Re: Money, mind and the ontological status of value

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Wed Jun 23 2004 - 15:02:37 EDT

Okay, Paul, I've given some evidence of understanding what you're saying.
I've reviewed our exchange since late May.  Let's hope you will also
understand some of my own perspective on this muddle.

1.    On 6/1 and 6/2 you reminded me that I had not responded to your poijnt
about C-M-C existing in the ancient world.  M-C-M' you added was reserved
for value.  It's true, I did not respond directly to that line of argument
and in retrospect that was a mistake; I did not quickly grasp how useful
that question could be.  I respond to that point below.  For now I'll
continue with the chronological review.

2.    On your second post from 6/2, serious misunderstanding begins.  Asked
if I thought value was  like water, I replied that they were both real
objects that could exist before we form a scientific concept of them.  From
this you concluded I presumed value existed in the ancient world.  This was
a misreading.  Whether or not value existed in the ancient world was
irrelevant to the point I was making about value and water.  You nonetheless
now had an idee fixe and continued to find evidence for it in my subsequent

3.    On 6/2 I did offer an explanation of what I understood the social
relation of value in Marx to be.  Where the social relation existed I
suggested, value and exchange value would be generated by it and I offered
evidence of the social relation's effects, economic, juridical and
ideological.  But this point got lost in a mild distraction over what was
meant by social relations in Marx.

4.    On 6/5 you acknowledged that you yourself had made no effort to
explain why, as a theoretical matter, value only exists under capitalism,
and instead we began to get seriously derailed by confusion over the
'theoretical object / real object' issue.  If you want to follow that up,
Bhaskar's A Realist Theory of Science provides a very helpful context for
understanding.  Also, there are good discussions in philosophical
dictionaries of the important distinction made over the last century between
'use' and 'mention'.  ['London' is a word used to refer to a city in
England.  A million people marched in London on February 15, 2003.]  In any
event, the confusion was followed by a hiatus in the exchange.

5.    On 6/16, referring specifically to an analysis of Marx, I proposed the
following argument:  "Now since exchange value is a form of manifestation of
value and since slaves existed in the ancient world [who Marx viewed as
having exchange value], value existed in the ancient world."  The context
made clear that this was an argument made within Marxism interpreting Marx's
understanding of the matter.  It was purposely presented in a simple logical
form argument, and not as historical explanation.  This is clear to anyone
who wants to go back to the original post.

6.    On 6/17 you responded to ask why the argument was 'valid', making the
charge that I was 'falling back on authority,' that I was presenting Marxist
theory as if Marx having said so made it so.  You wrote, quoting me, "It is
'established'.  Please do not restore to such a method on OPE-L."

This was absurd.  In commenting on my argument I explained I was making an
argument within Marxist theory interpreting Marxist theory and as one aspect
of that I took it as established by Marxist theory that exchange value is a
form of manifestation of value.  I specifically said my argument was only as
good as the theory.  I invited critique.  There is nothing wrong with that
form of argument on OPEL.  It goes on constantly.  Moreover, there is no way
to do science, natural or social, except within the body of a coherent
theory, marxist or otherwise, modified and revised in light of new evidence
and hypotheses.  Eclecticism is not science, no matter how often it
masquerades as such.

Then there were more challenges about real and theoretical objects.

So that brought us to your letter  of 6/17.

7.   a.     "Marx did not say 'ALL . . . ."   I'll suggest below at least
one place where I think he can be read to say just that.  Be that as it may,
notice that in my response to Costas on 6/16 I had responded to a form of
that argument and you could have taken the trouble to have considered my
points there and if they were not responsive to what you were trying to
bring forward, then have explained why.  On 6/21 you said the point should
be simplified to "Marx never said (to the best of my knowledge) that
everywhere there is exchange value, then there is value," but unless that
means the sort of thing I took Costas to mean, I don't know what is

b.    You wrote that "to suggest that Marx or Marxism 'establishes' (citing
yourself) that you are correct is unworthy of the level of discussion this
list should be engaged in."

This is made up.  I did not cite myself as authority on anything.  I offered
interpretations.  As I explained above, the reference to 'established' was
meant to emphasize that the small simple argument I was making took place
within the body of a theory.

Actually, I take it back:  I did say, "your impression that I am confused
about the distinction between real and theoretical objects is wrong."  No
doubt that can be understood as "citing myself."  But it is not citing
myself about Marx; on the subject of my own confusion, I'm entitled to weigh

c.  On 6/17 you complained of the whiff of the 30s and on 6/21 confirmed my
understanding that this referred to Stalinists silencing people for not
conforming to whatever the line of the moment was.

This seems like a performative contradiction to me.  (Bhaskar is good on
'performative contradiction' also.)  Although you misunderstood early on and
charged me with theology, presuming, authority appeals, etc., and limited
yourself to unelaborated questions, rather than offering alternative efforts
at explanation that could have clarified our exchange, I continued to
respond with substantive explanations and tried to answer all your questions
with a degree of thoroughness.  No doubt I missed and misunderstood things.
That goes with the medium and the quick back and forth it invites.  But the
overall tenor of my effort to reply is clear.  Certainly, I never took any
argument of yours and said that it was unworthy of OPE-L's standards.  Yet,
while complaining of the 30s, that is just what you did in response to me.

d.   On the real and theoretical object, you claimed on 6/17 that I was
trying to have my cake and eat it too.  Hard to do.  You can't eat the
concept of a cake.

8.    On the issues left hanging:

a.    C-M-C and M-C-M'.  I do think it would have helped if I had pursued
this directly earlier, and I apologize for not doing so.  Anyway, as I
pointed out in a recent post to Costas, the symbol for the commodity, C,
introduced in the Chapter on Money, is a symbol for the unity of use value
and exchange value, and M is a symbol for money, also embodied value.  There
is nothing that I am aware of in any writing of Marx that suggests those
symbols do not preserve their reference to value when he uses them to
discuss precapitalist social formations or that with M-C-M' the referents of
the symbols are to objects with value, but when the same letters describe
the circuit C-M-C, they do not refer to objects with value.  Marx uses both
C-M-C and M-C-M' in the Chapter in v.III on the Historical Facts of Merchant
Capital, for example.  If the identical symbols in his usage of one formula
referred to value and the other did not, this would be peculiar to say the
least.  Further, it is clear that Marx thought M-C-M' existed in the ancient
world and also that capital existed.  This was capital without wage labor.
So now we have an additional puzzle -- was this capital without value?  Was
it M-C-M' without value?  he argues that expansion of the quantity of value
was the object of merchant capital in the ancient world also.  And as far as
C-M-C goes, he writes this:  "Since merchant's capital is penned in the
sphere of circulation, and since its function consists exclusively of
promoting the exchange of commodities, it requires no conditions for its
existence . . . outside those necessary for the simple circulation of
commodities and money" (III, 325).  Quotes are only quotes, I realize; the
chapter's worth review.

b.    "Marx did not say ALL . . . . "  You could say he did do just that in
Notes On Wagner:  "In fact in *every* price-list every individual sort of
commodity undergoes this illogical process, distingujishing itself from the
others as goods, use-value, as cotton, iron . . . etc., but simultaneously
representing its price as qualitatively the same but quantitatively
different of the same essence.  it presents itself in its natural form for
him who uses it, and in the value-form, which is quite different from it and
'common' to all other commodities, ie as exchange value."  [Emphasis added].
Or compare TSV III, 269, which argues that commodities emerge wherever the
social division of labor reaches the point of independent production that I
referred to as constitutive of the social relation of value:  "What the
division of labor in society presupposes above all, is that the different
kinds of labour have become independent of one another in such a way that
their products confront one another as commodities and must be exchanged,
that is, undergo the metamorphosis of commodities and stand in relation to
one another as commodities."

c.    Now what I really need to do to meet your simplified question is to
*exclude*, within the framework of Marxism, every other possibility
theoretically for exchange value to arise in any other way except from
value.  I have not done that I realize.  I do think it could be pretty
readily done.  One would do it by showing that the features that chracterize
exchange value could only come from the social  relation of value.  Exchange
value, for example, expresses equivalence insofar as the same product in the
market goes for the same price.  What social relations in precaptialist
social formations other than value would give rise to such equivalence?
Basically the method would identify each feature of exchange value and trace
it back to separate productdion and the social division of labor.  In a way
this would be moving backwards through Chapter 1 and showing that it was
only the social relation identified there that could generate exchange value
as a result.

I'm sure we'll come back to these issues in the future.  By the way, I do
think an apology would be appropriate.



----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Monday, June 21, 2004 3:13 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Money, mind and the ontological status of value

> Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> said, on 06/21/04:
> >Thanks for your post of 6/17.  In order to minimize further
> >misunderstanding, before replying, let me see if I understand your post:
>   Howard, fair enough.
> >1.         You are wondering whether I've understood you at all from the
> >beginning.  You argue that when Marx said that exchange value is a form
> >manifestation of value, this left open the possibility that exchange
> >could be a form of manifestation of other social relations or forms of
> >production or exchange - "Marx did not say "ALL  . . . "
>   More simply: Marx never said (to the best of my knowledge) that
everywhere there is exchange value, then there is 'value'.
> >2.         So, this is the point of Marx's analysis that I should have
> >understood had been opened:  the question in dispute is whether exchange
> >value or value are categories that apply outside the capitalist mode of
> >production.   But in resolving this question it cannot be assumed that
> >exchange value is a form of value exclusively; it might be a form that
> >characterizes other forms of economic life in other historical periods.
>   Rewrite to "in resolving this question it cannot be assumed that
exchange value is necessarily a form of 'value'; it".
> >Can I understand this as applying to the categories 'money' and
> >'commodities ' as well?  That is, are money and commodities like exchange
> >value - they could appear in earlier modes of production but that would
> >not necessarily mean that they were social forms characterized by value.
> >Is that the argument?
>   Can we stay with "exchange value" (I hadn't gotten into the exact
expressions "money" and "commodities")?
> >3.         You feel that in responding to this thread I have more or less
> >mindlessly relied on the authority of Marx by saying that Marx
> >the proposition that exchange value is a form of manifestation of value.
> >Also I argued that I am correct about the real world existence of value
> >outside the capitalist mode of production because Marx said so and the
> >reason I know Marx said so is because I cite myself as authority.
> >Furthermore, reliance on authority of this sort (both Marx and me) to
> >settle differences is, in your view, unworthy of the quality of
> >that should be taking place on the OPEL list.  As far as you are
> >my contribution is not up to snuff.
>   I am objecting to anyone, by way of *explanation*, claiming that Marx
said so, or Marxist science says so.  The issue must be to *explain* why/how
'value' is applicable outside the context of the capitalist mode of
production.  It's not a question of claiming authority, but a question of
elaborating the underlying issues/conceptions.
>   Yes, it is atypical on this list to make a statement as *justification*
for a position such as Marx said so, or that one is working "within the
framework of a coherent theory in science" (marxist theory).
> >4.         In fact, for you this sort of reliance on authority resurrects
> >memories of the Stalinist 30s when people were silenced for not toeing an
> >orthodox line.   Were you to acquiesce in such a claim of authority you
> >would have to apologize for not holding views identical to mine.
>   Yes, but rewrite the last part to "apologize for not holding views
identical to the stated truth".
> >5.         Finally, you argue that when I say "the concepts of 'value' or
> >the 'social relation of value' or the 'social substance of value' are
> >theoretical objects, and then go on to say that "the social relation of
> >value is a real object; the social substance of value is a real object,"
> >am in effect trying to have my cake and eat it too because I use value as
> >both a real and a theoretical object.
>   Yes.  If you collapse 'value' as a theoretical object into a real
object, you are presuming your conclusion.
> >Have I understood your post?  Have I got it all?  Please correct or
> >as necessary.
>   I hope this helps.
>   Paul Z.
> *************************************************************************
> Vol.21-Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation, and Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy
> RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Zarembka/Soederberg, eds, Elsevier Science
> **********************

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