on the LTV
djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Wed Aug 3 00:33:09 MDT 1994
It does not seem to me that Marx's theory of value is really fundamentally
a theory of relative prices. I just wanted to indicate some of other
facets of Marx's theory of value.
1. Marx's theory of value is a critique of the Liberal ideal of property,
freedom, equality and Bentham. It discloses the terror
(exploitation)immanent in these ideals. See patrick murray's marx's theory
of scientific knowledge where Marx's theory of value is brilliantly
compared to Hegel's section "Absolute Terror" in the Phenomenology. Wasn't
it Robertus who proclaimed marx to be the greatest enemy of (bourgeois)
2.marx's theory of value brings out his critique of fetishism in many ways.
Marx wanted to explain why equal capitals, with different organic
compositions (that is, different labor contents), could still receive an
average rate of profit based on the law of value--that unresolable problem
leading to the disintegration of the school based on *Ricardo's* theory of
value. Capital itself seems to be the source of value. Marx's critique not
only shows how this is possible (in fact necessary under capitalism) but
also brings out what this says about capitalism as a social system. I.e.
value is "the form in which class power over social labor is accumulated."
See Paul Mattick Jr's inexusably ignored paper in the International Journal
of Political Economy, 1991-1992.
As I have mentioned before by laying bare the operation of the price
mechanism itself, Carchedi has critiqued the fetishism of dead labor, i.e.
why new fixed capital itself seems to be source of extra-value.
In other words, Marx's theory of value is the scientific completion of the
Ricardian socialist Hodgskin's eloquent denial that fixed capital was
productive: "One is almost tempted to believe that capital is a short of
cabalistic word, like Church or State, or any other of the general terms
which are invented by those who fleece the rest of mankind to conceal the
hand that shears them. It is a sort of idol before which men are called
upon to prostrate themselves, while the cunning priest from behind the
altar,profaning the God whom he pretends to serve, and mocking those sweet
sentiments of devotion and gratitude, or those terribel emotions of fear
and resentment, one or the other of which seems commond to the whole human
race, as they are enlightened or wise or ignorant or debased,puts forth his
hand to receive and appropriate the offererings which he calls for in the
name of religion...The skill and the art of the laborer have been
overlooked, and he has been vilified; while the work of his hands has been
worshipped. (Quoted in Sydney Coontz, 1966. Productive Labor)
3. Marx's theory of value is a theory of unequal exchange. It is a theory
not only of the production of value but its unequal distribution.
ThirdWorldism can thus not be simply written of as a deviation: it derives
directly from Marx's theory of value. Again Carchedi's treatment is
excellent (though in my opinion imperialism is a more multi-faceted
economic phenomena than he develops--more on this later).
4. Marx's theory of value is a critique, a reversal of the neo- and
post-captialist theorists who claim that capitalism by quantitative
increases in accumulation can lose its quality of exploitation which was
only essential in the days of Engel's Manchester working class. From Wm
Ash's 1963 Marxism and Moral Concepts: "SV, the appropriation through
ownership of the means of production of the difference between the goods
produced and the goods consumed by the working force, a difference that
increased with a rise in productivity so that human progress itself can be
measured by the degree of exploitation, simpy IS the law of capitalism.
Capitalism cannot change unless this basic economic law of the
appropriation of surplus value has changed; and any claim that capitalism
is gradually turning into something else, as long as this law may still be
observed in operation, is merely terminological quibbling." Take note Peter
5. And finally Marx's theory of value is a theory of the dynamics of
capitalism. It is a theory of dynamics based on the contradictory nature of
labor itself under capitalism: the inverse movement of use-value and value,
the contradictions of concrete labor and value-positing labor. Marx termed
this basis of the critical concept. To argue that Marx's theory of value
is a description of a static system is, quite frankly, a travesty, given
that in the preface to capital, he clearly states that his intention is to
lay bare the law of motion of capitalism. I think that Grossmann's
treatment of the Marxian theory of dynamics based on the law of value
remains unsurpassed. The two part article was translated in Capital and
Class in 1977. Such an interpretation was defended by Paul Mattick, Sr. in
his last book.
6. And finally, finally we may want to ask how Marx's theory of value can
explain the role of (unpaid) housework.
I have not tried to prove anything here. I am not quite at the level where
I could do this. It just seemed to me that Marx's theory of value is quite
rich, and perhaps we need to begin by asking whether we are finding
weaknesses in Ricardo's theory of value or Marx's and what it is the latter
sought to explain.
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