[OPE] value-form theory redux

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Sun Mar 15 2009 - 10:14:40 EDT

No, Jerry, either things have value or they have no value, leaving aside some exceptional cases where it's not immediately clear. Either the light is on or it is off, and a woman cannot be a little bit pregnant, if you want to use that sort of analogy. I realise that Marx is not 100% consistent in his use of the term value, but we're talking here about theoretical propositions.

What can change, according to Marx, is "how much" value products have (which depends on how much social labour is currently performed to produce them), and "whether they are traded above their value, below their value, or at their value". Indeed, that is the centrepiece of his theory of capitalist dynamics, although that is not wellunderstood among Marxists yet.

In bourgeois ideology, value is created by the market, and exists because of the market. This was a VFT ideology Marx and Engels sought to attack.

Marx and Engels argued that value is created by, and exists because of, social labour, i.e. cooperative labour producing products for others. Because product-value exists quite independently of prices, and is conserved through successive exchanges, it is also possible to discuss and analyse economic value quite independently of price fluctuations.

We should not, like fundamentalist Marxism, conflate the production and circulation of commodities. Precisely when Marx discusses the falling tendency of the rate of profit in Volume 3, he makes it very clear that the conditions of the valorisation and realisation of capital should be sharply distinguished, and not be regarded as identical. And he does this actually because a crucial contradiction is involved between them (at least if you do not believe Say's law, like fundamentalist dumbo's do). I have mentioned this before on OPE-L several times. Thus, Marx says (I have added some spacing for clarity):

"As soon as all the surplus-labour that could be squeezed out has been objectified in commodities, surplus-value has been produced. But this production of surplus-value is only the first act of the capitalist process of production, ending the immediate production process.

Capital has absorbed so and so much unpaid labour. With the development of the process, which expresses itself in a drop in the rate of profit, the mass of surplus-value thus produced swells to an unheard extent. Now comes the second act of the process.

The entire mass of commodities, i.e., the total product, both the portion which replaces the constant and variable capital, and that representing surplus-value, must be sold.

If this is not done, or done only in part, or only at prices below the prices of production, the labourer has been indeed exploited, but his exploitation is not realised as such for the capitalist, and this can be bound up with a total or partial failure to realise the surplus-value squeezed out of him, indeed even with the partial or total loss of the capital.

The conditions of direct exploitation, and those of realising it, are not identical. They diverge not only in place and time, but also conceptually." http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch15.htm (I have modified the translation slightly, the German original is here: http://www.mlwerke.de/me/me25/me25_251.htm)

Marx could hardly have been be clearer than that, Jerry, if he hadn't been so already in Cap. 1 ch. 7.

Personally I think that the fashionable VFT theory in our epoch performs approximately the same role as Ferdinand Lassalle's socialism did in Marx's time. Lassalle was an ideologist of social democracy, and VFT theorists are the ideologists of "tributary socialism", although they don't know yet what that is (as Engels says, ideology is a process performed with a false awareness).

Marx's rhetorics are a jewel which they like to pin on their mantle, but in fact VFT is a complete rejection of Marx's real idea. The reference to Marx and dialectics just creates the appearance of radicality and profundity, but, in reality, VFT is a humanistic and moralistic criticism of commercialization and consumerism. A more honest approach would be to explicate a positive theory of socialist ethics.


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Received on Sun Mar 15 10:20:55 2009

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