[OPE-L:2141] Re: Re: Re: value-form theories

From: Michael J Williams (michael@williamsmj.screaming.net)
Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 11:57:11 EST

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Thanks to nicola for her erudite interventions in the 'value-form'
discussion. I will get round eventually to responding to the questions that
she directed to me in a recent post.

In the meantime, although I do not qualify as a 'cyber-philosopher', here
are some comments on this more recent post from nicola.

----- Original Message -----
From: nicola taylor <nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au>
To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2000 6:16 PM
Subject: [OPE-L:2125] Re: Re: value-form theories

> (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
> the labour-embodied theory is both inconsistent and unnecessary; Marxists
> must abandon it.

>From a 'history of thought' standpoint, I, at any rate, can confirm that I
was impressed by Steedman's development of the Bortkiewicx, L. v. et al
(1975. "On the Correction of Marx's Fundamental Theoretical Construction in
the Third Volume of Capital", in P. M. Sweezy (ed.) Karl Marx and the Close
of His System by Eugene von Böhm-Bawerk & Böhm-Bawerk's Criticism of Marx by
Rudolf Hilferding. London: Merlin Press, 197-221) interpretation of Marx's
vol III 'price' theory. I was and remain agnostic as to whether that is an
adequate interpretation of the logic of Marx's work. To the extent that I
understand Paul C's recent contribution, I am ready to be convinced that
Steedman's logic is not 'applicable'. Given my 'anti-naturalism' (see below)
I have yet to be convinced that thermodynamics has much to add to our
understanding of human social systems. 'Natural' systems entail neither
intentionality at the micro level nor teleology at the systemic level. IMO,
social systems do.

I'm not convinced, however, that nicola's three responses to Steedman's
critique of this interpretation are mutually exclusive. Confluence of the
'new Australian-German idealism' of Backhaus, Roth, Eldred, Hanlon, etc. and
the abstract labour (Rubin 'rediscovered'), 'Antinomies of Capital ' and
'real abstraction' (Himmeleweit & Mohun), the 'Value theory of labour'
(Elson) and the 'rediscovery' of Marx's own fragment on the value-form
provide the proximate background to the (re-)emergence of interest in a
value-form interpretation of Marx that seemed to finesse the Steedman
critique of the mid-1970s. But the value-form perspective may be
complementary to some of the more recent quantitative attempts to model
abstract labour without regressing to 'labour-embodied', and indeed to some
of the empirical defences of Marx's vol I theory of value.
> 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.

VFS certainly discusses and I would say accepts the notion of the
real-abstraction of abstract from so-called concrete labour by the
value-form system reproduced more concretely by the capitalist system of
markets, as I think the antecedents indicated above suggest.
> (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'.

'Naturalism', as you imply, has a diverse connotation. The naturalism that I
eschew is the 'unity of science' notion that social are or can be just the
same as natural sciences. To this from an irreducible intentionality at work
in social science's objects and related characteristics such as reflexivity.
More grandly, it seems to me that intersubjective thought and action is
partly constitutive of social systems, giving the 'paradox of realism' extra
bite in matters social.

Finally, nicola is right to intimate that a slide into radically relativist
post-modernist subjectivism is pre-empted in my take on value-form theory by
the constraints on agency imposed by these social systems so constituted,

comradely greetings.

Dr Michael Williams
Economics and Social Sciences
De Montfort University
Milton Keynes
fax: 0870 133 1147
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