[OPE-L:2125] Re: Re: value-form theories

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 13:16:11 EST

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Hello, Geert, thanks for your terrific contribution (OPE-L,2062). I have
time to tackle only one of your points (in no. 4):

>(Andrew Brown in
>1872 is right that it is argued in VFS that abstract labour time
>determines the magnitude of value - for my part Andrew, no need
>to get you straigt; there is no huge gulf between `Capital' and VFS
>(see also Mike W. in his 1996 posted by Jerry and #5 below)

(1) Perhaps the gulf is between different readings of 'Capital': between
(i) readings that apparently ignore the importance of Steedman's (1977)
critique of labour embodied value theory, and continue to see Marx's
development of this theory as a big contribution; (ii) readings that do
accept Steedman's critique, but do not accept that it applies also to Marx;
and (iii) those that accept both the critique and it's applicability to
Marx, to the extent that his concept of abstract labour can be said to be
derived from concrete labour (here readings of different editions of
'Capital' complicate further).

I see VFT (circa 1989) as falling into the third category. Indeed the
motivation for reconstructing value theory, summarised VFS (1989, p.54),
might be interpreted as an implicit acceptance of Steedman's thesis: Marx
began with (or retained) a labour-embodied theory of value (Marx's theory);
the labour-embodied theory is both inconsistent and unnecessary; Marxists
must abandon it.

(2) Another related issue, which probably has more relevance for inter-VFT
debate, is about 'substance'. I am not sure that the old question of the
ontology of abstract labour can simply be avoided by reconstructing the
category as a 'determination' in a logical system (as in Geert's OPE-L,
2062). Surely this simply poses yet another question of how the
determinations arrived at through the application of Hegelian logic can be
related to Capitalist reality; or, put as a question, how exactly does this
logic serve a materialist science? As I understand it, this is the point
behind Chris's and Riccardo's emphasis on abstract labour as a 'real
abstraction', and capital as subject (ontological inversion??), as well as
their reconstruction of the capital-labour relation through an opposition
of labour as 'activity' and labour as 'dead' (cf Napoleoni). I am not yet
clear on how Geert sees the relation of thought to reality.

(3) In establishing how VFT is related to 'Capital' there also seems to be
a need to get to grips with what is meant by 'naturalism'. Geert (in his
1993 chapter) interprets Marx's use of the term 'substance' as a metaphor -
an unfortunate metaphor at that; unfortunate because Neutonian echoes have
not yet been purged from social sciences, so 'substance' might be taken as
a real embodiment. But, is this how Marx took it? I rather think Bloch
was closer to the mark when he attributed to Marx an ontology of
'not-yet-being' where the concept of a defined nature, or defined
substance, is replaced by a processual dialectic between what is and what
is not (and this applies both to nature and to human intentionality); the
world is in the making in every sense. Does this open the door to
post-Modernism? Not necessarily. It might be that Marx already
anticipates Geert's reconstruction of abstract labour as a 'determination';
in which case, there is indeed no gulf.

Any thoughts from our cyber-philosophers on this?

comradely, Nicky

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