[OPE-L] Marx's Form of Analysis

From: Hans G. Ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Tue Feb 15 2005 - 07:58:59 EST

Howard, you wrote:

> Notice that value is an unobservable -- it does not,
> cannot appear.  Therefore it is manifested by means of
> forms of appearance (exchange value, money).

As I see it, the problem is not that value is unobservable
per se, but that value is a social relation between the
producers, but production is private, i.e., the producers do
not stand in direct contact with each other.  This is why a
second social relation is necessary between the market
participants (called, by Marx, the form of value), which
allows the individual decisions on the market to resonate
with each other in such a way that it enables the producers
to in fact treat their labors as pieces of one social
homogeneous glob of abstract human labor.

One of the places in which it becomes clearest that Marx
uses "form of value" in this meaning is chapter two of
Capital, when Marx talks about the contradictions of the
exchange process.  What follows now is an excerpt of my
Annotations.  The paragraphs with ">" are my translation of
Marx's text.  We are on page 96/7 of MECW 35, or 101 of MEW
23, of 180 of the Penguin/Vintage edition of *Capital":

> Let us take a closer look.  The owner of a commodity
> considers every other commodity as the Particular
> equivalent of his own commodity, which makes his own
> commodity the General equivalent for all other
> commodities.

 This ``closer look'' consists in the application of the
 categories developed in section 3 of chapter One.  The
 commodity-owner expresses the value of his commodity in a
 large circle of use-values of other commodities, i.e., his
 own commodity is in the Expanded relative form.  This can
 only be a social expression of value if the others consider
 his commodity as the General equivalent (which is simply
 the expanded form of value read backwards).  Unfortunately,
 it is impossible for the others to do this:

> But since every owner does this,
> none of the commodities is General equivalent,
> and the commodities do not possess a general relative form of value
> in order to equate each other as values
> and compare the magnitudes of their values.

 For every commodity producer, her product is the point of
 reference which she uses to value all other products, it is
 the ``money'' with which she wishes to buy the other
 commodities.  But overall, there can only be one
 money in society.  Therefore the points of view of
 different individuals are not coherent with each other,
 i.e., there is no integration of the individual goals and
 activities into an overall social process.  The individual
 motivations conflict with each other and do not engender an
 overarching social process.  This is why Marx writes that
 in this situation, the commodities do not have a general
 *form of value*.  Their confrontation of the market does
 not take a form which socially reflects the social fact
 that they are commodities.

> Therefore they do not even confront each other as
> commodities, but only as products or use-values.

 They *are* commodies, but they do not have a social
 relation with each other which does justice to this.
 Giving the objects a commodity form means providing a
 common social language in which the individuals can
 express, in a socially coherent manner, their individual
 attitudes towards the use-values and exchange-values of the
 things they are producing.

So far the excerpt from my Annotations.  Let me try this
again: Giving the objects a commodity form means providing a
common social language in which the individual activities
and decisions made on the market with their commodities are
integrated in a coherent "market signal" guiding the
production decisions of the private producers.  The private
producers have human labor-power at their disposal, and they
have to decide what products to produce and what technology
to use.  The market gives them the information necessary to
do this only if the market participants equate all their
commodities to one standard, i.e., money.  In section 3 of
chapter 1, Marx was talking about the "defects" of various
developmental stages of the money form.  In what respects
were they defects?  They did not provide a framework for the
individual market agents in which their activities would
send a coherent signal to the producers.


Here is again the URL of the zip file with my Annotations:


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