value, exchange-value, revolutionary action

Paul Cockshott wpc at
Wed Aug 23 23:09:13 MDT 1995

Allin's definition of value even overlooks the fact that, generically,
"value" means an aptitude for something.

If I recall Marx was somewhat scathing about similar etymological
approaches to the concept of value by Herr Wagner.

The socially necessary abstract
labor materialized in a product that is not a commodity lacks the
for doing anything. The only aptitude that the labor embodied in this
product has, arises from its nature as a concrete labor: its aptitude to
satisfy a given human necessity, its aptitude to produce an use-value.

I am not aware that aptitudes ever
figured in Marx's theory of value.
However, in any social formation
with a division of labour, the product
even if not a commodity, presupposes
 social labour and its division
between branches of production. Thus
it presupposes abstract social
labour - value - though not the value form.

when the materialized labor has not only produced (due to its concrete
form) an use-value, but has produced the social relation itself as a
materialization of abstract labor, this abstract labor acquires an
for something. Namely, the aptitude for being represented as the capacity
of its products for relating among themselves in exchange, thus socially
relating their producers. So only determined as the materialized socially
necessary abstract labor of the private independent producers does
necessary abstract labor become a "value."

This shows some confusion between value,
commodities and the form of appearance
of value. Consider the sentence <<So
only determined as the materialized socially
necessary abstract labor of the private
independent producers does socially
necessary abstract labor become a "value.">>
It is wrong to talk of a value
in this way. One may talk of an hour or
second of value, or of a commodity
but not a value. It would be more correct
to say that << Only the product
of independent producers becomes a commodity.>>
 or if you wish to focus on
the labour << Only as the labour performed
in independent units of production,
does social labour get represented as exchange value.>>

 The attempt to empty value from
its historical specificity by reducing
 the value-form to its substance, has
to force "value" into a meaningless
concept even from a mere idiomatic
point of view. Yet, according to Allin,
Marx is the incoherent one
concerning value!

Allin is careful not to confuse
the value-form (i.e., exchange value ),
with what is expressed in this relation,
value (i.e., social labour time).
Behind Juans attack on Allins presentation
of value is a misconception, shared
by several interpreters of Marx, that
his concept of value applied only
to commodity producing societies.
This misreading dates from Rodbertus,
and is explicitly refuted by Marx in
his Notes on Wagner's Lerbuch,
( see pages 185 and 207 Karl Marx,
Texts on Method, Oxford 1975), where
he points out the applicability of
the concept to primitive community

All of this would be of no political
import were it not actually central
to the formation of a socialist programme.
Juan, clearly recognises this
when he says:


The general regulation of social life is in itself the general social
relation. Therefore, value is represented in the way Allin does, deprived
of its determination as a historically specific social relation, and thus
reduced to the appearance of a mere matter of computation. The clue to
reductionism becomes visible in "Markets, Value and Socialism" he
co-authored with Paul Cockshott. It is only on the basis of this
reductionism that a society that, on the one hand, is said to be
consciously planed, and on the other hand, is said to need the market in
the stage of individual consumption - and therefore, where the allocation
of the total labor-power is actually ruled through a commodity-based
relation, since individual consumption is the last instance in any social
production - can be conceived not as an absolute concentration of the
property of capital (and therefore, as a society that necessarily follows
the general law of capitalist accumulation, increasing the pauperization
the wage laborers) but as a society were an abstract regulation whose
necessity just emerges from some proclaimed, and therefore abstract,
to be", is conceived as the overcoming of capitalism.

Juan who has at least taken the trouble
to read our article from the Marxism
archives,  then goes on to misrepresent
it. What we advocate in the article
is Marx's model of the lower phase of
communism as presented in the
Critique of the Gotha program. We do
not advocate market socialism nor
do we advocate that products of individual
consumption take the form
of commodities. We following Marx,
advocate that they exchange not against
money, as is the case with commodities,
but against labour tokens.

Juan will no doubt recall that Marx
points out that labour tokens are
no more money than is a theatre ticket
( in that they do not circulate ).
Instead of the value of the product
appearing, as is the case with
commodities, in the material form
of another commodity - gold - it
is expressed directly in the number
of hours of labour surrendered by the
producer, recorded in labour tokens,
to obtain the product.

Juan produces no causal argument to
support his assertion that the
schema proposed in the Critique of
the Gotha Programme would lead to
 "a society that necessarily follows
  the general law of capitalist
  accumulation, increasing the
  pauperization of the wage laborers"
Perhaps he could explain why he
believes this to be the case?

     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list