[OPE-L:1870] Re: Re: Re: value-form theories

Subject: [OPE-L:1870] Re: Re: Re: value-form theories
From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Wed Dec 08 1999 - 10:22:32 EST

Reply to Fred's (OPE-L 1836)

Fred, thanks a lot for your challenging questions to Jerry. Here are a few
brief thoughts just to give the ball a nudge:

>On Mon, 29 Nov 1999, Gerald Levy wrote:
>> Thus, the question from R-W's perspective (as I understand it) is *not*
>> about:
>> > <snip> Profit is a quantitative magnitude: the increment of
>> > money that emerges at the end of the circulation of capital. The
>> > question is: what determines this magnitude?
>> Rather, the question concerns (again, from their perspective) the
>> *grounding* of these concepts. It is thus not a question of math and
>> magnitude, but of developing concepts adequate for comprehending
>> capitalism.
>Jerry, Nicky was the one who first raised the question (which she called
>"crucial") of whether the value-form theory can provide a quantitative
>theory of surplus-value. My post was in response to Nicky's question,
>answering in the negative. Others have also criticized value-form theory
>for the same failure (e.g. Likitkijsomboon, Pichit, "Marxian Theories of
>Value-Form". Review of Radical Political Economics, 1995 27(2): 73-105).
>Jerry, you seem to be agreeing that, at least so far in their work, R&W
>do not provide a quantitative theory of the magnitude of surplus-value.
>Would you argue nonetheless, that their theory is CAPABLE of providing
>such a quantitative theory, but just haven't done it yet. If so, then
>would you (or someone) please sketch out for us how such a quantitative
>theory of surplus-value could be developed on the basis of R&W's
>value-form theory. And if not, would you not agree that this is a serious
>shortcoming in a theory of capitalism?

I would very much like to hear what Jerry thinks about this. My brief
thought is that R&W are not interested in providing a quantitative theory
of the magnitude of surplus value, because (a) the abstraction they focus
on is the abstraction from use-value (exchange-value), rather than the
abstraction from concrete labour (abstract labour), and (b) because, in
their view, the immanent measure of value (abstract labour) has no measure
other than the extrinsic measure in relative prices. A corrolary to R&W's
focus of attention on extrinsic (money) measures is that the question a
theory of value is supposed to answer also becomes re-focused - away from
the question of *what* (magnitude) towards the question of *how* (process).
 In R&W the process is seen to be one in which the production of surplus
value is itself determined by the need to make money profits (labour is
conceptualised as value-creating, rather than exploited).

>For further clarification, what does it mean to "ground" the concept of
>surplus-value, in a way that does not include an explanation of its

As I see it, the analysis of *production for exchange* rather than the
analysis of *production and exchange* provides the rational for value form
theory. In VF theories of capitalism, the labour process and the
valorisation process are seen as one and the same; labour is value-creating
(therefore the production of surplus value is a form determined process).
The theory has to do with the analysis of this form determination of the
process of surplus-value production, not with the measure of magnitudes.

>And what does it mean to "develop concepts adequate for comprehending
>capitalism"? Can one have an adequate comprehension of capitalism without
>an explanation of the magnitude of surplus-value?

A concept adequate for comprehending capitalism must (please someone
correct me if i'm way off) explain the reproduction of the system in such a
way as to provide room to move for political action. I think it likely
that R&W might argue that an explanation of the magnitude of surplus value
is less crucial here than an explanation of how the labour *process* is
form-determined in capitalism (unless, of course, you see the labour of
value as primarily a theory of exploitation, which they don't).
>This not just a matter of "math". Surplus-value is by its nature a
>magnitude. If a theory cannot explain this magnitude, then one cannot
>explain one of the essential features of surplus-value. Marx's theory
>does provide a theory of the magnitude of surplus-value, and in this
>sense, is superior to any other theory that cannot provide such an

My own view is that the superiority of Marx's theory is that he develops a
concept of value as the *means* whereby the labour of private producers in
a capitalist system is socially distributed. The social substance of
commodities (as values) cannot be labour as such (because labour has a
two-fold nature), but must be only the abstract aspect of labour (which has
no immediate measure). If the private/concrete aspects of the labour
process (eg production of surplus value) are subsumed, or dominated by the
abstract aspects in their money form then a quantitative measure of surplus
value does what? I think that the measure of surplus value is seen to be
unnecessary to VF *reconstructed* theory of value (but correct me guys if
i'm wrong). Whether it is useful to see the labour process and the
valorisation process as one and the same is, of course, another question.


>I look forward to further discussion.

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