[OPE] Value-Form Theory 101

From: GERALD LEVY <gerald_a_levy@msn.com>
Date: Tue Dec 09 2008 - 08:26:56 EST

> The "value-form theory" consists essentially of the idea that abstract labour (work in general,
> "work" as "just work") is constituted at the moment of economic exchange (trade), and is
> grounded in exchange - abstract labour cannot have any reality *prior* to exchange, or
> *beyond* exchange.
> This theory solidly reflects the viewpoint of bourgeois Marxism, and tries to show its intellectual
> sophistication and profundity by "deducing" this Idea via metaphysical reasoning and linguistic
> apposition.
Hi Jurriaan:
This represents very sloppy reasoning, imo. Value-form theory is not grounded
in metaphysics or linguistics. Some might say that it's grounded in Marx (and
there's some truth to that), but I think that misses the point. It is grounded in
the necessary character of capitalism.
It doesn't require much intellectual sophistication and profundity on your part
to recognize that for a commodity to represent value it must have use-value
and exchange-value. If a product does not have exchange-value, the market
itself will demonstrate that it does not have value. This is a necessary
consequence of the production and circulation of commodities under capitalism.
It is not a "deduction" - it is a relation which we (and everyone else who
considers the question more thoroughly) can see is a necessary consequence
of the essential character of capitalism. It's why we speak about value being
_realized_ (=_actualized_).
Abstract labor having a necessary relation to the market is also something
that follows from the character of capitalist relations. Of what "value" to
capitalists or to capitalism is labor which is "wasted" by producing
'commodities' which fail the test of the marketplace: i.e. whether they can
become what they were intended to become by being sold?
Value-form theory, from the perspective of the history of intellectual
thought, is a reaction to a 'production-based' (productivist) theory of capitalism
favored by many Marxists, imo. It theorizes a reality of the subject matter
(i.e. capitalism) - namely, that under capitalism there is a unity of the
processes of capitalist production and circulation and hence that one can't
be isolated from the other. More generally, it insists on the need to
systematically theorize all essential aspects of the subject matter and
hence their inter-connection.
In solidarity, Jerry

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Received on Tue Dec 9 08:28:50 2008

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