[OPE-L:2153] Re: value-form theories

From: Andrew Brown (A.N.Brown@uel.ac.uk)
Date: Fri Jan 14 2000 - 11:48:41 EST

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Desparately brief response to Chris and Fred:

I wrote:

> >When replying to Fred you argued that the fact that money is
> >the 'form' of value would indicate that value is itself a
> >substance. Not so, I argue. Rather, the fact that the substance
> >of value is abstract labour (so 'ghostly') means that value
> >requires an appearance form, which turns out to be money.
> >Value must express itself in its own opposite, viz., use value.
> >

Chris responded:

> 2. But if value is the appearance of AL then it should already be
> like your ice. Why is there an extra step? Why have we got to relate
> things?


Here you have merely pointed out an aspect of the disanalogy
between the notion of natural substance (as illustrated by the example
of H2O) and the notion of the substance of value (abstract labour). In
my original exlplication of value and substance I tried to made this
aspect clear (my subsequent reply added another aspect of
disanalogy). To summarise, the substance of value is abstract labour.
This is a peculiar and social substance in that: (1) it is ghostly, so
requires an appearance form - that is to say congealed abstract labour
(=value) must appear in its own opposite which is use value; (2) it
(abstract labour) does not exist in its fluid state except as an aspect of
concrete labour (I differ from Elson and many others on this point).

Thus, as far as I can tell, the major criticisms that you have tried to pin
on the notion of substance of value do not apply. You are left with,
not some major flaw or contradiction, but merely a question as to why
the 'extra step' (that of incorporating 'congealed abstract labour') is

Let me answer that question. In brief, the notion of substance emerges
from the view that, if things have identical powers, then they have an
identical essence (ie the same substance). I argue that, if this view
(which relates back to the discussion of measurement on this list) is
not incorporated by a philosophy then that philosophy immediately
collapses to Humean scepticism. (Hume's denial of the possibility of
knowing real essences being the key to his philosophy, imo). On this
view, Marx is absolutely right to move so swiftly from equivalence in
exchange to the notion of peculiar and social substance since such a
move, from equivalence to substance, is the presumption of science
(of rationality itself) on pain of Humean scepticism. [Meikle's Aristotle
might have a similar view on this point? - though to refute Hume it
would be necessary to tackle Hume's point on real essences, rather
than merely giving pragmatic arguments].

Re labour and 'what every child knows': yes, at the stage of
introduction of abstract labour, price *magnitude* has only very wide
limits. Only once we reach capital does abstract labour impose itself.
But this is no reason not to recognise abstract labour as the substance
of value; as you agree, to miss such recognition is to succomb to

Re 'pure transcendental form': I was struck by Nicola's point about
the dangers of talking past one another. I must confess that I find it
extremely difficult to fully grasp a systematic dialectical view that
doesn't hold value to be congealed abstract labour. I oscillilate
between thinking you (Chris) are close to my view and thinking you
aren't. This substance business is the problem. For me, the heart of
the differences lies in the point regarding Hume, above. So, I wonder
what you, and others, make of that point (presumably, not alot, given
the ridiculous brevity).



Amazing that you agree on the point that philosphical and economic necessity might be compatible (with the latter 'confirming' the former, to speak crudely) - have you seen such a view elaborated upon in any published article or book? From your comments, and your paper criticising value form theory (which I highly recommend), the main point I would first raise concerns your notion of Marx as a realist with the associated criteria of 'explanatory power' and the rest (as in Derek Sayer's book on Marx's method). The trouble here is apparent from Murray's critique of Sayer which I have referred to previously. This underlies Murray's mild critique of an article of your's in his 'redoubled empiricism' chapter. There is lots to say on this, but, for now, I merely suggest that 'explanatory power' is not, on its own, anywhere near sufficient to differentiate opposing theories - I seem to remember Chris made a similar point. (Murray himself demonstrates conclusively that Sayer's specific attempt to pin down Marx as employing only such 'realist' criteria is circular). This point may be lurking behind the discussion of the 'separate' existence of abstract labour and price.

Very sorry for brevity and sloth. Many thanks to all. (Especially excited that Michael and Geert have joined the discussion! - very glad to meet you Geert).


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