[OPE-L:7341] Re: Re: Re: Re: cogoy and environment etc.

From: ECUSERS (ECBURKE@scifac.indstate.edu)
Date: Wed Jun 05 2002 - 21:49:28 EDT

Dear Rakesh:

I wish I had more time and energy to respond to your very interesting 
post.  And I am not that good at this mode/media of discussion.  (I 
prefer to think about what I want to say for a few months before 
saying it.)  But, in brief, I agree Marx's analysis is based on a 
dialectic of value and use value.  The issue of how this relates to 
material and energy throughput in production (including the valuation 
of waste, etc.) is very interesting.  Marx draws our attention to the 
divergence of unit commodity values and the amount of material and 
energy throughput per hour of social labor time as capital develops 
production.  I agree, in short, that the ecological significance of 
Marx's value analysis must keep in mind use value (which always 
involves the combination of labor -- itself a natural force -- and 
nature) as the necessary vehicle of value and capital accumulation.  
This is exactly the point of view that Altvater and others (including 
myself) have developed in response to the notion that Marx's value 
analysis is somehow anti-ecological.  The other central point is that 
for Marx, value is not a normative, transhistorical concept but 
rather a historically specific form of wealth or use value.  Many of 
Marx's ecological critics fail to distinguish these two conceptions 
of value.

In short, I agree with virtually everything you say below except for 
the conclusion that value analysis is somehow an obstacle to 
environmental analysis.  For me, value analysis always encompasses 
the contradictions between use value, exchange value, and value.

Getting into this further requires among other things some discussion 
of rents.

Cheers, Paul Burkett

> Hi Paul Burkett,
> I am interested in  the implications for environomental analysis of 
> the use value side of Marx's theory. I have not read your book, and 
> understand that you deal with such questions in detail.
> It would seem that attention only to value would obscure the problem. 
> To be simple: Marx gives the example of how the quantity of  the 
> cotton once worked up a single spinner at a spinning wheel in a 
> normal working day pales in comparison to the quantity of cotton 
> worked up by a single spinner in a modern factory in a single working 
> day, though the value of this worked up cotton may be the same in 
> both cases! This seems to me a key example.
> For only  once we realize that Marx's theory is a dialectic of use 
> value and value--and I agree with Steve K about this though I would 
> characterize the dialectic in a different manner but I do think 
> Sweezy underestimates how important use value was to Marx--do we have 
> the basis for an analysis of capitalism in terms of resource 
> intensiveness.
> In a recent post I made a point about how important both the value 
> magnitude and use value or physical quantity magnitude of the surplus 
> is.  In order to understand the resource demands of capitalism, isn't 
> the value of the surplus, i.e, the unpaid living labor time embodied 
> therein, less important than physical quantity of the surplus, i.e., 
> its use value side?
> For example, let's say the laboring population is fixed. The surplus 
> value produced by this fixed laboring population could be relatively 
> constant compared to the magnitude of the surplus in use value terms. 
> Didn't Marx criticize Ricardo for focus on the magnitude of the 
> surplus only in value terms (Ricardo is only interested in net 
> revenue) to the exclusion of attention on the total size of the 
> economy in physical terms and the size of the surplus in use value 
> terms?
> It would seem to me then that value analysis is an obstacle to 
> environmental analysis but Marx's theory is based on a dialectic of 
> value and use value.
> Comradely, Rakesh

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