Subject: [OPE-L:1722] Re: : value-form theories and the Althussarians
From: Paul Cockshott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Nov 23 1999 - 07:28:47 EST
At 00:36 23/11/99 +0800, you wrote:
> >Certainly, his theory was developed in the context of his being a
> >revolutionary socialist - a communist. Yet, there were others socialists
> >and anarchists of his time and before who had a "vision" of communism who
> >were not able to develop an understanding of capitalism.
>I understand Marx to be criticising the classicals for *not* adressing the
>historical specificity of capitalism. The classicals saw *value* as a
>natural (transhistorical) category; moreover, they treated commodities as
>physical products theorised as 'containers' for the physical expenditure of
>human energies (as a category, the commodity is therefore transhistorical).
> Marx attempted to establish an alternative view of the commodity as an
>abstract category reflecting the irreconcilable opposition between
>use-value and value. This opposition redefines the commodity not only as
>the repository of embodied physiological labour, but simultaneously as the
>expression of class relations under capitalism: i.e. a *particular*
>expression of alienated labour. From this point of view, it is the
>value-relation that must be overcome in class struggle.
The position that I take up on this is that outlined by the then
Althussarian Hussain in his 1973
introduction to the second English translation of Marx's notes on Wagner (
published by Theoretical Practice).
Here he distinguishes between value and its form of representation ( what
the later value form school call the 'value form'). Value is abstract
as such in no way depends upon its form of representation under capitalism
- the exchange
value of commodities. These are just the form in which it becomes apparent
to people under capitalist relations of production. The thrust of the
the notes on Wagner is that the law of the proportionate distribution of
between different activities is a trans historical law. The specific form
in which this
manifests itself in capitalist economies is through the law of value - the
of exchange values by their value.
The later value form school, in my opinion, completely inverts the whole
by making the form of representation primary and effectively discarding the
The concept of exchange value as a form of representation can be made quite
in the sense that the same laws of arithmetic apply to values and to
prices, and that
the set of values maps onto the set of prices. However the reverse does not
the world of prices does not map onto values. Values are represented in
prices are not represented in values.
On this see Hindess's article in Theoretical Practice 3 on Materialist
My and Allin's article in Economy and Society Vol18 no 1.
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