Re: [OPE-L] Marx's Form of Analysis

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Thu Feb 17 2005 - 10:42:12 EST

Hi Hans,

You write that "the problem is not that value is unobservable per se."  I'm
not sure what the significance of the 'per se' is; perhaps we are only
talking about differences of emphasis.  Anyway, when a farmer takes carrots
to market, you can't look at the carrots and find value there -- you have to
look off to something with which it is compared.  Also, I agree the nature
of value does consist in a social relation, but notice that we can't look at
that social relation either and know the quantity of labor it takes to
reproduce the carrots.  The great battlecry of positivism of course was to
insist that science should have nothing to do with unobservables.  A spill
over of this attitude in social science was to assume that value was just a
bunch of silly metaphysics -- "value is just a word."  The recovery of
realism in the natural science is very much a result of the fact that it
became obvious you can't do science without taking pretty seriously things
like electrons, etc.  This creates a climate where it again becomes possible
to talk about the causal efficacy of political economy's decisive
unobservable -- value.

I agree with your point about the characterization of 'form of value' in
section 3, but there is also the concept of 'form determination' used in the
Grundrisse.   The distinction I've made between constitutive form and forms
of manifestation or appearance can be thought as a distinction between form
determination and forms of appearance.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Hans G. Ehrbar" <ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2005 7:58 AM
Subject: [OPE-L] Marx's Form of Analysis

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

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