File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 267


Date: Tue, 14 Oct 1997 01:06:57 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: M-I: Concept of Value (was Hugh Rodwell's Dialectics)




On Wed, 15 Oct 1997, ricardo wrote:

> Sid,
>  it would help of you stopped equating exchange-value with price. Hugh is
> right about this too. If unrealised value did not devalue then capitalism
> would not be an historically transitory mode, but rather a terminal mode
> which simply requires a ricardian nationalisation of butter mountains as
> back wages. That of course would make capitalism a permanent fixture and
> reduce our programme to that of peoples' capitalism. Something which Marx
> would not even contemplate.
> Dave.
> 

Exchange value is the "form" that value takes during exchange. This
form can be called price (in labor time units) or whatever. And it is
true that the value of a commodity can be *only* manifested via its 
value-form (exchange-value) in the market. Yet, it is independent of
the exchange process. It is the average labor-time (socially necessary)
that *was* spent to make the object, nothing else. The value of a 
commodity is the bedrock or center of gravity around which its exchange-
value fluctuates. If we fail to clearly and unambiguously understand these
basics, all is in vain. Here is Marx himself:

"It becomes plain, that it is not the exchange of commodities which
regulates the magnitude of their value; but on the contrary, that it is
the magnitude of their value which controls their exchange proportions."

Nothing could be clearer, and yet this simple point has aroused so
much confusion, dispute and debate among the academics. And Hugh is
making the same mistake (unless I have misinterpreted him badly). For
any specific commodity (say, a pair of boots), the relation between
its value and exchange value is one-way, i.e.,

		value of commodity ---> exchange value of commodity

You say that Hugh is right that "if unrealised value did not devalue
then capitalism would not be a historically transitory mode, ...."
What do you mean by the word "devalue" - you seem to be using it in the
normal (imprecise) bourgeois sense. The bourgeois ideologues are
all the time talking about "adding value" but if you ask them exactly
what they mean by this, they will not be able to tell you. And so
they will give a whole panoply of possible answers. [My manager used
to tell this to us all the time - add value, add value ......] 

So say, there is a sudden crash and boots suddenly "devalue"(their price
drops to a fraction  of what prevailed prior to the crash). Are you
then meaning by the word "devalue" that their "value" disappears? If so,
where does it vanish to? Or is it actually that their "exchange value"
drops suddenly far below their center of gravity (i.e., their "value").

The other points you raise concern more with ideology than the subject
of discussion at hand, so it it perhaps best to leave them for another
time.

S. Chatterjee



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