value

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sun Jan 8 22:10:29 MST 1995


On this list, our discussion of value has often been  disjoined from the
many attempts to understand recent developments in both culture and the
natural sciences, leaving many of us (I am sure) wondering what is Marxist
about the latter and, especially if the answer is nothing,  whether Marx's
theory of value is then sterile.

Sometime ago I posted a passage from Korsch on the law of value which
emphasized  dynamics and asked whether anyone knew of other such attempts.

I did not expect to find a work which has done just that, while on the
basis of the law of value (dynamically understood) theorized temporality,
culture and subjectivity.  But this is what Postone has accomplished in
Time, Labor and Social Domination: a reinterpretation of Marx's critical
theory.

Reproduced here is a passage which shows that on the basis of Postone's
reinterpretation of Marx's basic concepts (he is modest, for he does more
than that), we may be able to transcend the sterile opposition in Marxist
theory between economics  and cultural studies (not without however
fundamentally changing our conception of each):


To analyze modern capitalist society in terms of the domination of value
(and, hence, the domination of capital) is thus to analyze it in terms of
two apparently opposed forms of abstract social domination: the domination
of abstract time as the present, and a necessary process of ongoing
transformation.  Both forms of abstract domination as well as their
instrinsic interrelation are grasped by the Marxian "law of value."  I have
noted that this "law" is dynamic and cannot be grasped adequately as the
law of the market; at this point I can add that it categorically grasps the
drive toward an ever-increasing productivity, the ongoing transformation of
social life in capitalist society, as well as the ongoing reconstitution of
its basic social forms.  It reveals capitalism to be a society marked by a
temporal duality--an ongoing, accelerating flow of history,  on the one
hand, and an ongoing conversion of this movement of time  into a constant
present on the other.  Although socially constituted, both temporal
dimensions lie beyond the control of, and exert domination over, the
constituting actors.  Far from being a law of static equilibrium, then,
Marx's law of value grasps as a determinate "law" of history, the
dialectical dynamic of transformation and reconstitution characteristic of
capitalist society.
The analysis of capitalism in terms of these two moments of social reality
suggests,however, that it can be very difficult to grasp both
simultaneously.  Because so many aspects of social life are transformed
more and more rapidly as capitalism develops, the unchanging underlying
structures of that society--for example, THE FACT THAT LABOR IS AN INDIRECT
MEANS OF LIFE FOR INDIVIDUALS--can be taken to be eternal, socially
"natural" aspects of human condition.  As a result, the possibility of a
future qualitatively different from modern society can be veiled (p.301,
emphasis mine).






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