Volume and value

Andrew Kliman Andrew_Kliman at email.msn.com
Tue Jun 2 11:52:09 PDT 1998

I thank Chris Burford for his kind words.

I'd be delighted to send you the paper by snail-mail, Chris, if you will give me your address (off-list?). Or maybe I should try again electronically?

"One idea I received from Andrew more than two years ago, before he understandably left an unmoderated list, was that Marx's theory of exchange value needs to be placed in the context of an overall concept of social value, which was not specific to capitalist economies.


"What I would appreciate now, and hopefully is reasonably to hand, and is suitable to communication on an internet list, is whether Andrew could give the references to where Marx appears to refer to an overarching concept of value."

The core truth here is that Marx didn't think value is transhistorical. ("Value" is the term he used to refer to that which commodities have in common; "exchange-value" is the *form of appearance* of a commodity's value. E.g., we say a coat is worth 1 oz. of gold; the value of the one commodity, coat, *appears as* a physical amount of another commodity, gold. However, Marx shows, this appearance is misleading, because it is actually impossible for any commodity to be the "substance" of value, as the gold appears to be.)

But I apologize to Chris for having given the impression that Marx thereby thought value (of commodities) is one species of a larger category of value. I don't think he had an overarching concept of value. Indeed, he rejected this more or less explicitly.

The best reference here is his "Notes on Wagner"; I use the text in Terrell Carver, _Karl Marx: Texts on Method_ (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975). (The most relevant passages are cited in the above paper.) He makes clear that Ch. 1 of _Capital_ is not a discourse on the concept of "value," or of "exchange-value," but an analysis of the form taken in capitalism by the product of labor, i.e., the commodity. (The two main purposes of my paper are to clarify the meaning of this difference, and to explain the distinction between value and exchange-value, through a reading of the opening section especially.)

There are also many passages throughout his work (and Engels') that argue that value is not transhistorical, that it pertains only to commodity production and especially to comprehensive commodity production (i.e., capitalism), and that value will not exist under socialism. One important citation is near the end of Ch. 1 of _Capital_ I (pp. 174-75 of the Penguin/Vintage ed.) in which he says that value belongs to a society in which "the process of production has mastery over man, instead of the opposite." Many other passages are cited in Ronald Meek, _Studies in the Labor Theory of Value_ (NY and London: Monthly Review Press), pp. 256ff. Get the latest edition possible, because I'm not sure this stuff is in the first ed.

Various postmodernists do try to say that exchange-value is one species of value. I think this runs counter to Marx's method, which is to begin from determinate forms of human activity, or the artifacts of that activity (e.g., commodities) rather than from abstractions. I also think it misunderstands his distinction between value and exchange-value.

Not being one of Doug's "The Best and the Fastest," I'm finding it hard to participate on this list, but I will try to stick it out a bit longer. Volume was only one of the problems I had with the proto Marxism list.



Andrew ("Drewk") Kliman Home: Dept. of Social Sciences 60 W. 76th St., #4E Pace University New York, NY 10023 Pleasantville, NY 10570 (914) 773-3951 Andrew_Kliman at msn.com

"... the *practice* of philosophy is itself *theoretical.* It is the *critique* that measures the individual existence by the essence, the particular reality by the Idea." -- K.M.

in capitalist the confusion(preferably by title of work and section, since we may not have the
>same editions).
>I am sure Doug does not want the 113th round of the transformation problem
>but this idea is quite different in character, and I want to think about
>the context in which Marx was using it.
>Chris Burford

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