[OPE-L:4718] Re: use-value of money

Michael William (mwilliam@compuserve.com)
Thu, 10 Apr 1997 13:55:43 -0700 (PDT)

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Allin wrote:
> I would agree that money does not have a 'use-value', though
> my grounds for thinking this are not necessarily the same as
> yours. Money clearly has a _function_ in commodity-
> producing societies, but I think of 'use-value' as meaning
> something more specific -- the ability to satisfy some
> definite human need, or something like that. And money does
> not satisfy that criterion; its 'usefulness' is purely
> instrumental, as a means of obtaining commodities that do
> satisfy definite needs. OTH, I agree with Andrew and Paul
> (!) that a stopwatch performs the abstraction from the
> particularity of individual labours admirably, and with Paul
> that the stopwatch does not of itself settle the issue of
> the "social necessity" of particular labours.

This is all admirably clear, and I would not want to dissent from it. If we
accumulated other similar dialogues about key categories such as Money,
then the number of determinations that we might eventually agree are needed
to capture the key moments of the key elements of the capitalist system
would transcend any simple implementation of these categories as time
measured by a stop watch, or vertically integrated labour times, or
whatever. This is part of what motivates my interest in systematic
conceptual development, and concomitant rejection of empiricism and

>While I'm at it, I'll respond to the thread on the notion
>that value is determined in exchange.

This is, I think, not the alternative to 'value is determined in
production' that is on offer. My (value-form) view is that value is
determined in circulation, the intersection of production and exchange.

> How do the
>enthusiasts for this notion square it with the proposition,
>reiterated over and over and over again in Capital, that the
>value of a commodity is the labour-time _required to
>produce_ that commodity? If a commodity is produced in a
>quantity that exceeds the quantity demanded, at the given
>price, then its market price falls below expectation (and
>below that corresponding to its value), but if one chooses
>to say that the _value_ of the commodity in question is ipso
>facto reduced, one is simply collapsing the distinction
>between value and price -- achieving a nice conceptual
>confusion for no theoretical benefit that I can see.

1. We agree that the prior question is not what Marx said, but how we can
best develop Marxist theory to grasp developed capitalism. Nevertheless
there are several passages that support the value form view, amongst the
most obvious of which is: "The effect [of excess supply] is the same as if
each individual [producer] expended more labour-time on his particular
product than is socially necessary" (Marx 1887: 109). And that 'effect' is
not a price > value, but rather that the labour-time expended on that
aliquot part of the product in excess supply is 'wasted', just as that
excess labour-time expended under a socially sub-average technique would
be. It is true that there are 'many, many, many' more quotes of the kind
that you refer to. However, a 'quantity theory of quotations' is not
helpful, particularly when we are concerned with the logic of the Marxist
system rather than (only) with what Marx said (which *may* reflect an
unresolved internal struggle between Marx's Hegelian influences and his,
more recently acquired expertise in English (and Scottish ...) political
economy). But there also many to the power n passages that demand more
generallynthat attention be paid to the form of value - Money.

2. Is there any distinction to be made between 'collapsing a distinction
between value and price' (we're all SS now?) and pursuing parsimony in
ontological commitment?

Dr Michael Williams
"Books are Weapons"

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