RE: [OPE] Value form theory 101

Date: Thu Dec 11 2008 - 08:30:45 EST

Hi Jurriaan, Paul C, Dave Z, and Anders:
While I share your admiration for many of Jurriaan's contributions,
this was not one of his "excellent" ones, imo.
TO BE SURE, it is a VERY MARXIST presentation - both in content and form.
The Marxist form should be self-evident, but I'll spell it out anyway.
For instance, there is this:
>> whereas I think you are perfectly > > entitled to [...] value-form theory, this is not at all what Marx > > himself argues, and I can prove that very easily with chapter & verse.
What could be a more MARXIST form of statement than that?
This MIGHT have been OK IF we were talking about interpretations of
Marx. We weren't. Indeed, the post which Jurriaan responded to only
- quite deliberately - mentioned Marx once and that was to say that
whether VFT is "grounded in Marx ... misses the point. It is grounded in
the necessary character of capitalism".
This diversion of theoretical questions into interpretive ones - and then the
familiar pattern of trading back and forth quotes by Marx ("dueling Marx")- is,
sadly, what we have all come to expect from MARXIST discourse.
How ironic - and hollow, it now seems to me - are JB's protestations of
not being a Marxist. That, too, seems to be a VERY Marxist trend:
Marxists denying that they are Marxists!
Oh, but here's the real kicker:
> Why I refer to "bourgeois Marxism" is not primarily because of some > pejorative intent, but for the scientific reason that in such > theories, value is formed, created and constituted by exchange > transactions.
Well, that is a gem! It is just SO typical of the form that Marxists have
historically communicated with each other. Jurriaan not merely dismisses
VFT - based on HIS reading of what MARX'S perspective was - and
labels it as "bourgeois Marxism" but ADDS that it is for an allegedly
"scientific reason". Ha-ha. Resorting to calling other Marxian
perspectives "bourgeois" is the "last refuge" of Fundamentalist Marxism
and recalls to memory what was - imo - by far Paul Mattick's worst
As for the *content*, it is no wonder Paul C and Dave Z liked Jurriaan's
post since it re-stated their shared trans-historical conceptions on
value et al. t is not clear to me whether Anders - and Jurriaan, for that
matter - share Paul's very consistently trans-historical perspective
on labor (see his reply to Terry). In any event, their commentaries make
it clear that one of the biggest divides among Marxian value theorists
is over the question of whether categories such as surplus value and
abstract labor are trans-historical in the sense that they apply towards
pre-capitalist modes of production (and, by inference, towards post-
capitalist modes of production) OR whether they are specific social forms
associated with capitalism.
I don't know, Terry, how this analytical divide can be bridged since it
revolves around essential and foundational questions.
Jurriaan is quite right, though, to point towards the question of exchange
as an essential difference in terms of the varying conceptions of the
two 'schools' of thought. One perspective, it seems to me, is grounded
in what is taken to be an essential postulate of historical materialism -
namely, the (trans-historical) centrality of production. This 'productivist'
emphasis is precisely what VFT could be seen, in part, as a reaction against -
as I noted in a previous post. To the extent that we're talking about
capitalism - rather than merely Marx or pre-capitalist (and all) modes of
production - what is important, imo, is to understand the CENTRALITY
be no capitalism without exchange, money, and markets. Capitalist
production and circulation are necessarily wedded to each other. We don't
need to refer to Marx to grasp that fact. The essential social relations of
production of capitalism REQUIRE exchange. Capitalist production itself
CAN NOT EVEN COMMENCE without exchange. Let us not forget the
importance of the purchase and sale of labor power! Without a market
for labor power and wage-labor, there will be NO capitalist production. The
market thus forms both a presupposition for capitalist production and a necessary
requirement for the reproduction of capital. To fail to grasp this point
is to fail to grasp the essential character of capitalism and the necessary
class relations associated with that mode of production.
I realize that some VF theorists - like Chris A and Tony S - have written a
lot on their interpretations of Marx. But, let us not forget that the IMPORTANT
analytical question is our conception of CAPITALISM. How we conceive of
capitalism also has huge implications for our conceptions of post-capitalism:
the categories that are viewed by some as being trans-historical will be
retained in post-capitalist societies whereas the categories that are viewed by
others as specific to capitalism will be transcended and surpassed.
In solidarity, Jerry

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Received on Thu Dec 11 08:35:50 2008

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