RE: [OPE] Reply to the thinker

From: Damsma, D.F. <>
Date: Fri Mar 13 2009 - 16:24:46 EDT

Although I am fascinated by this discussion and the emotions it apparently stirs up in some people, I am not clear where I stand on the subject of VFT yet.
However, Jurriaan, this (part of a) sentence caught my eye: 'Their retreat into the safety of a satisfying "qualitative philosophical categorisation of value" is the result of a lack of basic mathematical and statistical insight into the empiria'.
To me, this is a bewildering statement, for it seems to imply that mathematics and statistics are just 'there' and the sort of facts that can be produced should next be conceptualized so as to be fully developed and therefore qualitative thinking counts as a 'retreat'. By contrast, I strongly believe that qualitative analysis comes first and only when we are sufficiently clear about what a concept implies qualitatively, can we quantify it. This view is corroborated by the history of mathematics, Lakatos' "Proofs and refutations" and Hegel's opinions on the mathematical (on which I wrote here: Thus, far from representing a 'retreat', a qualitative philosophical categorisation of value may represent a bold (and perhaps astray) step towards a fuller theory of the unknown or insufficiently understood.
Dirk D.


From: [] On Behalf Of Jurriaan Bendien
Sent: vrijdag 13 maart 2009 2:00 PM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: [OPE] Reply to the thinker

I am an office worker too who has to write in his free time, Michael, and I will keep the content brief: according to "value-form theorists",
1) economic value arises out of the exchange process, and would not exist otherwise (this actually conforms closely to official national accounting theory)
This foundational idea is associated in value form theory with a number of other claims, among other things:
2) If goods were allocated in a way different from trading them (commercially), then economic value does not exist
3) abstract labor exists, only because money (a universal equivalent) exists
4) things are traded as commodities, only if all inputs and outputs of production are commodities
5) value is a category of capitalist society, specific to it, and does not exist in any other kind of society
6) exchange value and money price are the same thing, or, (according to some) the value-form and exchange-value are completely diffferent things
7) use-value is an historically invariant category, a transhistorical category
8) anti-capitalist struggle means struggle against the value-form, a struggle against the commodification (commercialization, the commercial measure) of everything
9) the contradiction between wage earners and capitalists is nothing other than a conflict between different commodity owners.
Value-form theory originally arose, because the "Marxists" thought that, even although they were defeated by the followers of Bohm Bawerk, Bortciewicz, Sraffa, Hayek etc. in quantitative theory, Marx's theory still had a qualitative relevance, a "dialectical" relevance through its phenomenology of value. In other words, Marx's theory was still serviceable as a sort of middleclass leftwing protest against rampant commercialization and commercial dehumanization.
The anti-valueform theorists argue among other things that:
(1) all these 9 claims are substantially false.
Anti-valueform theorists base themselves on Marx's own idea that products have value, because they were created by social labor, and that this value exists and can vary in magnitude, quite regardless of all the innumerable ways in which value can be expressed relatively in exchange processes.
(2) the value-form theorists are over-impressed by the economic critics of Marx, causing them to abandon Marx's theory unnecessarily.
Among other things that is, because they usually read Marx through the prism of other theories which are really alien to Marx's own theory. Their retreat into the safety of a satisfying "qualitative philosophical categorisation of value" is the result of a lack of basic mathematical and statistical insight into the empiria, and basic insight into economic history.
(3) the middeclass leftist protest by SUV-driving, designer-kitchen cafe-latte "value-form theorists" against commodification, creates a false picture serving a partisan interest.
It says that there is nothing progressive about commerce and trade, and that we workers should feel guilty about our consumption, completely at odds with Marx's own idea that capitalism contains both progress and regress - value-form theory just feeds into the austerity offensive by the rich against the poor.
(4) the determination of value by labour, which appears in bourgeois ideology as the determination of labour by value, is according to the anti-valueform theorists not simply a "interesting phenomenological idea in choosing how to relate to others" but a powerful, inexorable social force, since it involves a social bond without which human beings are in fact "dead as a doornail".

ope mailing list
Received on Fri Mar 13 16:27:45 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 31 2009 - 00:00:03 EDT