Subject: [OPE-L:1757] Re: : value-form theories
From: C. J. Arthur (email@example.com)
Date: Sun Nov 28 1999 - 17:12:16 EST
You wrote (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.
THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE WORDS "SUBSTANCE OF VALUE" ARE VERY UNCLEAR AND
SUSCEPTIBLE OF MULTIPLE INTERPRETATION. (oops sorry) Just three
a) traditional metaphysical view in which substance contrasts with accidents
b) Hegel's contrast between subject and substance - although in the
"Absolute" substance becomes subject.
c) a metaphor standing for some other relation - if so what?
It seems to me that you tend towards the third in your gloss:--
>What I mean by abstract labor as the "substance of value" is the
>(1) abstract labor as specific magnitudes is assumed to exist
>independently of prices (otherwise, it could not determine prices without
>(2) abstract labor determines in part the aggregate price of commodities
>according to the following equation:
> P = mL
>where P is the aggregate price of commodities for the economy as a whole,
>L is the aggregate amount of abstract labor in the economy as a whole, and
>m is the "money-value added per hour of abstract labor".
But all this is about external correlation between independent variables.
Compare: the atmospheric pressure is independent of, and detrminant of, the
height of the mercury. No one in their right mind would call the former the
substance of the latter. So if we take Marx seriously there must be some
more internal connection. If so what?
Returning to (a) this seems a rather implausible candidate just because the
accidents are plural but value singular. I would say that if abstract
labour is a substance then its accidents are concrete labours. It is also
worth recalling that when the traditional view is dynamised it results in
the claim that substance is what persists when things change. Thus it is
"the same wax" whether in molten or rigid shape.
This puts my in mind of the metamorphoses of commodities which should
really have been called the metamorphoses of value and then later the
metamorphoses of capital. On this account *value is itself a substance*
that appears now as commodity, now as money, and - possibly - now as a
But if value is a substance then we cannot have labour as the substance
*of* value. You cannot have a substance of a substance.
I myself hold a "strong" version of value form theory according to which
value is not merely form but also content. (Thus I do not speak of 'the
substance of value' - a fortiori not of abstract labour as the substance,
rather substance is an inner moment of the value form totality.) Moreover
my view is highly structured according to Hegel's logic and also like Hegel
is a totality. In brief value as being is the commodity, the value
substance is money, the value subject is capital. But -NB - even the
shadowy being of value implicit in commodities is only there if these
commodities are posited as values through being the result of capitalist
production. It is value that is a ghostly objectivity - objectivity
contrasts with subjectivity so what is meant is that value is not an
illusion of our perception but is "out there" - yet is ghostly because it
is not rooted in anything about the natural bodies of commodities but
constituted through the real abstraction of exchange: thus an abstract
existent or existing abstraction.
The difficulty I am in, in relating all this to labour, will be familiar to
those who have explored the relation betwee hegel's Logic and reality.
I would be inclined to say that
"reified abstract labour *is* the value substance"
"exploited living laboring *is* the valorisation process."
But these are what Hegel called "speculative propositions", namely ones
that are on the face of it untrue given the radical difference between
each side but which from the "absolute standpoint" express identity
relations (more precisely the identity of identity-and-difference) in some
asymptotic fashion. Concretely, that value can only become a
substance/subject in grounding itself on production, such that the labour
process is equally properly called the incarnation of value.
Quantitatively this gives the same formula as Fred's but now it is
understood as a formula which the value form so to speak imposes on the
richness of the concrete.
P. S. Please note that I have a new Email address,
but the old one will also run until next summer. (To be doubly sure load both!)
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