RE: [OPE] value-form theory redux

Date: Fri Mar 13 2009 - 16:25:41 EDT

>> I have already explained that 1) isn't really accurate as a summary of
>> what VFT claims
> What is inaccurate about it?
Dave Z:
What VFT claims is that the value of commodities necessarily comes to
be *expressed* through the price-form. This is simply a variation on
a 'single-system' approach (in contrast to a 'dual system'). It is
often claimed that VFT somehow ignores the role of capitalist
production in the creation of value: that is simply a miss-interpretation.
Although VF theorists (by my reading) agree that a necessary form of
appearance of value is the value-form and a necessary form of appearance
of the value-form is the money-form, there are differences that they
have about this. For instance, in the Reuten-Williams perspective
"money is the sole autonomous representation of value" and there is an
identity between value and its form of representation, i.e. price.
In that perspective, there is no "transformation problem" because
there isn't a divergence between value and price. But, I don't think
that's at all what Tony Smith or Chris A has claimed, for instance.
It seems to me that one could, using a value-form perspective, claim
that value comes to be expressed through money and then at a more
concrete level of analysis explain the divergence between value and price,
but this is a complicated question which hasn't really been developed from
a VF perspective. But, then again, it hasn't been developed
satisfactorily from Marx's or other Marxist perspectives either, imo.
(and I think JB would agree with that last sentence based on what he has
written elsewhere about different forms of price.)
> The substantial issue is this: Does economic value arise out of the
> exchange process, and would not exist otherwise? And that is precisely
> what is raised in your points (a) and (b).
No, it's not a question of whether value "arises out" of the exchange
process. The point is that value is necessarily _connected_ to exchange and
money. It "arises out" of exchange only temporally: i.e. there is
value as potential created in the production process (this has
been referred to sometimes as "ideal value") but that potential
must be actualized in exchange ("actual value" or "real value").

>> Jurriaan has emphasized looking
>> at the empirics and history regarding these disputes - that is a
>> methodological claim. Value-form theorists would claim, I think,
>> that other perspectives are insufficiently dialectical
> Yes, Jurriaan's emphasis is a methodological claim. But ultimately it is
> the methodology of science, in which levels of abstractions are always
> considered. However, I fail to see that your last sentence has any
> meaning in a scientific discourse. What does it mean to be 'sufficiently
> dialectical'?
Not taking the form of systematic dialectics. For instance, not
paying careful enough attention to separating different levels of
abstraction and showing their inter-relationship.

>> For one
>> 'side', this debate is in great part about different perspectives on
>> pre- and post-capitalist capitalist modes of production. The focus
>> of the other perspective (VFT) is squarely on capitalism.
> But capitalism does not operate in a separate block of space-time. It is
> always historically and spatially linked with non-capitalist economic
> social relations.
As a historical matter, yes, different capitalist social
formations have elements ('remnants') of pre-capitalist relationships.
And, if one was going to undertake a *conjunctural* analysis
then it would be important to take note of those relationships
and explain concretely how there are inter-relationships between
the different 'spheres' of economic activity. I don't think
VFT denies that. There needs to be a logical separation, though, between
the analysis of capital in general and conjunctural studies of
specific bourgeois societies existing in a particular place and time.
The question here concerns - to be repetitive - *different*
understandings of the process of abstraction, or 'theory-building'
if you prefer.
> An exclusive focus on capitalism may miss more general
> social patterns and if these exist they must be uncovered. That is the
> task of science.
I don't think that VF theorists would object _at all_ to the
study of pre-capitalist modes of production or the investigation
of post-capitalist forms. Far from it. What they would object to
is using the same *conceptual framework* for the analysis of capitalism
in the analysis of those other modes of production. The danger,
imo, is that in clarifying what you believe to exist within
other modes of production, you fail to grasp what is special and
different about the capitalist mode of production. No one, for
instance, would deny that there can be (and has been) a surplus
product in other non-capitalist societies. We can analyze it
with reference to _that_ concept, rather than with the concept of surplus
value. Similarly, no VF theorists would deny that there was class
exploitation in previous modes of production but that does not
mean that we should conflate the different _forms_ in which
exploitation manifests itself in different modes of production -
to do so would interfere not only with our grasp about what is
different about capitalism but also our grasp of the specific
forms of exploitation associated with pre-capitalist mode of production.
In solidarity, Jerry
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Received on Fri Mar 13 16:30:57 2009

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