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

From: Paul Bullock (paulbullock@EBMS-LTD.CO.UK)
Date: Sun Feb 20 2005 - 12:21:15 EST

Dear Jurriaan,,

Asyou know we are usually in agreement but  

Please explain this comment of yours

(3) ...............................................................................The existence of
> value  does not presuppose exchange, even if the abstract thinking about
> value  emerges only in the context of more sophisticated trade.


Paul Bullock

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <glevy@PRATT.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, February 20, 2005 1:43 PM
Subject: [OPE-L] Fwd: Marx's Form of Analysis

> ---------------------------- Original Message ------------
> Subject: Marx's Form of Analysis
> From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
> Date:    Sun, February 20, 2005 6:18 am
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> In reply to John Milios, I am not a biblical-fundamentalist Marxist, but a
>  socialist who thinks about what he reads, and is happy to admit in
> particular cases that Karl Marx is wrong or being sloppy in his argument.
> But actually in this case none of the quotes you cite contradict my case.
> It is true, that Marx argues that for the abstract development of the
> economic concept of "value", monetized exchange is necessary. But
> monetised  exchange only makes manifest more precisely a developing
> reality which  already existed before. Even before money existed, people
> obviously knew  quite well, that the products they made had value. And
> they also knew quite  well, that these products could be traded for other
> products.
> It is also true, that Marx argues people only begin to think abstractly
> about value and about labour-time, and behave accordingly, once money
> exists. This is part of his materialist conception of history: the ideas
> in  the heads of human beings reflect or accompany that what, objectively
> speaking, they have practically achieved at a given stage of history.
> But, the historical facts as we know them are, that commodity exchange and
>  trade have existed for thousands of years prior to the emergence of
> industrial capitalism. This is a problem for Marx's exposition in his
> book,  because, basically, he is concerned NOT with "the whole historical
> evolution  of commodity trade", but rather with trade in CAPITALISTICALLY
> produced  commodities. The accumulation of capital on any large scale, of
> course, DOES  assume monetised exchange.
> The successive steps in trade, which Marx summarises in his value-form
> analysis using straightforward equations like "20 yards of linen=one
> coat",  are just an idealisation, a logical summary, of a real process
> which begins  with barter and ends with monetary speculation.
> Commodities ("Waren", literally, "wares") are defined as objects having a
> "use-value" and an "exchange-value". This does NOT however mean that
> commodities must by definition necessarily have a money-price, NOR that
> they  must necessarily be CAPITALISTICALLY produced commodities (i.e.
> commodities  produced basically only by means of other commodities).
> But it DOES mean that trade, markets and the commodity form DEVELOP
> through  an historical process, from the "elementary form" (where X amount
> of  commodity A is worth Y amount of commodity B)  to the money form
> (where X  amount of commodity A is worth Y amount of money).
> As a corollary, what regulates commodity values also changes in the
> process  of the development of trade and of the expansion of markets; the
> law of  value begins to assert itself in a different way.
> Some people cannot think historically, and they like "fixed' definitions
> which are good for all time. But in the real world, things are in motion
> and  develop, and sometimes they develop unevenly, so that archaic forms
> combine  with modern forms. The non-existence of money or a money-price
> for goods,  for example, has never stopped people from exchanging those
> goods, if it was  in their interest to do so.
> There are still also ultraleftist Marxists who think they are being very
> radical in arguing that value and commodities can exist "only within
> capitalist society", or that "there never existed any society in which
> simple commodity producers predominated".
> But these people not only do not study real economic history, in order to
> distinguish appropriately between the existence of "capital", "capitalism"
>  and "industrial capitalism"; they also are completely unable to explain
> how,  in a socialist economy, goods and services can be allocated, if
> commodity  trade is abolished. In other words, these people can neither
> explain how the  capitalist mode of production (or markets for that
> matter) historically  originated, nor what happens when capitalism and
> capitalist markets  disappear.
> To summarise:
> (1) A commodity can exchange for another commodity, without using or
> assuming money, even if Marxists say it is impossible.
> (2) A commodity can have an exchange value, without having a money-price,
> which is expressed in a trading ratio, even if economists say this does
> not  conform to their textbook definitions.
> (3) Value and exchange-value are not the same thing. The existence of
> value  does not presuppose exchange, even if the abstract thinking about
> value  emerges only in the context of more sophisticated trade.
> (4) There is a difference between a commodity produced in precapitalist
> conditions, capitalist conditions and postcapitalist conditions, which
> strongly affects how their economic value and exchange-value are
> regulated,  even if leftists discourse about "commodification as a general
> process". (5) Economic value begins to rule the allocation of labor
> increasingly as  capitalist relations develop.
> Jurriaan

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