[OPE-L:1683] Re: Re: Re: value-form theories and the Uno-school?

Subject: [OPE-L:1683] Re: Re: Re: value-form theories and the Uno-school?
From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Mon Nov 15 1999 - 13:07:23 EST

Dear Andrew

At 03:48 15/11/99 GMT0BST, you wrote:
>(2) Patrick Murray seems quite happy to employ the Hegelian
>Essence structure *and* uphold Marx's notion of the substance of
>value as, indeed, a 'ghostly objectivity'. Has Murray got Hegel's
>doctrine of Essence wrong?

Patrick Murray writes (in Moseley 1993, p.39):
'The standard essence-appearance model mistakes essence for a real but
strangely unobservable thing hidden behind the curtain of appearances, and
it admits of no logical relationship between essence and appearance. (This
is just the model operative in Ricardo's theory of value: Value is
something real and independent, 'embodied labor' secreted in commodities,
and no thought is given to showing any logical connection between value and
its appearance, price)...In this model of essence and appearance, science
must be a one-way street, externally (since there is no internal
relationship between independent entities) relating the appearances to
their real basis in the world of essence. Just why *this* essence should
have *these* appearances is never raised (* represents his italics)'.

The essence-appearance model that Murray upholds seems to be very like that
employed by Chris Arthur. It is a view that accepts the dialectical
relationship between essence and appearance as logical figures in a
complete totality (rather than dualistically related opposites). For
Murray, however essence 'is not the logic of being', but the logic of
reflection, 'and it pertains to the logic of reflection that something be
given for reflection' (p.40) I interpret this to mean that essence
(substance of value/abstract labour) is itself a reflection 'ghostly
objectivity' of the form that social labour takes under capitalism.
Because essence is itself a reflection, it must 'show itself in something
that is not immediately itself'. This is, i think a different approach to
Hegel than the approach that equates value with a doctrine of being. The
latter does not allow for retention of the substance of value.

>(3) Alfredo S-F has subjected the value-form school to critical review
>though not at length and only in the context of putting forward an
>alternative notion of 'abstract labour' as the substance of value.
>(ROPE 1997). The critique itself of, say, Reuten and M. Williams'
>value-form theory, doesn't hit home fully imo. However, the positive
>argument for an alternative notion of abstract labour and the substance
>of value to that of Reuten/Williams' is equally as well articulated and
>grounded as is Reuten/Williiams' view. Moreover, it develops into a
>distinctive theory of money and capital (was this all discussed before I
>was on this list?) I would hesitate to spell out the theory for want of
>more detailed knowledge of it. The point I want to make is simply that
>Alfredo provides an interpretation of Marx is that avoids the 'value-
>form' critique of Marx's notion of substance of value offered by
>Reuten/Williams. At the same time, he sustains the notion of a
>systematic progression of categories (though only, for Alfredo, at very
>high levles of abstaction indeed). Ample scope for debate here, then.

In the article you mention, Alfredo objects to the idea that the labour
process is *form determined* (although he doesn't use that expression). He
argues that the 'abstract labour' account of the determination of value
'does not reflect the intrinsic relationship between labours that produce
all commodities, but the extrinsic relation between goods and the money for
which they may or may not be exchanged'. I am not sure that this is
entirely fair, because R-W go to great lengths to insist that what drives
capitalism is, after all, valorisation, value-creation: it seems to me
that value-form approaches do connect the intrinsic and extrinsic
relationships quite well without resort to the 'substance of value'. The
question is whether the substance of value is important to a Marxian

>(4) Underlying Marx's value theory is, of course, not just an ontology
>of 'abstract labour', but, also, and necessarily, an ontology of labour-
>in-general i.e. labour as a transhistorical notion. (Hence, some position
>or other on many of the traditional problems of philosophy such as the
>thought/being relation).

Is this a question about the relationship of 'social labour' to 'abstract
labour'? I see social labour as a transhistorical concept in that all
societies need to distribute jobs between people. If too many people hunt
beaver the labour time required to catch one will increase as the beaver
become fewer; moreover labour time may be wasted if too many beaver hit the
market at once. There is an efficiency concept at work here, and at the
same time there is a social need concept. But it has nothing to do with
*value* determination, which is specific to capitalist exchange (where
producers produce use values solely for others, but the satisfaction of
each producers own needs depends upon a capacity to exchange the products
of their labour).

>(5) To try to be provocative (and probably fail), I will assert that the
>rejection by Reuten and others of Marx's notion of the 'substance' of
>value ultimately comes down to the *idealist* philosophical
>underpinnings provided by Hegel. This is not the notion of 'idealism'
>that Rosenthal tries to pin on Hegel and 'new dialecticians'. Rather it
>has to do with the precise way in which thought is understood to
>emerge from matter. In this context, it is intresting that Alfredo is
>influenced directly by Ilyenkov's philosophy. (Ilyenkov was an
>important influence on Pilling, and thereby, indirectly, on many of us).
>Ilyenkov draws on Spinoza to pin down Hegel as an idealist.

Chris Arthur makes a transcendental argument from 'real' practices of
commodity exchange. But i haven't the skill/knowledge to defend him.


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