[OPE-L:4986] Re: ideal vs real value

Chai-on Lee (conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr)
Tue, 13 May 1997 06:51:57 -0700 (PDT)

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At 11:08 97-05-12 -0700, Jerry wrote:

>C) The different interpretations, IMHO, revolve around the questions:
> 1) what is a commodity and, therefore, when can or does a product
> become a commodity?

Chai-on: a commodity is anything that is exchanged for money. Well,
morality, fame, PhD degree etc. although they might be exchanged for money,
are not commodities but quasi-commodities because they belong to invalid
exchanges. Proper commodities (=nonquasi commodities) must be the
commodities even before actual exchanges. Only in direct exchanges (= a
non-commodity exchange), the exchanged articles become commodities only
through the act of exchange (Vol I, p 181, Penguin edition). By contrast,
however, in commodity exchanges, the articles are commodities even before
the exchange. This is the difference between direct exchange and commodity
exchange !!!

> 2) what is value? Can, for example, value exist independently of the
> value-form?

Chai-on: Of course, value needs its form. Every existent thing must need
its form, in principle. Even CONTENT per se is a form of its own (Hegel).

> 3) what does the conservation of value principle state and do we accept
> that principle?

Chai-on: No. Only in the act of exchange, it could hold. Total value is the
same in the acts of exchange. So, the deviation of value from market price
implies a value transfer.

> 4) how do we interpret the meaning of the expression "realization" of
> surplus value?

Chai-on: The term "realization" might cause you to imagine something unreal
(= something non-existent) is realized. But, if it do so, it should be a
miracle for a non-value to be realized as a value. Some potential value is
realized as value by the exchange, this is Marx's concept. As far as value
is concerned, since it is a social SUBSTANCE', it is not real either in the
one-sided sphere of production or exchange. It should be in the unity of
production and exchange because the social substance needs the unity!.
Only when use-value is at issue, we nned the exchange sphere separated from
the production one. Becuase, the socially useful things (potentially social
character) are to be produced privately in the production sphere. In the
production, it is only of a private character and yet of a potentially
social character. It was supposed to be socially useful, for that was why
it was produced by private labors. The value contained in the use-value
might lose if the use-value is proved not socially useful in the exchange.
In the latter case, however, the value was not existent from the outset.
IMO, a potential non-value is realized as non-value. The socially
usefulness is presupposed by private persons in production and yet is
proved as non-usefulness in exchange. So, it was proved as a non-value. It
should have been a non-value from the outset. So, I say, it was potentially
Value variation in the sphere of exchange is another discussion. It varies
not because of the demand situation but because of the changed production
condition. This shall be discussed in another post. Demand situation only
deviates values from market prices and transfers value from one part to
Value destruction is the third question, however, which takes place in

>D). What is a commodity? A commodity, according to my interpretation of
>Marx, must have use-value and value, and a necessary form of appearance
>of value must be as exchange-value.

A commodity might have no value and yet is exchanged for money, like the
uncultivated land. It has a price and so is a commodity.

>Commodity values are "created" in production by labor, it is argued. What
>does this, then, mean in terms of the "value" of the "products" created by
>labor? Paul C's position, as expressed in [4976], would suggest that the
>aggregate value of these products is determined in production. Thus, when
>he says that "value exists independently of being measured" he is, in
>effect, saying that a product is a commodity and can have value
>independently of whether that "value" comes to be expressed as

Chai-on: The anterior commodity character of products is the
characteristics of commodity exchange whereas the posterior commodity
character is that of direct exchange. The products are presupposed to be
exchanged from the beginning in commodity exchange. Generally developed
social division of labor system and the input materials purchased as
commodities from the market makes for the anterior commodity character. If
they fail to be exchanged, their potentially non-commodity character is
realized as non-commodity. "Potential", "Realization" imply "it was
supposed, pre-determined", "it was unfolded as presupposed" respectively,

>Yet, how can one break the link between value and the
>value-form in this way? From my perspective, the product which has "value"
>but not exchange-value is not a commodity and, therefore, the "value" of
>those products that are not commodities is *not* value, but rather
>*not-value* or "ideal value" (see Mike L's recent quote from the

Chai-on: I repeat, a potentially non-value is realized as a non-value in
the failed exchange. No, you do not need break the link between value and
the value-form. A value must have its form as a necessity. "Ideal value"?
Please, why do we have to use the awkward word, "ideal value", which does
not appear in Marx's writings? I should say, potential non-value or
potential value intead.

>Chai-on said, in response to Fred in [4975], that the question under
>discussion does not concern the "realization" of value and surplus value.
>I disagree. I think that is part and parcel of this discussion -- since it
>is in the act of exchange that products fully *become* commodities. This
>does not imply that the magnitude of "value" can be increased via exchange.
>What it means, rather, is that the *metamorphosis* of a product into a
>commodity is made *real* or *actual* via exchange. I.e. the "value" of
>those products that are not exchanged, because they have neither a
>use-value and an exchange-value, are "lost" or "destroyed" precisely
>because the products were *not* commodities even though they may have been
>*offered* for sale. In that sense, what has been "lost" is "ideal value"
>rather than "real value". Perhaps another way to express this is as the
>"abortion of value."

I would like to distinguish the realization problem of the potential
non-values or potential values in the process of exchange on one hand and
the variation of the value-magnitudes in the sphere of exchange on the
other hand. The latter matters either when there is a change in the
production condition of already produced commodities or when there is a
general shrinkage in social demands (=a contracted reproduction). On the
question of capital value, I discuss in the next post.

>E). Chai-on suggested in [4971] that value-form interpretations hold that
>the magnitude of value can be increased via the act of exchange. I think,
>rather, that the value-form interpretation holds that value is
>*constituted* (or becomes value) once commodities have a value-form and
>this only happens at the "intersection of production and exchange." I.e.
>what has been "pre-comensurated* must come to *be* comensurated in
>exchange. In that sense, I see the value-form position as very similar to
>what Mike L and I have been saying about the distinction between "ideal"
>and "real" value. I am unclear where what Chai-on is saying is
>substantively different from what Mike W has been saying re this question.

Chai-on: You are right. I made a slip in the other post. I realized the
slip yesterday after I sent it but I left it unsaid for the reason that I
sent already too many posts a day.

>F). Fred in [4971] agrees that value can be "destroyed" after production,
>but can only be "created" in production. A preliminary question: is it
>"value" or "ideal value" which has been destroyed in the sphere of
>circulation? I.e.

Chai-on: It was value, not ideal value. Ideal value is your invention, not
Marx's. It was real value from the standpoint of the capitalist value. It
was a commodity capital waiting for its conversion into money capital. The
commodity capital is also a real capital as money capital is. And, as far
as it is a real capital, it must have a real value. If, for instance, less
labor is required in its current production condition, the value would have
not been "destroyed" but "devalued". But, if, from the outset, it was
over-supplied in relation to the market situation, its value would not be
"destroyed" but would be realized as a non-value as it was a potentially

>I think that the question of a "realization crisis", though is a somewhat
>different discussion from our discussion of what "realization" means
>(perhaps Chai-on was trying to make this point). I.e. there is a separate
>question related to crisis theory that relates to the realization of
>surplus-value as a *cause* of crisis, yet even within an interpretation of
>crisis theory which stresses the overproduction of capital rather than the
>overproduction of commodities, there is still the recognition that the
>crisis can be most visibly *manifested* as a overproduction of
>commodities. The issue we have been discussing, though, concerns a more
>abstract question: when does "value" become fully constituted as value?

Chai-on: Only in the context of the crisis, the so-called destruction of
value is a valid concept. Partial unrealization of commodity values should
be seen rather as a realization of potential non-values.

May I?

In solidarity,