[OPE-L:1719] value-form theories and the Uno-school

Subject: [OPE-L:1719] value-form theories and the Uno-school
From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Tue Nov 23 1999 - 07:10:48 EST

From: coslap@aueb.gr
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 10:58:14 +0200

Two brief points on the interesting debate on value-form theory.
First, it seems to me that the relative merits of various economic
theories derive from their ability to deal with particular problems.
Uno-type value form theory is quite unique, as far as I know, in
dealing satisfactorily with the intractable problem of the origin and
place of money in commodity exchange. Namely, in a world of
commodities, why should one commodity assume monopoly of
exchangeability? This goes back at least to Menger and remains
unresolved in general equilibrium theory. 'Bootstrap', transactions
costs type arguments are fundamentally circular. In the Uno
tradition, the answer is sought in the essential relations of
commodities analysed independently of the substance of value.
The 'relative' and 'equivalent' are not analysed as two sides of an
equality but as two parts of a generally irreversible relationship that
runs from 'left' to 'right'. Thus, in the beginning, there are no
properties of association, commutation, and transferability in
commodity relations. Money can then emerge as universal
equivalent as the 'left' to 'right' expression of value assigns an extra
use-value to one commodity, namely universal purchasing power. If
the substance of value were also included in this analysis,
commodities would have been, by construction, directly and
immediately exchangeable with each other and we would have
been back in the world of general equilibrium, hopelessly seeking a
monopolistic means of exchange among generally exchangeable
commodities. Marx partly falls into this trap. That is analysed more
fully in the book Makoto and I have written on money and finance.

Second, and here my view is different from Makoto's, the
ontological status of the substance of value is best settled in
historically specific terms. Capitalist conditions amount to
developed division of labour with autonomous and competing
producers, and worker mobility and indifference among jobs. These
conditions give to the substance of value (abstract labour) as social
'reality', and it is very hard to show that anything approximating
them can be found in past social formations. If they are absent,
abstract labour begins to look like theoretical speculation. One,
less than perfect, way of resolving the problem would be to argue
that some degree of these conditions exists in all past societies,
and might even exist in a socialist society, thus giving abstract
labour some (variously imperfect) material foundation.



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