[OPE-L:4888] Re: ideal vs real value

Chai-on Lee (conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr)
Tue, 29 Apr 1997 03:51:46 -0700 (PDT)

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Dear Mike William,

Thanks for your prompt response.


>I agree, But by the same token, since the social relation that is value
>exists only in the unity of production and exchange (which has been the
>position I have always advocated on OPE-L, and have held clearly since
>Reuten & Williams 1989), it is odd to insist that it can change
>quantitatively only in production.

The production and exchange do refer to the use-value, not the value
itself. Value as a social substance is not a thing to be exchanged. When a
commodity is exchanged for another, the value is still in the same hands,
use-values are exchanged, and values convert its form from a commodity form
into another commodity form. The unity of production and exchange is called
Re-production. Value thus can be CREATED only in production, of course its
quantity may change in exchanges. In exchange, however, it cannot increase
but only can decrease or be destroyed.

>Anyway, Chai-on goes onto describe a class of cases in which the quantity
>of (ideal) Value does indeed change after labour has been incorporated in
>a product, ie after production.


Yes, I do. But I insist on the possibility of its decreasing or losing in
the exchange, not that of its increase.

>but just here I would like to be a bit pedantic, for the sake of
>clarity. The implied analogy between the value-form, qua form, and a
>container can be misleading. Value is the unity of content (abstract
>labour) and form (Value, that has existence only either as a moment of the
>contradictory unity use-value in Commodity, or as its near autonomous
>existence as Money). There is no necessary unity between a container (a
>jug) and its contingent contents (now milk, now water, now sugar, etc).
>There is between a content and its (necessary) form.


Container is not the form of its content, of course.
The form of a value is the other container that is exchanged for the given
Yet, the content of a value is homogeneous human labor (Not abstract labor
IMO, for the creator of value is not to be identical with the content of
value just as the creator of a computer is not identical with the content
of the computer, but this issue should be left aside for the moment in our
In your discussion, the form of value is seen to be identical with value.
This seems wrong IMHO. The form of Marx's Capital is a book. Its content is
its message. The message can take any other form than the book. It can have
various forms. In like manner, value can take its form in various ways, in
the form of various containers that can exchange with its given container.
So, it should be silly to say the form of value is value.

>So I think that this appears to be just wrong. Use-value is not the form of
>value, Commodity (the contradictory unity of value and use-value) is; and
>its only (in principle) autonomous form is Money. It is only at a primitive
>stage of the conceptual development (and indeed of the historical
>development of exchange relations) that the value of one product finds its
>quantitative expression in the quantity of another use-vale (in its natural


Of course, use-value is not the form of value. Neither is the commodity as
the unity of value and use-value. As said in the above, the form of value
is another use-value that is exchanged for the use-value that contains the
value. An autonomous existence of value (that relies little upon use-value)
is money. Money is a good form of value, of course, as you said, in the
later stage od the development of value-form.

>Labour, is only determined in the unity of production and exchange. ( It
>is, I think, what Himmelweit and Mohun, on the one hand, and (some of) the
>French regulationists, on the other, were getting at with the notion that
>the abstraction from specific concrete labours to abstract labour is not
>purely conceptual, but actualised in market-coordinated ubiquitous
>Commodity circulation. Or from another aspect, Value is only quantitatively
>determined in this unity - and the necessary characteristic of Value is
>indeed that it is quantitative.

If it is in the unity of Pd and Ex, why do you insist on the segregation
between the Pd and the Ex?
The segregation is noticed only in the context of use-values (not values!).
The so-called market-coordinated ubiquitous Commodity circulation is valid
only in discussing use-values, the containers of value. Value is created in
production, by the expenditure of labor. Abstract labor is actualized in
the commodity circulation? No, it is actualized in commodity production,
not in the commodity circulation. If the abstract labor is not to be purely
conceptual as you imagined, the abstract labor must be actualized in the
process of production. The human labor should be developed into the
abstract labor form as versatile and flexible (cf. Grundrisse). If you
insist the abstract labor is actualized in the form of money, then the form
of value would come to be the creater of value. This is a contradiction in
terms. The form of Marx's Capital becomes the creater of the Capital? Then,
the Capital should be an empty book.


>> If it is useful, the value becomes a real
>> value. If not socially useful, the already produced value simply
>> or is lost for the capitalist.
>I am really unclear how this is different from saying that the ideal
>quantity of Value is only actualised in the circulation of Commodity
>through production and exchange, which is the 'Value-form' position that I
>have been consistently arguing since just before last, unaccountably,
>seemed (I may, of course, have got this wrong) to get irritated with my

The difference is severe. While value is in the unity of P and E, use-value
asserts itself in the segregation between P and E. Use-value is not
realized prior to the E. So, the value to be contained in the use-value
cannot be realized, too before the E. But, form the standpoint of the
capitalists, it was still a real value even before the exchange which was
spent for the production of the commodity. From the social point of view,
however, it is simply a potential value. If the potential value is not an
actual value as you argued, it should not be destroyed or lost when the
use-value becomes unsaleable, for only actual value can be destroyed or
lost. Because the potential value is also an actual value even before the
exchange, it can be described as being destroyed or lost. But, in your
case, it cannot be done so.

>It seems to me that where I disagree with this orthodox position, put
>forward by Chai-on and others, is in the emphasis on the form of value,
>that Reuten and I have tried to work up into a critique of capitalism as

The form of value, the content of value, the creator of value and value
itself are to be distinguished. Otherwise, your FORM-analysis would be in
an empty form.

>2. The value-form approach provides a conceptual legitimation for the use
>of monetary magnitudes for empirical work, since, according to it, these
>are the only actual quantitative manifestations of Value magnitudes.

Please explain why, according to my interpretation, monetary magnitudes
cannot be the actual quantitative manifestations of Value magnitudes.

>But I hope it can be carried on in a comradely spirit that respects the
>sincerity of other comrades attempts to make sense of Marxist thought.
>Please. Chai-on, don't get irritated with me if I persist in disagreeing
>with some aspect of the position that you espouse.

I appologize if my phrases injured your feelings. But, if then, the phrases
are surely from my less competent English, not from my antagnistic spirit.
You could kindly teach me how I should have said differently the same
phrases in personal posts. My teacher in London said several times my
wordings were rude. He said "You need to be more polite". I have comradely
spirit and have appreciated your responses. But the expressions must have
been impolite.

>Comradely greetings.