[OPE-L:2187] Re: Re: Re: Re: value-form theories

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Sun Jan 16 2000 - 23:05:40 EST

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Chris, you seem to have misunderstood me.

At 09:43 15/01/00 +0000, you wrote (OPE-L:2167):
>Just for the record,as a self-styled 'value-from theorist' I in no way
>shape or form accpet Steedman's critique which imo does not even touch
>embodied labour theories. Both embodied labour theories and the
>neo-Sraffians belong in the same group in totally ignoring the constitutive
>role played by money, which for them is just a counter.
>A book I have just reviewed, by Anitra Nelson (also in Australia) is not a
>very good book but at least she sees that and in her typology of Marxian
>theories in the last chapter lumps Steedman with embodied labour theories.
>and puts value form theory in a very different category.

Oh dear. I definitely did NOT put VF theorists in a camp with Steedman. I
did suggest that R&W's rational for VFT was motivated (in part) by an
attempt to put Marx beyond labour embodied theories that MIGHT be subject
to Steedman's critique, *to the extent* that Marx MIGHT be considered to
have held a labour embodied theory of value, and *to the extent* that
Steedman's critique - as a critique of labour-embodied theories - MIGHT be
accepted also as a critique of Marx.

I referenced, as the basis for my statement, a passage from VFS (p.54)
which tells us that Marx's theory is "at least ambiguous" because it "is
not clear to what degree Marx actually distanced himself from the Ricardian
labour-embodied theory of value", and because he derives the key concept of
abstract labour in a context that is not clearly that of capitalism: "The
result is that at some point Marx needs to 'transform' his categories so
that they suit capitalist exchange and production". Then, later in the
same paragraph: "In this chapter - whilst implicitly taking the Steedman
critique of the labour-embodied theory seriously - we hope to provide a
development of the abstract-labour theory of value in the light of
value-form analysis" etc.

Mike W is more explicit in his 1998 paper (CJE,22, p.187):

"Reinstating the dialectic in Marx's account of capitalism is argued to be
the best way of maintaining its coherence after the Sraffian critique. The
key to this involves purging any reliance upon any autonomous labour-value
substructure underlying prices and money".

Hence I wrote in my post:
>>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.

Please note, I am not saying that VFT is to be interpreted this way, only
that it MIGHT be. More to the point, what I am saying here is that VF
theory MIGHT have ORIGINATED as response to the Steedman critique; i.e. I
am speculating that VFT may have initially represented an attempt to put
Marx beyond Steedman's criticisms. Mike W (OPE-L:2141), who has read me
correctly, makes it clear to me that he recognises (thanks to Paul C) the
limitations of Steedman's critique when applied to either labour embodied
theories or to Marx's theory. He also draws my attention to the wider
context within which responses to Steedman AND value-form theories
developed simultaneously, suggesting that "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". Again in
(OPE-L, 2186) Mike W says: "Value-form theory has its own justification, that
is independent of Steedman's critique, and indeed is not subject to it".

I think that, taken together, these posts from Mike answered my speculative
question. Interestingly, however, Riccardo (OPE-L, 2174) raises a possible
point of similarity between VFT and Sraffa:

>My personal opinion about VFT is that it rightly stressed the dimension of
'form' in Marx, but that it has lost the 'substance', and there is no
substance without the form, and viceversa, at least according to Marx. Hic
Rhodus, hic salta. As a consequence, VFT in my opinion has no quantitative
'theory', simply a quantitative 'accounting' (just as Sraffa, who
definitely is not a value form theorist).

Riccardo's point comes very close another question that I was circling
around, but did not want to broach; i.e. that an escape from the Sraffian
critique into the analysis of pure 'form' is a great theoretical advance,
but has a cost? This question very much relates to the discussions with
Fred, and concerns the issue of what constitutes a quantitative theory.

Btw, it is so plainly obvious that Sraffa is not a VF theorist that I did
not think it necessary to say so (thank you Riccardo). On the other hand,
I'm not sure that simply lumping Sraffa with labour embodied theories, and
putting VFT in a separate category - a la Anitra Nelson - does any justice
to a complex relationship. That said, I erred in talking about VFT and
'labour embodied theory' in such general terms. Sorry, Chris, if i've put
you in the wrong box and, so, inadvertantly offended.

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