(OPE-L) Re: value, money, and the exchange of equivalents

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Dec 02 2003 - 08:47:10 EST

Hi again Phil. We don't seem to be approaching agreement,
but some important  issues have been raised in this thread.

> At the point in CI where Marx talks about the quantitative
> incongruity of price and magnitude of value as inherent in the price
> form itself, he has made a decision to abandon the universal
> equivalent in favour of a deterministic theory of value.  It is a
> self-inflicted injury.

I think, rather, that Marx understood that had he maintained
the assumption that all commodities exchange at their value then
he would be committing an 'injury' to reconstructing capitalism
in thought.    One has to recall that at the time that he wrote
Volume 1,  he had a pretty good idea of how what he wrote in
that volume would fit in with the rest of _Capital_ (and, I
believe, the other 5 books in the 6-book-plan as well). E.g.
he already had an understanding of the systematic character
of price-value deviations at the time he wrote Part 1 of Volume 1.

In making the _assumption_ that commodities exchange at their
value, he already comprehended the analytical requirement to
modify the presentation at a more concrete level of abstraction.
At that more concrete level (capitalist production as a whole or
'capital in general') it is no longer the case that all commodities
exchange at their value.  Does this then mean that he has given
up on the concept of  equivalent exchange?  I think he would say,
'no'.  The reason is that _if_ there is an equality between the sum
of values and the sum of prices of production, then there is
(exclusding rent) equivalent exchange at the aggregate level.

> If prices of individual commodities are not necessarily equal to
> their value then where is the equivalence?

See above.

> I rather think that the volume I analysis, as a whole, depends on
> equal exchange.

I think rather that the analysis of the subject matter requires that
non-equivalent exchange enter into the presentation.

Does his Volume I analysis depend on equal exchange?  Well,
let's see.  The theory of surplus value, which Marx viewed as one
of his most important "discoveries"  in political economy,
was presented under the assumption of equivalent exchange (i.e.
commodities are assumed to sell at their value, including the
commodity labour-power).  This assumption was made even
though Marx understood that wages could be reduced below
their value (indeed, in the drafts for what became Volume III
he noted that this "is one of the most important factors in
stemming the tendency for the rate of profit to fall" -- Penguin ed.,
p. 342).  In moving from first assuming equivalent exchange to
then dropping (or, more accurately, modifying) that assumption
at a later stage in the presentation he was simply following the
method of abstraction which had been employed (in somewhat
different ways) in German philosophy and English political economy.
There was also an important political point that he wanted to
make, I believe.  He wanted to show that even in the absence of
'cheating', i.e. even when workers received wages equal to the
value of labour-power, that they were exploited by capital. This
was, in part, an answer to Proudhon.  He wanted to show that
exploitation was inherent in the class relation between capitalists
and wage-workers and was not a matter of some 'bad', 'greedy'
capitalists under-paying workers.  This was an important point to
make since otherwise one might come to a reformist conclusion: i.e.
that reforms were needed to prevent unscrupulous capitalists from
exploiting workers and to ensure that workers received a 'fair'

In solidarity, Jerry

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