[OPE-L:3025] Re: breaking the silence

Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Sun, 15 Sep 1996 01:03:59 -0700 (PDT)

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I'm going to take advantage of Jerry's invitation:

> Now might be a good time for listmembers to pose *new* topics for
> discussion.

to re-enter debate on the list with my interpretation of Marx. I may be
a poor correspondent on this--I'm in my first year of teaching at a new
institution and still madly writing lectures--but that's at least an
improvement on being a non-correspondent, as I have been for the last 10

My interpretation revolves around Marx's unique interpretation of the
role of use-value in economics. I argue that this concept has both
strong negatives and strong positives for Marxian analysis. In my first
posts, I intend developing the positives.

The perspective on the role of use-value in economic theory first
occurred to Marx when writing the Grundrisse; the actual passage is
shown as a footnote in the Penguin volume, spanning pages 266 and 267.
I'll excerpt some of it below:

"Is not value to be conceived as the unity of use value and exchange
value? In and for itself, is value as such the general form, in
opposition to use value and exchange value as particular forms of it?
*Does this have significance in economics?*... *Does not use-value as
such enter into the form itself, as a determinant of the form itself,
e.g. in the relation of capital and labour?* ... If *only* exchange
value as such plays a role in economics, then how could elements later
enter which relate purely to use value, such as, right away, in the case
of capital as raw material, etc.? ... This is not in the slightest
contradicted by the fact that exchange value is the predominant
aspect... *Above all it will and must become clear in the development of
the individual sections to what extent use-value exists not only as
presupposed matter, outside economics and its forms, but to what extent
it enters into it*..."
(The sections in asterisks are Marx's emphases)

I don't need to point out to members of this list the Hegelian form of
this passage. My assertion is that from this time on, Marx began to
recast his analysis from the labor/labor-power basis that he developed
prior to 1857, into an analysis based on the concept of a dialectic
between use-value and exchange-value. This recasting was complete as
regards the worker-capitalist relation and the source of surplus-value,
but was incomplete in other respects: there are fragments rather than
completed arguments regarding realisation, technical change, the value
of labor-power, assets and the role of money.

However, I argue that it provides a logical, almost axiomatic structure,
which enables you to complete Marx's thinking on these points. I'll go
through these in the next few posts.

Steve Keen