[OPE] Kicillof/Starosta on value form (excerpt)

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Sat Mar 14 2009 - 14:22:32 EDT

(Just to show you that I am not the only one to argue along the lines I have argued, here's a few excerpts from an online paper from Capital & Class dealing with the same sort of literature, be it from a "super-r-r-radical" autonomist kind of angle which tries to impregnate every word with the ultra-intensity of an imaginary class struggle, rather than a straightforward Marxian angle; of course I do not really know for sure if the authors really understand what the theoretical problems are about - JB)

Value form and class struggle: A critique of the autonomist theory of value
Capital & Class , Summer 2007 by Kicillof, Axel, Starosta, Guido

This paper develops a critique of the 'class struggle' theory of value that emerged out of the autonomist Marxist tradition, arguing that although this theory has the merit of putting forward a production-centred, value-form approach, it eventually fails to grasp the determinations of value-producing labour. In particular, the notion of value as a mode of existence of the class struggle inverts the real relation between them and, more importantly, deprives the latter of both its historical specificity and the social and material basis of its transformative powers. This paper examines the political implications of these theoretical issues in value theory.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the reigning 'Ricardian' consensus within Marxist value theory started to fall apart. Upon its demise, new currents emerged that confronted the old orthodoxy, and attempted to unmask its Ricardian foundations through a reconsideration of the analysis of the commodity form contained in Capital. This reappraisal of Marx's value theory eventually led to an energetic rejection of the 'technological' paradigm that had dominated orthodox Marxism until the 1970s. The term 'technological paradigm' was introduced by DeVroey (1982) in order to refer to those theories preoccupied with the reduction of prices to their labour content, as opposed to the 'social paradigm', consisting of those theories whose emphasis was on the social validation of private labour on the market.

Other lines of theory that developed in response to the demise of the orthodox interpretation included the neo-Ricardian abandonment of the labour theory of value (see Steedman, 1977)-a path that was in germ in the Ricardian reading, as evidenced by the development of Meek's thought (Meek, 1973: XXXII). In turn, many Marxists reacted to the neo-Ricardian criticism by attempting to find sophisticated mathematical solutions to the 'transformation problem', with the aim of showing, on identical terms to those of their adversaries, that Marx's solution was essentially correct. See, among others, Duménil (1983-84), Foley (1982), Lipietz (1982), Shaikh (1982), and Carchedi (1984).

A renewed emphasis on the historical specificity of capitalist social forms (starting with the value form itself) progressively came to be shared by an increasing number of authors. However, beyond this common ground, reaction to the old Ricardian-Marxist orthodoxy has been very varied, and has resulted in the emergence of a great diversity of perspectives on the determinations of value as a social form.

At one end of the spectrum can be found what some critical commentators have labelled the 'circulationist approach' (Mavroudeas, 2004), for which abstract labour and value can only acquire reality through the exchange of products against money. The circulationist argument can be traced back to Isaak Illich Rubin's Essays on Marx's Theory of Value (1972). More recently, it can also be found in the narrower group of theorists inspired by Backhaus's pioneering work from the 19605 (Backhaus, 1980), developed in the English-speaking world first by Eldred and Hanlon (1981) and, more recently, by Reuten and Williams (Reuten, 1988; Reuten & Williams, 1989; Reuten, 1993; Williams, 1992). More broadly, the approach includes the work of Himmelweit and Mohun (1978), deVroey (1982), Kay (1999) and Roberts (2004). see also the early contributions in French by Benetti (1974) and Cartelier (1976).

This approach to value theory appears at first sight to be the most extreme way of keeping the chances of 'Ricardian' retrogressions at bay. In effect, with the complete detachment of the social objectivity of value from the immediate objectification of productive activity, the possibilities of misunderstanding the latter simply as 'labour-embodied' seem to disappear. Safe within the sphere of circulation, value cannot be grasped in purely technological terms.

However, the limitations of the 'circulationist' approach did not remain unnoticed by other Marxists; and indeed, they have served as the basis for further recent developments in value theory. We have discussed the shortcomings of the circulationist approach through a critique of the work of Rubin (Kicillof & Starosta, forthcoming). For other contemporary critiques of the circulationist argument, see Mavroudeas (2004), Moseley (1997) and Likitkijsomboon (1995). The challenge with these alternative approaches was that of how to avoid both the technological reading of Marxist value theory and the antinomies that arose from seeing value as existing only within circulation. Thus a new variety of approaches emerged, each of which, in its own idiosyncratic way, tried to re-establish the connection between value and the immediate process of production while still seeing the former as a specific social form (Arthur, 2001; Postone, 1996; Mavroudeas, 2004; McGlone & Kliman, 2004; Saad-Filho, 1997, 2002).

Most authors writing in the autonomist tradition have tended not to engage directly with the debates on Marxian value theory. However, Negri's rejection of the contemporary relevance of the law of value (Hardt & Negri, 1994, 2000) triggered some critical reactions within the autonomist current itself, which in turn led some authors to address questions pertaining to Marx's theory of value more explicitly and directly (Caffentzis, 1997; Cleaver, 2002). See also some of the contributions to the recent issue of the web journal The Commoner (Caffentzis, 2005; Cleaver, 2005; Harvie, 2005), which could be said to follow the same kind of methodological approach to value theory.

>From an another theoretical perspective, the notion of the value form as a mode of existence of the class struggle is also present in the work of contributors from the Open Marxist tradition (see Bonefeld, 1992, 1995; Holloway, 1992, 1995). However, the latter approach gives more centrality to the dialectical concept of mediation, and thereby offers a methodologically diVerent argument for the notion of value as a mode of existence of the class struggle. Although a detailed discussion of the diVerence between those two approaches exceeds the scope of this paper, we think that the main thrust of our critique of the autonomist theory of value ultimately applies to the Open Marxist interpretation as well.


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