
>aspect expressing the transformation of labour time into money in
>addition to its concrete form).

abstract DEAD labour (as the objectification of abstract LIVING 
labour) is the CONTENT of value. buut it is FORM-DETERMINED. it's not 
labour 'in general'.

of course, there's a problem here. what is abstract labour: LIVING or 
its DEAD objectification? here I follow Rubin. the first is 
potential, latent abstract labour.

may I remind that, to my memory, I was the one who introduced in the 
debate this line of reasoning (after Rubin, of course!)? may be I'm 
wrong about this. But in RRPE 89 what I did was: criticising both 
Gleicher (substantialist) and Eldred (formalist) as polar, wrong 
opposites; then, looking at Napoleoni 75, but criticising him for not 
having this 'latent'/'actual' distinction about abstract labour? 
going back to Rubin to introduce it  (an hint was already in my C&C 

>3.  The Double Character of Labour: If products, human capacities AND
>LABOR TIME are commensurate only in exchange,

I would say: the final validation occurs only in the exchange on the 
commodity market

>  and if exchange is not
>accidental but systemic, then the price of a commodity may be
>anticipated in advance of production; i.e. private producers
>pre-commensurate by assigning an ‘ideal’ or anticipated ‘value’ to
>commodities (straight out of, R&W).

and also my RRPE 89, and before that RRPE 85 and C&C 85: we ALL agree on that

>Of course the average labour time
>socially required to produce a particular product may change over the
>course of a production process since it is only the process of actual
>exchanges that constrain production units (compare Chris's response,
>which refers instead to the 'long run').

as I said, the 'long run' is ambiguous here. as it is your:  "it is 
the process of ACTUAL exchanges that constrain etc."  I agree that 
there are no fixed centers of gravity, and that the shifting centers 
of gravity are driven by capitalist, innovative dynamics driven by 
class struggle in production and the search for extra surplus value 
(my RRPE 85).

>  For me, only the concept of
>pre-commensuration gives definite sense to the idea that the link
>between labour and value is determined by the form of exchange.

for me too. safe that ...

>Crucially, if production is orientated to value and surplus-value, then
>the material character of production is subsumed by this goal; hence
>wage labor expended in a production process also takes on a double
>aspect: it is AT ONCE concrete particular labor and abstract universal

yes, safe that ...

>Does this mean that labour in production can be measured in
>labour time: NO.

here. the answer is YES (in theory ...)

Why. IF one has to go back from exchange value to value and then to 
labour ONE never gets to this latter. This is (for me) clear from 
most of the VFT and from the Sraffian literature (peculiar branches 
of formalism and substantialis). As Rubin (and the core of Marx) 
showed one has to go from abstract labour to value to exchange value. 
But how, if abstract labour comes into being in exchange, and it is 
only 'latent' before? Eldred to me is  the most coherent here (and 
outside VFT strictly speaking, Benetti-Cartelier and De Vroey). 
Pre-commensuration (WITHIN the labour process) is no solution. As 
Marx says, the tricks in saying that in some relevant sense money 
measures commodities as values because they are ALREADY in some sense 
'the like', or equal, BEFORE actual exchange. But OF COURSE the 
activity before final exchange on the commodity market is concrete! 
The solution is to say that FINANCE from money capital to industrial 
capital is an ante-validation, which allows for the 
pre-commensuration. FROM THIS POINT OF VIEW, labour as an activity is 
already 'treated' by capital as socially homogeneous, 
form-determined. This is Rubin re-read within my personal reading of 
the Graziani's circuit approach.

This is far away from Chris. But we agree on this. My ante-validation 
is finance as the advance of money wages, buying labour power (at the 
beginning of the circuit). The pumping out of living labour from 
RECALCITRANCE OF WORKERS. This move makes two things: (i) grounds the 
referring back ot value to labour; (ii) in a way that intrinsically 
has a time dimension.

Btw: if you don't have time in you approach, the L in some equation 
like Y = mL, what is?

>Rather: production must be considered as a means for potential money
>expansion, as valorization (money – production – more money, M-C-M’,
>with M’>M).

I agree.

>   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 agree, since I've written it several times. Only that for me this 
is labour reduced to pure quantity, measurable in time?

may we agree to disagree? agree on interpretation: this is Marx's 
idea aboout the LTV, that it had a labour time dimension attached to 
it, and likely Rubin's. that I probably have this time dimension less 
than in the 'true' Marx. and that you cancel it altoghether. Right?

>  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).

of course it is not completely consistent! that's why I took the pain 
to redefine Napoleoni through Rubin and Graziani, you know ... mainly 
(though not only) RRPE 89. may be I was a complete or partial failure.

>  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.

HERE'S THE CRUX. or, if you wish, the ERROR, in my opinion, which 
makes me disagree with you 90% 8-).

first the content-form issue. you write that form is value, and 
content is use value. for me is NONSENSE.

content is the use value of labour power, not as concrete labour but 
as (potential, latent) abstract labour.

to be quick, here, on the relationship between form and content, I am 
100% with Rubin (117):

"On the question of the relation between content and form, Marx took 
the standpoint of Hegel, and not of Kant. Kant treated form as 
something external in relation to the content, and as something which 
adheres to the content from the outside. From the standpoint of 
Hegel's philosophy, the content is not in itself something to which 
form adheres. Rather, through its development, the CONTENT itself 
gives birth to the form which was already LATENT in the CONTENT."

well, that's what I'm trying to do. may be I do not succeed. You seem 
to me desperately to deny this Rubin's point, which was for me a 
Marx's point, the content itself giving birth to the form. Rubin 
again: "From this point of view, the form of value necessarily grows 
out of the substance of value".

May we agree to disagree? That is that for you this of Rubin is a 
wrong position? May be not as an interpretation of Marx but as a way 
out of Marx's contracdctions?

for me value determination of production is what Chris said in the last mail.

and about the 'prime determinat', I've already said in which sense 
production is CENTRAL. of course, in Rubin's way of depicting the 
relation between form and content, and of going from labour to value, 
production is at the core of exchange in his 'larger' definition.

I do not understand

but I agree on this rewriting of you:

>the  form of value shapes the 'matter' of the labour process in the 
>sense that it affects the material structure of production, so that 
>the content of value, whose source is abstract labour 'in becoming' 
>within production, is extracted according to the valorisation 
>imperatives, and hence in this sense
>the value form is the 'prime determinant' of production (to borrow from.

btw, I don't understand what do you mean by

>Without the actualization of the valorization requirement,
>transformations of the 'ideal' into the 'actual' do not happen, the
dissociated system of production collapses.

it seems to me true by definition. unless you're not saying that 
without pumping out living labour frrom workers, there is one 
stumbling block against the realization of one of elements of the 
expectations regulating the bargaining between banks and firms. that 
is: firms expected a given outcome in the production process proper, 
it didn't came out in this way, workers were too recalcitrant. But of 
course the transformation of the ideal into the actual may fail on 
the commodity market too, for completely different reasons. but if 
so, we two are IDENTICAL here.

>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.

this is an ERROR if this part is meant to imply that the  'creation 
of useful product' has to do with 'content' here. the content of 
value has NOTHING to do with useful products, or useful and concrete 
labour. but if that part of the sentence does not refer to content, 
what's the meaning of all this?

you see: there is the  value/use value dialectics. for me form and 
content has to do with VALUE, not with use value.

>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.

don't understand.

>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 has nothing to do with money as a commodity.

my view is this: Marx had money as a commodity in the analysis of 
money as a general equivalent to ground the reference of value to 
labour. yes. but this is wrong. capitalist money is necessarily 
non-commodity money, so this ground of the LTV collapses. but there 
is another ground: ante-validation + class struggle within production 
for pumping out living labour. then the cfoming into being of 
potential abstract labour.

this of course should be much more expanded (but it is in my 
writings). Why I refer to that here? because even WITHOUT money as a 
commodity all the stuff by Marx on value as a mystical entity STILL 
holds. may be more.

>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 terminology is completely confused for me. e.g., what's the sense 
of "only labour has use value". which labour are we talking about? 
dead, living, labour power? let's say living labour. then, LL IS the 
use value of labour power. so, the terminology should be clarified 
before going on. it's not Marx. it's not interpretation. it's 
reconstruction. But then it must be explained to the reader (or tell 
me the paper where  you've done this in a didactical way).

you're right that there is no necessary association between the 
necessary labour accruing to workers and the time of living labour, 
in the socially necessary magnitude, they MAY spend. though it is 
capitalistically necessary that the latter is higher than the fomer. 
what's problematic, however, is not the extraction of SURPLUS labour, 
but of the WHOLE of labour.

you're right also that what ACTUALLY happens has many historical 
determinants, and here clmass struggle at the point of production and 
the State intervention are very relevant.

>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.

exactly. that why I introduced Graziani in the English debate on 
Marx, both in survey and eventually in translation.

what do you mean "although he does not use it for this purpose"? He 
uses it EXACTLY to justify why the objectification of labour as an 
activity is the only content of value, and why capitalist wealth 
(surplus value, NOT surplus money for Graziani) is only due to 
exploitation. may me yyou mean, Graziani didn't intended this to be 
used within some value form persspective. then you're right. I tried 
to do this within Rubin (+ Napoleoni). you try to do this within R&W.

>  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?).

no objection. indeed, in a sense, I think I've already done this. 
your is (will be?) probably a different way of attempting the same 

>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).

already commented

>  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 disagree.

btw: this is WHY I am against this way of putting forward the value 
form approach. at present, I take your position to be prevalent (in 
different ways). and this position I criticised yesterday, today, and 
may be I'll criticise also tomorrow.

but of course, coming down from Rubin, I'm not against a very 
different way of stressing 'form' in Marx.

>  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?).

this is consistent with the above, and that's why I disagree.

>  For me the 'determining' element [I don't like
>causal] is value form

for me too: the value form determination of production, which means 
the way capital try to overcome the recalcitrance of workers is the 
central element (literally: in the sense that is at the centre at the 
circuit, and that the whole works if this works; but the whole 
determines this 'core' of course).

>  and the only quantitative theory possible IS a
>monetary one.

YES. money as the only actual representation of the content of value 
(which may well be never known, or actually measured: again, look  at 

>  This is because I do not need, as Marx does, to make a
>long (classical) preliminary inquiry into what enables commodities to

indeed, I agree that from a different perspective (which often I 
adopt) this may be dispensed with

>therefore, I do not need commodity money.

I fought against commodity money AT LEAST since 89 (in English!). so 
I AGREE. and you may count me within your references 8-)

>6.  'Formalism' and 'Substantivism': I do not know what these words

not substantivism, but substantialism, I wrote. but may be the wrong 
expression in English.

well, the distinction is done by Salama in a French book. formalism 
does who like Benetti and Cartelier (but also you!) wants the form 
without the content. substantialism: an example may be Dobb or Meek, 
or the Sraffians, all those who downplay the form and see the 
content, reduced now to physiological labour or the like.

I am with Rubin: see quotes above about the relation between form and 
content. and I think you have the wrong concept of 'content'.

>7.  Forms of exchange as 'prime determinant'.  I agree with Chris.

me too. as I interpreted him.

>  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!

yes, this I agree with. OF COURSE for me (as for Chris: see RPE 99) 
this mean a FUNDAMENTAL thing. winning the class struggle at the 
point of production. compare my quotes from Chris, and exploitation 
TIME there. do you disagree with those quotes?

>Once we understand production as a
>form-determined process, then a study of dynamics becomes interesting.

I agree. I've also tried to do this in the past.

>AT this point, I am happy to introduce Schumpeter's dynamic competition
>and the struggle of firms for extra profits.

me too! RRPE 85.

>   But I do not begin here.

me too!!

>I begin by showing HOW this process is determined by value form

yes!!! provided we find an agreement on what this 'value imperatives' mean

you know, in this way may be MOST economists may accept it! 
capitalism is production for profit.

or do you mean accepting VFT? well, we have many. which one? Rubin? 
CA? Eldred? R&W? let's say, my eretic version? yours?

>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.

WONDERFUL. then all this long journey of disagreement for agreeing? 
my appproach sustain exactly this conclusion. (personally that this 
position here follows NECESSARILY from your argument).

>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).

WONDERFUL. that's EXACTLY what I think.

then value form would like to become a self-increasing spyral of 
valorisation WITHOUT ... without what? without content. but it does 
not succeed. to be in the constant flux of valorisation it has to 
internalise an external other (Chris! may I add me since my first 
paper in Italian, 1979?), which is ... the living labour extracted 
from workers who are potentially recalcitrant!! then, the content and 
its dimension, exdploitation TIME! (Chris, me and ... who else? you 
say that all value form theories are in general agreement. are you 
sure? then the point, other than time, is the STRESS on this. for me, 
I repeat, this failure of capital to become an autonomous subject, 
the going into PRODUCTION after having bought workers through 
FINANCE, and the STRUGGLE between classes in PRODUCTION, is truly the 
core of the whole building: no need of R&W to justify the reference 
of value to labour, no need to deny the time dimension in production, 

>8. On Finance.  My inclination is to agree with Riccardo; but FOR ME in
>the sense that the NECESSARY capitalist money is ultimately shown (in
>fully developed value form) as bank finance to production.

don't understand. let's put this way. I agree that the necessary 
capitalist money is bank finance to production. Graziani, the 
circuit, me among a thousand others (also Keynes, Schumpeter, or 
these bourgeouis bastards).

'ultimately shown (in fully developed value form'. what do you mean? 
if I understand is what I am trying to do (two of the many attempts 
are registered in a comment to de Brunhoff and in a paper with 
Realfonzo), but not yete developed. to understand why Marx had 
commodity money, and trying to see in developing Marx's argument, 
well let's go quick, in a similar way to Chris's philosophical 
reading, one can avoid to jettisoning the overture of Capital, and 
end up saying like Benetti and Cartelier: the only reasonable 
methodology is à  la Wittgenstein, the starting point we have to 
ASSUME if we want to speak rigorously of a true monetary economy is 

>But, on this
>I have much work to do, and cannot comment further.
>Thanks again Chris and Riccardo for an interesting discussion.

thanks to you for your very useful intervention.



Riccardo Bellofiore
Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche
Via dei Caniana 2
I-24127 Bergamo, Italy
e-mail:   bellofio@unibg.it, bellofio@cisi.unito.it
direct	  +39-035-2052545
secretary +39-035 2052501
fax:	  +39 035 2052549
homepage: http://www.unibg.it/dse/homebellofiore.htm

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Sep 06 2002 - 17:17:38 EDT