[OPE-L:7736] Re: Chris Arthur's "Alfredo on VFT"

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Wed Oct 02 2002 - 07:09:35 EDT

Alfredo - thanks for your consideration of my points (7711). Some responses
>My apologies for the delay in replying to Chris Arthur's OPE-L 7527. In this
>message, Chris queries the critique of VFT in my book, "The Value of Marx"
>(Routledge 2002).

>In his work (especially his recent publications), Chris offers an
>interpretation of value theory that is not at all similar to "classical" VFT
>- in fact, it may be argued that it does not belong within the main body of
>VFT. This is one of the reasons why I *like* Chris's stuff so much, and cite
>his work so often.
You say my approach does not belong to the main body of VFT. I believe it
does - although at the opposite end of the spectrum from Eldred because I
am concerned to 'save' much of Marx's quantitative determinations.
One way of sharply distinguishing VFT from traditional interpretations is
on the constitutive role of money. For VFT abstract labour and value cannot
be given sense without reference to money form, whereas traditinal Marxian
theory thinks the first two sections have given meaningful defintions
already. On this matter I am *within* VFT.
{One possible source of confusion here is that I go along with VFT that
money plays an ineliminable constitutive role in positing th actualityof
value; it is not a mere veil of the 'true' value relations; but I do not
like how R&W sometimes put the point as 'M is th sole existence of V'; but
M is only one point of fixity in the entire circuit of value-in-motion.}
It is probably true that there is an 'original' VFT that springs from C1
part I, whereas I trump that with C2 part I. The 'abstract' forms of ch 1
become concretely effective only when value posits value i.e. in the
circuit of capital; hence this is where L becomes abstract prior to C-sale.
You yourself likewise situate abstract labour in the K-relation, but you
term this 'production'. Well yes, but do you accept Jerry's riposte (7712)
that what is really at issue is the unity of production and circulation?

>Chris also states that:
>>If value and labour are commensurated in exchange, then anyone organising
>production for exchange is forced to 'precommensurate' (to borrow a term from
>Reuten), assigning an 'ideal value' to be tested against actuality in
>exchange and competition. Of course the producer may not be aware that
>socially necessary labour time has just changed, but in the long run exchange
>mediates supposedly autonomous production units so as to constrain them
>accordingly. Alfredo says without explanation this is 'invalid' (n.32 p. 122)
>but it seems the way in to the solution to me.
>Two observations. First, the 'invalid' is out of context. What I say in that
>footnote is the following:
>"Rubin realised that [his] argument is untenable: 'Some critics say that our
>conception may lead to the conclusion that abstract labour originates only in
>the act of exchange, from which it follows that value also originates only in
>exchange' (Rubin 1975, p.147; see also 1978, p.121). He attempts to evade
>this difficulty through the distinction between exchange as the social form
>of the process of production, and exchange as one phase of reproduction,
>alternating with production. Rubin (1975, pp.95, 100-101, 144-151; 1978,
>pp.122-124) claims that his argument that value is determined in exchange
>refers to the first meaning of the term, rather than the second. However,
>this distinction is invalid, and Rubin himself states that the relationship
>between the producers is established through the act, rather than the social
>structure, of exchange (see Rubin 1975, pp.7-9, 61, 64, 70, 80-88, 143; 1978,
>This note needs no further explanation. What is "invalid" is Rubin's
>distinction, which, by the way, Rubin is unable to maintain consistently
>throughout his work.

I still do not see what is 'invalid'. Because production is socially
determined as production for exchange this 'leaves its mark on produciton
itself' (Rubin - in my terms 'form-determines' it). hence, as we have seen,
this allows a derivation of abstract labour there 'prior' to exchange
narrowly conceived as the moment of explicit social validation of value and
its determinants (AL, SNLT).

>Second observation: Chris must decide whether or not there is value prior to
>sale. If there is (as Chris seems to have stated, see above: "Hence abstract
>labour exists in the factory"), then there is no scope for "ideal value", and
>no useful meaning can be attached to "precommensuration".
>This is an important issue for me, as can be seen throughout the book. I
>think that, in capitalist production, value exists prior to, and
>independently of, sale. Value is created by the *relations of production*,
>rather than by the act of sale. I admire Chris's effort to substantiate a
>similar view (e.g., in his C&C 2001 article). But I think Chris's writings
>are sometimes unclear about this critical issue.


Key here and in your later remarks is the issue of what is 'prior' to sale.
You say I am unclear, equivocal, and that in any event cannot bridge the
Well, there are two senses of 'prior'. In one sense what is prior is simply
the mental state of the capitalist: in this case 'ideal' = 'in his head' or
at best 'virtual', and 'precomensuration' means what calculations he (and
his financier if any) undertakes to see if he can meet the terms expected
to prevail on the market. Of course this happens.
 But for me 'ideal' means something more substantial. I have a concept of
objective 'ideality' which pertains to the value 'substance' of commodities
quite as much as their use-value 'materiality'. There is consubstantiality
here (cf the eucharist) in virtue of form determination. Such ideality
becomes really effective in the capital circuit when valorisation form
determines material production (real subsumption etc). As Marx says, in th
circuit capital metamorphses through all its phases of reproduction: "Hence
it can only be grasped as a movement, and not as a static thing" (C2 185).
It follows that production for exchange is already ideally (in my sense)
posited as value in motion in the phase ...P... quite as much as in M-C and
C-M. So just like Rubin I can argue that concepts like abstract labour and
new value have determinate reality 'prior' to C_M. But what about social
validation? VFT stress that withut sale SNLT and V are merely potential not
actual. True, but one can think of 'preconmmensuration' not as the
captialist's calculation as to whether he has wasted labour, but
objectively i.e. premised on the systemic form determination of production
on a social scale. Whether the capitaist knows it or not, as part of the
social divsion of labour within capital in general snlt in his branch has
been fixed at a certain level, and a certain amount of V hence exists
'ideally' prior to sale even tho only sale reveals it. (Incidentally marx's
term "individual value" is senseless because V has only systemic reality.)
Why isn't this the traditional view? Becaus it is contextualised *within*
the value system,not in *abstraction* from exchange and circulation.
Cheers Chris

17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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