[OPE-L:1705] Re: value-form theories and the Uno-school?

Subject: [OPE-L:1705] Re: value-form theories and the Uno-school?
From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Sun Nov 21 1999 - 12:24:30 EST

Re Fred's [OPE-L:1704]:

> 1. I argue that Marx himself clearly assumed abstract labor is the
> "substance of value", which is something distinct from money and which
> determines money prices. Money is the "necessary form of appearance" of
> abstract labor, but it is not abstract labor itself. Riccardo and Makoto
> seem to be arguing pretty much the same thing (please correct me if I am
> wrong). It there are problems with the concept of a "substance of value",
> then these are problems in Marx's theory, which will have to be fixed by
> changing something fundamental in Marx's theory.

I don't think that Geert and Mike W would necessarily disagree with the
above (but they can correct me if I am wrong). E.g. the Reuten/Williams
book does not assert that Marx held that the substance of value was money.
Indeed, the _Value-Form and the State_ does *not* attempt to be a work
which has as its purpose an interpretation of Marx. Rather, it has as
its mission the articulation of the "tendencies of accumulation and the
determination of economic policy in capitalist society" using "dialectical
systematic theory". Furthermore, if such a theory departs from Marx, then
-- the way I read their book -- so be it. To give a couple of examples:
R/W begin their analysis with the concept of "dissociation", but don't
claim that this was Marx's starting point (indeed, on p. 57, they note
that Marx did *not* begin with that concept). Another example: on page 65
they write that, "Money is inherently pure form, one dimensional quantity.
In this sense money has no value either, only an infinite number of
exchange values, one against each commodity (cf. De Vroey 1981:187). This
is the substantial existence of value: pure transcendental form". Yet, on
that same page and the next, they write that: "Our conceptualization of
money diverges from most Marxist as well as Marx's own grounding of money
in the concept of commodity money".

While I think, therefore, that the interpretive (of Marx) question is
interesting, relevant, and important, I don't think it was the question
that R/W primarily concerned themselves with. Thus, to address R/W's
theory, one can't simply counter-pose it to Marx's. Rather, one has to
evaluate it on its own terms.

I should note here, and perhaps this is part of the confusion, that some
value-form theorists (e.g. Tony, Chris) seem to write mostly about
topics concerning the interpretation of Marx, whereas other value-formers
(like Mike W/Geert) are more concerned about *developing* theory using
systematic dialectics (sometimes they refer to this as a "reconstruction"
of theory, as in "Our value-form theoretic reconstruction of the
abstract-labour theory of value shows that the uniqueness of labour may be
theorized without any recourse to labour-embodied". Ibid. p. 70).
Indeed, it is even rather unclear to me what Tony & Chris think about the
R/W book.
> 3. The main point I want to emphasize in this post is that, in answer to
> Nicky's crucial question in her first post, I don't think the value-form
> interpretation can provide a quantitative theory of profit. Without
> abstract labor as the substance of value, there is no surplus labor that
> determines the amount of profit.

I understand (I think) why R/W aren't really concerned with developing a
"quantitative theory of profit", but I agree that the grounding of the
categories of surplus value and surplus labor is rather weak (i.e.
conceptually under-developed) in their book.
In solidarity, Jerry

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