value and exchange value

P8475423 at vmsuser.acsu.unsw.EDU.AU P8475423 at vmsuser.acsu.unsw.EDU.AU
Thu Aug 3 06:48:10 MDT 1995


I have a number of comments on this and related threads to comment
upon. Firstly, Jerry posted:

|Steve's post raises a number is issues, only one of which I will respond
|to at this time.
|Marx, of course, was influenced by many,  especially Hegel,
|Feuerbach, Ricardo, and Proudhon.
|
|First, the quotes that Steve gives do not show that Marx was basing his
|understanding of the commodity on Proudhon....

I'm sorry if this is a bit harsh, Jerry, but what you apparently think is
my argument is so much an overstatement of what I actually said that I
think you skimmed my post far to lightly. I did not say anything like
"Marx was basing his understanding of the commodity on Proudhon"--far from
it. The only positive role I ascribed to Proudhon was that *maybe* his
hopeless attempt to build a dialectic comprising use-value and exchange-
value was still rattling around at the back of Marx's brain when he
turned his far greater intellect to the problem, 20 years later. If you
check my cite from the Grundrisse in that last post, you will see that
Marx refer's to Proudhon's work as "Proudhon's nonsense", and I definitely
agree with that estimation.

I also noted in that post that Marx had visited Proudhon in Paris in 1844,
and had tried to teach him dialectics. When he got a copy of _The Philosophy
of Poverty_, he realised that the attempt had been a waste of time. I have
since found where Marx described the experience:

"During my stay in Paris in 1844 I cam into personal contact with
Proudhon. I mention this here because to a certain extent I am to blame
for his 'sophistication', as the English call the adulteration of
commercial goods. In the course of lengthy debates often lasting all
night, I infected him to his great injury with Hegelianism, which,
owing to his lack of German, he could not study properly. After my
expulsion from Paris Herr Karl Grun continued what I had begun. As
a teacher of German philosophy he had the advantage over me that
he understood nothing about it himself."

"Shortly before the appearance of Proudhon's second important
work, _Philosophie de la misere_, he announced this to me
himself in a very detailed letter in which he said, among other
things, 'I await the lash of your criticism'. This soon fell
upon him in my _Misere de la philosophie, etc._, Paris 1847,
in a fashion which ended our friendship forever..." (Marx to
JB Schweitzer, 1865, in _The Poverty of Philosophy_, Progress
Press, 1955, p. 170)

Elsewhere, Carrol comments:

|    Most discussions I have seen of Marxian economics simply discuss exchange
|value and use value as though they exhausted the subject, but here Marx seems
|to place central emphasis on this "hidden" relation, that between value and its
|*form*, exchange value. Neither use value nor exchange value is *value*,
|period.

And Allin later observes, inter alia:

|But IMO this was just an unfortunate inconsistency on their part.  If it
|is taken literally, it gives rise to a very puzzling schema:
|labor-time takes on the form of value, and value takes on the form
|of exchange-value.  This is not deep, it is incoherent.  There are
|too many levels, "more parameters than data-points" in the jargon
|of econometrics.

In general I have to agree with Allin's drift that this aspect of Marx's
language is more incoherent than deep (though as he might expect, I
disagree with his definition of value "as the labor-time socially
necessary to produce a given product"). The first time the concept
occurs to Marx, he says:

"Is not value to be conceived as the unity of use-value and
exchange value?..." (Grundrisse, p. 267)

which at least can be interpreted as saying that there are two
types of value, exchange-value and use-value (thus value is
a general umbrella, rather than a specific concept). This is
apparently Marx's meaning in the following section from his
_Marginal Notes on A Wagner_:

"Rodbertus had written a letter to him ... where he,
Rodbertus, explains why `there is only one kind of value', use
value... Wagner says: `This is completely correct, and
necessitates an alteration in the customary illogical
'division' of 'value' into *use-value and
exchange value*'... and this same Wagner places me among the
people according to whom `use-value' is to be completely
`dismissed' `from science'." (Wagner, pp. 197-98.)

However, he then develops the line of language that Carrol
finds confusing:

"All this is `driveling'. In the first place... What I
start out from is the simplest social form in which the
labour-product is presented in contemporary society, and this is
the *`commodity'*... Here I find that it is, on the one
hand ... a *use-value*; on the other hand, it is a
*bearer of exchange value*... Further analysis shows me
that exchange value is only a `*form* of appearance'...
Hence I do not divide *value* into use value and exchange
value as antitheses into which the abstraction `value' splits,
rather [I divide] the *concrete social form* of the
labour-product; `*commodity*' is, on the one hand, use value,
and on the other hand, `value', not exchange value, since the
mere form of appearance is not its proper *content*" ( Wagner,
p. 198.)

While there is something substantive to the distinction--value
is the essence, exchange-value is the manifestation of the
essence--I agree with Allin that the distinction confuses more
than it elucidates.

As for Jerry's comment which concluded:
|It is for the above reasons that debates over value theory are so
|important. An understanding of the two-fold nature of the commodity was
|Marx's starting point regarding his critique of political economy.  Since
|Marxists can not agree on the starting point or on the method of analysis
|it is small wonder why we then diverge regarding the analysis of
|subsequent topics at other levels of abstraction.

I can only agree!

Cheers,
Steve Keen
References

Carver, T., _Karl Marx: Texts on Method_, Basil Blackwell, Oxford,
1975 (for _Wagner_)


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