Re: [OPE-L] Albritton on Marx's value theory and subjectivity

From: Christopher Arthur (arthurcj@WAITROSE.COM)
Date: Mon Apr 10 2006 - 08:01:42 EDT

the correct way to state the position is that the pure logic of CAPITAL
is indifferent to use value. But in order to actually sell things it
needs the capitalist who does know about use value to interpret the
demand for valorisation in a realisable way . Marx is a little
ambiguous on the result of this. Sometimes he assails advertising for
creating artificial needs; but sometimes the creation of new needs is
said to be 'capital's civilising mission' (I lost the reference).

Chris A
On 9 Apr 2006, at 14:47, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:

> Hi Jerry
> You asked, Feeling a tad grumpy today?
> No, just very disappointed that a scholar of some stature like
> Albritton,
> who has tried to introduce Japanese Marxian thought to Western readers,
> would come out with shallow sociologism like that, which I regard as
> nonsensical, and which discredits Marx's analysis. Let's hope though
> he gets
> his rocks off in Cuba, and writes something better.  But yes, I am
> grumpy
> about how badly so-called "Marxists" deform and mangle the ideas of
> Marx &
> Engels.
> It is one thing to say, that trade in commodities becomes a means of
> accumulating capital, and is therefore engaged in not simply for its
> own
> sake, or for the joy of it etc. Or, that an investor simply looks for
> those
> stocks or placements which yield the highest return, irrespective of
> whether
> they concern cabbages, water pipes, currencies or computers etc. I.e.,
> an
> abstract instrumentalist rationality operates.
> But this does not imply at all, that "capitalists are indifferent to
> the use
> value of products" or that they do not try to meet consumer needs. If
> they
> were so indifferent, they would make disastrous mistakes in investing,
> hiring employees, management or selling products. They simply cannot
> afford
> to be so indifferent, precisely *in function* of the imperatives of
> investments, sales, competition and accumulation. At the very least,
> doing
> business requires market knowledge, and that market knowledge involves
> product knowledge, and knowledge of how a product is used, and by
> whom, in
> what quantity. But usually, also, investors will not invest in
> projects that
> they don't believe in. Needless to say, as consumers, capitalists are
> also
> not "indifferent to use-values" at all, far from it.
> This is just a very elementary observation about commerce, and you
> don't
> even have to be an economist to understand it. A critique of
> capitalism is
> fine, but I think in that case one should at least acquaint oneself
> with the
> realities of business, rather than rail on about "the nasty
> capitalists who
> are indifferent to use value". When Marxists present these crude,
> vulgar and
> abstract caricatures of capitalist business, they just discredit
> themselves,
> they discredit Marx, and propagate ideas which are useless. It's a
> deformed
> moral protest - you might as well go chasing windmills, like Don
> Quixote.
> The whole notion of "indifference" itself is crucially ambiguous
> anyway,
> because it can be read as a moral indifference, a social indifference,
> or a
> practical indifference. What follows positively from this? That
> capitalists
> should not be so indifferent? That people should be more socially
> responsible? That more sentimental value should be attached to
> products?
> What kind of morality is desirable then? It is not clear.
> You wrote:
> Whether or not individual Marxists agree with Albritton's perspective
> on
> use-value or not has no necessary connection to whether socialism will
> be
> viable anywhere.
> But that is not what I said. What I said was, maybe rhetorically, "With
> "friends of Marx" like that, there will never be any viable socialism
> anywhere." It's really very simple. If socialism is at all feasible as
> a
> form of economy, it must grow out of, or develop out of capitalism as
> it
> really is. This in turn implies recognising that at least in part,
> capitalism is *progressive*, insofar as it creates the social and
> technical
> preconditions for socialist economy, in the form of new products,
> knowledge,
> wealth and social relations. Theories of monumental alienation are
> wrong,
> because just as important is the resistance/revolt/overcoming of
> alienation,
> the humanisation of people despite all obstacles.  A socialist
> transformation requires a profound reorganisation of economic life,
> which
> also has to be theorised, and in order to theorise it, it has to be
> understood. Platitudes and verities about "the nasty capitalists who
> are
> indifferent to use-value" are about as useful for that purpose, as the
> discovery of an infant that eating food results in crap falling out of
> his
> bottom.
> But anyway. I have a lot on my plate just now (moving house among other
> things) so I'll leave it there.
> Jurriaan

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