[OPE-L:1889] Re: value form theory

Subject: [OPE-L:1889] Re: value form theory
From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Fri Dec 10 1999 - 17:54:24 EST

I am afraid that I have fallen behind on the "value-form discussion.
This is a partial response to Andy's post of Dec. 1. I will try to catch
up to the more recent posts soon.

I mainly want to try to clear up an ambiguity. Maybe Andy and I don't
disagree. Andy wrote:

On Wed, 1 Dec 1999, Andrew Brown wrote:

> I think the notion of value as a ‘ghostly objectivity’ must
> be treated slightly more subtly than Fred, to the extent
> that Fred is arguing that value has an ‘objective’
> existence which is *entirely* independent of price.


> The relation of value to price is as follows: it is a
> peculiarity of value (as opposed to weight, for
> instance) that it can only exist in so far as it is
> measured. Price is its measure. Without money,
> therefore, value could not exist. Insofar as Fred
> suggests that value exists independently of price I
> disagree. However, this does not invalidate the basic
> point that value is crystallised abstract labour, whose
> form of appearance is money. This form is necessary to
> value but not identical with value. Here is one case
> where form is essential to essence. Now, this view of
> form and essence is that put forward by Murray.

Maybe Andy and I are just using "exist independently" in two different
ways, to wit:

1. abstract labor can exist without the simultaneous existence of money.

2. abstract labor cannot exist without the simultaneous existence of
money, but nonetheless abstract labor EXISTS AS A SEPARATE ENTITY from
money (as a "ghostly objectivity").

My meaning is #2. Abstract labor necessarily requires the simultaneous
existence of money (as its necessary from of appearance). But, abstract
labor (and the quantity of abstract labor) is nonetheless assumed to exist
as a SEPARATE ENTITY from money (and the quantity of money-prices),
and the quantity of abstract labor is assumed to determine the quantity of

I think that Marx made this meaning clear immediately after deriving
abstract labor as the substance of value four pages into Section 1 of
Chapter 1:

        The progress of our investigation will lead us back to
        exchange-value as the necessary mode of expression,
        or form of appearance, of value. For the present, however,
        we must consider THE NATURE OF VALUE
        (Vintage edition, p. 128, emphasis added)

Marx then went on to examine the question:

        How, then is the MAGNITUDE of this value to be
        MEASURED? By means of the QUANTITY of the
        `VALUE-FORMING SUBSTANCE', the labor,
        contained in the article. This QUANTITY is measured
        by its duration ... (p. 129; emphasis added)

Thus I argue that, in Marx's theory, abstract labor exists as a separate
entity from money prices, and is assumed to determine the latter, but
abstract labor necessarily requires the simultaneous existence of money.

Andy, do we agree? I hope so.

Looking forward to further discussion.


P.S. I like Andy's further question: why MUST value appear?

> One question is why *must* essence gain form? Murray
> himself admits he has ‘no closing arguments’ for this
> view of necessity. He does ask rhetorically, ‘how else
> would we have gotten to know the essence?’ But the
> basic answer is surely that value can only have an
> effect if it gains form. Value dominates through price.
> Murray goes as far as to say that value exists only as
> the tethering of price. The logic of my argument is to
> modify Murray’s statement considerably: value *gains
> existence* only *through* its tethering of price.

I think that is a very good question. I think I agree with Andy's answer
("value can only have an effect if it gains form), but I think it is too
vague. I would say: abstract labor must appear as price, because that is
the only way in which abstract labor can be regulated through price.
There is no other means of regulating social labor in a capitalist
commodity economy. The necessity arises, not from some general
philosophical imperative, but from the economic necessity of regulating
social labor. Abstract labor must appear as prices in order to be
regulated through prices.

Marx left this question open in Section 3 of Chapter 1. He just assumed
that the essence of abstract labor must appear, and derived the
appropriate form of appearance for the essence of abstract labor
(homogenous quality and definite quantities). But Marx answered this
question in Section 4 of the "commodity fetishism (and elsewhere).

No other theory of value has been able to answer this question. This is
another point that Patrick Murray has emphasized in more recent work
("Redoubled Empiricism: The Place of Social Form in Marxian Theory",
in Moseley and Campbell (eds.). New Investigations of Marx's Method).

Marx himself claimed that the classical economists had not been able to
answer this question:

        Now, however, we have to perform a task NEVER EVEN
        ATTEMPTED by bourgeois economics ... to show the origin
        of this money-form ... (p. 139; emphasis added)

I would add that neoclassical economics has also failed to explain the
"origin of the money-form", i.e. the necessity of money, on the basis of
its theory of value.

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