Re: [OPE] Value-Form Analysis and Althusserian theory

Date: Thu Apr 09 2009 - 08:59:46 EDT

> From:
> To:
> Subject: Value-Form Analysis and Althusserian theory
> Date: Thu, 9 Apr 2009 14:55:48 +0200
> Nice one Jerry? Well if you post about
> this, that's obviously like a red rag to a bull :-)
> The originality of
> John Milios's paper I think is that he recycles and polishes up a demented
> philosopher from the 1960s who not only tried to rape Marx
> intellectually but also physically strangled his own wife to
> death (why recycle this pernicious Althusserian rubbish at all, for
> heavens' sake?) - whereas John Weeks did the same recycler on "value as a
> social relation" already, in 1981 (in a book called Capital and
> Exploitation with a blue/purple cover, published by Princeton - not mentioned by
> John Milios) wherein, however, his enemies were Friedrich Engels and Ronald L.
> Meek, who supposedly got it all wrong.
> Weeks's argument was rather vague and incoherent,
> and it was largely forgotten, although subsequently he did some good research,
> and later became a Professor at SOAS. John Milios's paper shows real thought and
> awareness of some issues, but regrettably it is chockfull of errors in
> logic and interpretation as regards Marx's own theory, which equally regrettably
> I cannot all discuss now. Just because you pose the fifty million
> dollar question in one paper, does mean that, therefore, you get the cash!
> Anyway as for Marx himself, he anticipated the whole controversy at the
> beginning of Capital Vol. 1, in a footnote typically badly translated into
> English (I've corrected a bit):
> "Political Economy has indeed analysed,
> however incompletely, value and its magnitude, and has discovered the content in
> these forms. But it has never once asked the question why labour is represented
> by the value of its product and labour-time by the magnitude of that value.
> (...) The insufficiency [Unzulängliche] of Ricardo’s analysis of the magnitude
> of value, and his analysis is by far the best, will be seen from in
> the 3rd and 4th books of this work [wird man aus dem dritten und vierten Buch
> dieser Schrift ersehn"]. As regards value in general, it is the weak point of
> the classical school of Political Economy that it nowhere expressly and with
> full consciousness, distinguishes between labour, as it appears in the value of
> a product, and the same labour, as it appears in the use value of that product.
> Of course the distinction is practically made, since this school treats labour,
> at one time under its quantitative aspect, at another under its qualitative
> aspect. But it has not the least idea, that when the difference between various
> kinds of labour is treated as purely quantitative, their qualitative unity or
> equality, and therefore their reduction to abstract human labour, is implied.
> (...) Ricardo puts his own more profound interpretation upon the words of
> Destutt. What the latter really says is, that on the one hand all things which
> constitute wealth represent the labour that creates them, but that on the other
> hand, they acquire their “two different values” (use value and exchange value)
> from “the value of labour.” He thus falls into the commonplace error of the
> vulgar economists, who assume the value of one commodity (in this case labour)
> in order to determine the values of the rest. But Ricardo reads him as if he had
> said, that labour (not the value of labour) is embodied both in use value and
> exchange value. Nevertheless, Ricardo himself pays so little attention to the
> dualistic character of labour which is represented in a double way [= den
> zwieschlächtigen Charakter der Arbeit, die doppelt dargestellt ist], that he
> devotes the whole of his chapter on “Value and Riches, Their Distinctive
> Properties,” to a laborious examination of the trivialities of a J.B. Say. And
> at the finish he is quite astonished to find that Destutt on the one hand agrees
> with him as to labour being the source of value, and on the other hand with J.
> B. Say as to the notion of value.
> In this passage, from the beginning of Vol. 1, Marx publishes with
> crystal clarity, that he intends to deal with value as a "quantity" in Vol. 3
> and (presumably) TSV. But he did not finish those books himself. This creates a
> problem for the Marxists, because now they have to do some thinking for
> themselves, to solve the problem of the magnitude of product-values and how that
> relates to prices.
> Nothing is then easier, to say that Marx only had a
> qualitative theory of value, that value is only a qualitative relationship.
> Little do the these Marxists know, however, that this interpretation makes a
> nonsense out of Marx's own argument (at least Rubin himself does realize that,
> although value-form theorists misrepresent and falsify Rubin's argument).
> Actually, Marx's apparent use of the term "labour embodied" is largely
> an artifact of bad English translation, though occasionally he does really
> intend to say "corporealised" in the sense of a tangible, materialised result of
> work done. What Marx means is, that if a commodity has the attribute of value,
> then it "represents" a quantity of social labour time, not that the
> labour-time is somehow "embodied" into the commodity (a Rylean category mistake
> leading to an incoherent thought). That quantity is normally equal to its
> current average replacement cost in living labour-time, a cost which could in
> reality change continuously as Marx himself says. Value becomes objectified in
> the sense that it exists as attribute of the product irrespective of
> any particular individual's perceptions, actions or interactions, simply because
> of the existence of a complex of social conditions of production to which the
> individual is subject, like it or not.
> If we say that value is a
> "relation", that is true in some sense, it sounds very philosophically profound
> and erudite, but it begs the very question of what it
> means and solves absolutely nothing, since there are several relations
> presupposed simultaneously, not just one: social relations between people
> producing and trading; technical relations between people and the products they
> produce and trade; and economic relations between products which simultaneously
> represent quantities of labourtime and quantities of money.
> But in actual fact, value is not simply a "relation", because it is an
> objectified characteristic of a product, a result or effect, which, because
> of the objectification, indeed seems to be intrinsic to the
> product.
> The real reason why the Western Marxists failed to
> solve the problem of value was, because they approached the problem in a
> static, rather than a dialectical way, i.e. they proceeded from the
> tyrannical Althusserian philosophy of fixed metaphysical categories, rather than
> from a real understanding of the movements of money, labour and products.
> It is not that "we need a theory of dynamics", but rather that without an
> understanding of the dynamics, it is impossible to complete Marx's theory
> coherently. As Marx himself said, "capital can be understood only in
> movement".
> According to John Milios, "value and surplus value are not
> essences but historically specific social relations expressed and "measured"
> only through their forms of appearance: prices and profit." But this is both
> true and false.
> - False, because (1) value and surplus
> value are measurable in quantities of labourtime worked, which represent
> the life-experience of real people which Althusserian human-hating anti-humanism
> just erases, as well as measured in trading ratios of products, and
> therefore (2) NOT "measured" ONLY through their forms of appearance: prices and
> profit."
> - True, in that the quantitatively
> most precise expression possible (which often is not very precise at
> all) is fixed in price terms.
> John Milios claims that "values show what prices
> are" but he provides no scientific proof, just linguistic sophistry according to
> which this is true by definition. And that is what I found to be the whole
> problem with Althusserianism all along when I studied this in the early
> 1980s - it gives the "appearance" of solving a problem, but it really does
> not, it is an intellectual fraud, a sleight-of-hand. It is intellectual
> misleadership to recycle this sloppy thinking.
> Why does it occur? Well you also get all kinds of
> workingclass people who get themselves an education and then want to flaunt how
> intellectually profound and erudite they are, how they are equal to the best
> bourgeois minds. But it doesn't solve any problem.
> Jurriaan
> (I am taking a break from OPE-L as I have too much
> else to do, but anyway there is no intellectual progress in OPE-L on the
> central theoretical questions, and I might as well concentrate on my own
> work).
> See I was on the verge of
> breaking down
> Sometimes silence can seem so loud
> There are miracles in
> life I must achieve
> But first I know it starts inside of me, oh
> If I can
> see it, then I can do it
> If I just believe it, there's nothing to
> it
> I believe I can fly
> I believe I can
> touch the sky
> I think about it every night and day
> Spread my wings and fly
> away
> I believe I can soar
> I see me running through that open door
> I
> believe I can fly
> - R Kelly, Believe I can fly_______________________________________________
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Received on Thu Apr 9 09:01:52 2009

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