[OPE-L:7582] RE: Re: RE: Re: Re: Chris A on VF theory

From: Nicola Taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Sun Sep 01 2002 - 17:56:54 EDT


>>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
>>begin with perceptions?  Chris (1997, after Banaji, 1979) defends
>>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
>>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
>>production is external to the useful objects produced, motivated
>>by a drive for monetary profit.  Given that ultimately we want to
>>at a fully determined concept of capital as value form, dissociation
>>these THREE senses seems an appropriate starting point [NOTE: This
>>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.
>>the Sydney-Konstanz writers 'dissociation' is only dissociation of
>>production and consumption and they begin like Marx with the

>This way of stating the differences is not quite right. Dissociation is
>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
>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;
>doubling is a relation in which the form, the abstract universal,
>the matter, the particular use-values; the value form is therefore the
>theme of our categorial dialectic."

Agreed.  Incidentally, I forgot to mention that Tony Smith's 1990 book
also has a concept of dissociation as the value form 'principle'
determining the doubling of the commodity into use-value and value. 

 >The difference is that R&W move quickly to the productive enterprise
>its homogenised inputs and outputs even before money. I confess I can
>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
>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.

I was especially interested in Geert's last ISMT paper (does your beta
coefficient make labour homogeneous before money, Geert?).  Geert can
speak for himself.  For me, the only possible homogeneity is money.
Production exists as a moment *within* the circuit of capital (and must
be analysed with its position between 2 moments of monetary exchange
kept firmly in mind; here I acknowledge 2 strong influences - your 1998
chapter on Marx's concept of capital as motion and Graziani's 1986
distinction between the two moments of exchange (capital-labour exchange
and the capital-capital exchange) reproduced in English in IJPE, 1997.
An aside: Riccardo's approach to the circuit seems quite unlike yours,
Chris, despite the focus that you both share on living labour and money.

>>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
>>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
>>before a concept of length becomes socially necessary and so on).
>>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
>>- i.e. WE give to it these meanings; they are social constructions
>>are more or less effective depending on the particular problem at
>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
>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
>in securing social reproduction. More tricky is social practice. I
>people act so as to produce an ideal reality without being aware of it.
>put it paradoxically - by acting as if value existed they make it exist
>('measuring' it in money etc.).

Obviously it would be absurd to deny that apples fall to the ground
irrespective of whether or not we understand why they do; however, I
didn't say that.  I did NOT say that consciousness determines reality.
I did say that the way that we formulate our *understanding* of how
apples fall to the ground cannot pre-exist our conceptual formulations -
our 'laws' that describe *what we know* of how apples fall to the
ground.  The business of HOW WE UNDERSTAND apples falling to the ground
may be completely revolutionised 2000 years from now.  Same applies to
theories of human practices: they are incomplete.  So, to restate: I
agree with you that our practices go on whether we know what they mean
or not, and I have no problem whatsoever with the idea that 'by acting
as if value existed they [we] make it exist'.  My point is that these
practices have a social 'meaning' only in so far as formulate a system
of concepts - by knowing.  It is in this semantic sense that length does
not exist until we name it and capitalism as an inverted reality does
not exist until we find we can talk about it meaningfully as an inverted
reality.  For me, this 'constructivist' approach leaves open ontological
question: i.e. the equally absurd notion that reality is fixed
independently of consciousness.  What matters is precisely that a theory
of capitalism informs our knowledge of social practices in such a way as
to illuminate possibilities for change: indeed the only proof of the
reality of the theory is that it can help to change the world (Theses on
Feuerbach).  To date, we are not so lucky to have such a proof.  If this
is an 'idealist' position then OK, I can live with the term.      

>>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
>>to be form determined: for me, form (value) dominates content
>>(use-value) subordinating production to valorisation imperatives,
>>the value form is the 'prime determinant' of production (to borrow
>>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
>>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
>>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.
>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
>supposed 'property' - this is not far off but understates the
>inversion involved when value makes UV its 'shell'.

Sorry, I didn't explain well.  I am referring specifically to your reply
to Riccardo who objects to positions that dichotomize 'form' and
'substance'.  You agreed as follows [7564]: "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."

I am saying that I have no difference with you on the idea that form
cannot exist without content. I mean that (like you and Riccardo) I see
no point in the form/substance dichotomy and I have no problem with the
idea of value as process.  What I disagree with is the interpretation
where value (as substance) is accumulated.  What is accumulated is not
value (a substance) but money (the thing representing value).  To say
that value is accumulated takes a risk of conflating value and money:
and this conflation is exactly what Riccardo complains of in value form
theories. For me, then, money is necessary precisely because value
CANNOT be accumulated.  Value, rather, is posited: as unitary universal
opposition to heterogeneous use value, necessary to the exchange
relation, in turn necessary to the existence of dissociated activity.
Money allows value to express its 'reality' in so far as the whole of
capitalism as a value form must be organised around money; that is the
relation of form to content for me.      

>>4.  Labour as the source of value.  Chris's most important and
>>disagreement with R&W, in my view, is his rejection of their
>>conceptualisation of 'nature' as 'freely' available to capital.  I
>>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
>>of labour power and the wage, labour power has a price but no value,
>>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
>>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
>>for capital (i.e. labour in production) is the source of value.  What
>>wrong with this argument - and I believe that Chris is right about
>>- is that nature is excluded by assumption, at any rate without
>>argument.  HOWEVER: I consider that the R&W insight need not be
>>abandoned.  What is needed, in my view, is an extension of the
>>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
>>purchase made by capitalists while the purchase of means of production
>>AND land is conceptualised as an 'internal' purchases, or exchange
>>capitalists.  This *tentative* idea of further determining the
>>relation comes originally from Graziani (1986), although he does not
>>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
>>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
>with Riccardo).
>a. I do not think your solution works. I have written before that there
>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
>arises because of a contingency external to the CONCEPT of capital.

I don't understand this objection.  The distinction in Graziani is
between 'finance to production' and 'investment' (the latter category
could, I believe, accommodate a propertied class).  What is special
about 'finance to production' is that bank balances are altered in such
a way that we cannot understand money creation as a transfer.  Suppose
that capitalist A borrows money to buy means of production from
capitalist B.  The bank deposits the loan in the account of A, who
transfers it to B (the bank balances of the 2 change by the same amount,
in different directions).  Moreover, no new money has been created,
because the new sum deposited by the bank in the account of A is exactly
equal to the debt now owed by A.  However, in the case of 'finance to
production' (finance of the wage bill) the transfer is made not from one
capital to another but from one class to another, on the anticipation
that the monetary returns at the end of the production process will
exceed the money capital advanced by industrial capitalists (in
purchasing both inputs: means of production and labour power).  What is
more, the capitalist class decide the composition of output - they
decide the allocation of labour to the production of (necessary) wage
goods on the one hand and (surplus) capital/luxury goods on the other
hand.  The division of the working day into necessary labour and surplus
labour is (in this special sense) given in advance.  Of course, I do NOT
agree that it is OK to jump from this to an argument that the 'value' of
labour power is given before production.  For me labour power has no
value BECAUSE it is external to capitalist relations of production; it
has only a price (the wage) which bears no necessary relation to the
price of the wage goods eventually realised on commodity markets.  To
say that it does abstracts from the feature of capitalism that most
needs explaining - the fact that between the two moments of exchange
there lies a moment of production, of class struggle.
>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
>is in one way more 'internal' than land when one considers that it has
>be reproduced on the basis of values produced by capital and that this
>determines its 'value' in a sense.

Of course, *labour* (in production) is the source of value.  The point,
however is that *capital* (in production) produces value, and can do so
only because it has at its disposal wage labour.  Wage labour power
exists because of the dissociation of workers from means of production,
workers are forced onto labour markets to sell their capacity to work
'as if' it were a commodity.  But labour power itself is not produced by
capital for sale; the wage is not a price of production of a
capitalistically produced input 'labour power' (with a value given by
the consumption bundle).  
>c.Note that I do not accept the 'external purchase' argument at all.
>point that land is also purchased externally was a debating point. The
>purchase argument smacks horribly of pre-Marxist theories of SV based
>cheating: since the capitalists cannot cheat themselves this leaves
>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
>was true and happened because of the market power of the owners. Engels
>trouble replying.

I agree that my argument is un-Marxist.  I do not agree that it is based
on 'cheating'.  To cast the argument in terms of unequal exchange is
quite beside the point.  The argument is that labour power and
capitalistically produced commodities are intrinsically incommensurate.
The demand price can be determined within the value dimension (through
precommensuration) but the supply price cannot (unless we are going to
treat the household as a firm!). For a more detailed explanation See
R&W, p.71, Addenda b, and the whole of Chapter 1, section 9, pp. 68-73).

>Now you will say that yours is not a circulationist position because
>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
>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
>labour? Because this points us to a social relation of production (not
>circulation), rather than a natural process, scarce resource, general
>input, or peculiar commodity, or or...

My argument hangs on the special role of money as finance to production
(the wage bill), with which you disagree.

>In a totaly automated economy there would be no external purchase of LP
>Steedman says there will still be profit. My answer is this revenue is
>i.e. springing from  natural rather than social relations.

According to me, Steedman's economy is not a capitalist economy.
>>5. Interpretation versus reconstruction.  My way - and I want to
>>emphasise this strongly ONCE AND FOR ALL - is NOT Marx's way.  To
>>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
>>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
>appear as commodities.
>Dissociation includes beside the social division of labour the
>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
>circulation. But if it was understood as reciprocal causation so that
>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
>can get distorted of course). But some would see no problem about
>that when someone shouts 'Fire' this 'causes' evacuation of the
>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.
>>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
>>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
>>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
>>is NECESSARY to the existence of capital as value form.  MORE THAN
>>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).

In solidarity

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