[OPE-L] Alexander Gersch on the theory of value

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon Jul 23 2007 - 16:44:16 EDT

The autodidact businessman Alexander Gersch, who dedicated his massive, ideosyncratic 1969 treatise on the theory of exchange value to Richard Nixon "in token of personal esteem and sincere attachment to the American Cause", had this to say on the subject:

"In economics of all topics value is most disputed. This is because the theory of exchange which lies at the threshold of our science forms a connecting link between problems of a purely economic nature and the social. Moreover it acts as a point of departure for theoretical inferences affecting the entire domain of human economy. Its abstract nature renders an objective approach quite difficult and for all who have ventured to overcome these impediments it turned to be a stumbling block. Thus by its nature the theory of exchange value is a most ungrateful topic to be dealt with. Yet, being of essential importance to economics and a problem which was not solved, it invites adventurous minds to attempt its solution." (On the Theory of Exchange Value, Universitatsdruckerei H. Sturtz, 1969, p. v)

You can see here, that he recognised at least there was a problem with exchange-value, which deserved study. And further:

"Economics must take into account both the objective and the subjective background of exchange value because these interact." (ibid., p. 631).

If you read his book, you can conclude there is no such thing as a purely "objective" or "subjective" theory of value, only theories which in various ways, and with varying degrees of success, try to connect the objective and the subjective aspects of value. Marx, for example, aims to show among other things why the objectified reality of value relations must necessarily present itself in specific (often reified) ways in subjective consciousness, and how a reciprocal (dialectical) interaction operates between what valuing subjects do, and the overall objective antecedents and effects of their actions. This dimension is often left out of the transformation problem literature - how, in other words, Marx attempted to specify some basic objective and subjective parameters of capitalist competition aiming to realise an extra slice of the new product-values created by the workers.


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