RE: [OPE] Value form theory 101

Date: Sat Dec 13 2008 - 07:11:52 EST

> Your formulation: "for a commodity to represent value it must have use-value and its value
> must come to be expressed through the value-form." is still wrong. For Marx, a commodity
> does not "represent" value, it HAS a value, and it has that value because it is a product of
> social labour, irrespective of whether it is traded or not. The value-form IS exchange-value,
> but exchange-value IS NOT the same thing as money-price. It is not that "its value must come
> to be expressed through the value-form", but that its value can in the economic sense only
> be objectively expressed in labour-time, trading-ratios with other commodities, or money-prices
> of various sorts (possibly I could add, "or observable behavioural results").
I'm tempted to to ask: why, then, does Marx write when he spoke about the commodity as
the "materialization of social labor" that "this itself is only an imaginary, that
is to say, a purely social mode of existence of the commodity which has nothing to do with its
corporeal reality"? BUT, I will resist the temptation: I WON'T ASK YOU THAT. I don't
care to discuss Marx's perspective on this question at this time. Nor will I discuss such
misleading METAPHORS or phrases used in that context such as "embodied", "congealed",
"crystallized" and "contains". We've had those discussions before and they usually END
with the retort "well, you're entitled to your perspective, but it wasn't Marx's". If one can
not make arguments independently of referring to an authority, then one doesn't have an
You say that "for Marx, a commodity ... HAS a value, and it has that value because it is a
product of social labor, irrespective of whether it is traded or not." I won't reply to the trivial
history of thought question, i.e. whether that was or was not Marx's perspective. I DON'T
GIVE A DAMN. I think it is a very misleading interpretation of Marx, but it's not the question
which is analytically important.
Whether Marx said it or not, the perspective that a commodity has a value whether it is
traded or not is just WRONG. It's wrong not because it does or doesn't faithfully cite
Marx's perspective, It's wrong simply because it's wrong, i.e. because it fails to grasp
the essential character of the capitalist commodity. If that means that Marx was
wrong then so be it.
It's wrong for the following reason. What happens to the (presumed) "value" of a commodity
when it is not sold? For a commodity to HAVE value, it must have that claim (that it has
value) socially validated.
Suppose, for instance, a capitalist farm produces potatoes. But (for whatever reason),
they can't sell the potatoes. So, what happens? Whatever value the potato _might_
have had is LOST. In this case, it is obvious. The potato can't be sold so it rots and
thereby loses it's use-value and without use-value the potato _no longer_ is a
commodity and that product does not have value.
There should be no mystery here if one focuses on the subject matter rather than
Marx. Commodities are produced. Obviously, they wouldn't have been produced
unless the capitalist imagined that they could be sold (and sold at a price whereby
the capitalist - AFTER SALE - could receive a profit). Unless there was the
_expectation_ that the product would have a use-value, a value and that exchange
value would necessarily come to be expressed through the value-form and the
money-form, then it wouldn't have been produced in the first place. But, value
doesn't exist merely in the minds (the expectations) of capitalists. It is the
process of exchange which socially validates the commodity as a commodity.
Before exchange, commodities had a _presumed_ (or ideal) value; when the
commodity is exchanged then its value is made ACTUAL (REAL).
This possibility is inherent in the commodity-form. It is a consequence of
the risk and uncertainty of the market and the link between capitalist production
and capitalist circulation.
Do you have an argument about this which doesn't refer to Marx?
In solidarity, Jerry

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Received on Sat Dec 13 07:13:50 2008

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