[lbo-talk] The German Debate on the Monetary Theory of Value

Sebastian Gerhardt moominek at aol.com
Mon Dec 26 04:52:12 PST 2011

Another view: A short excerpt out of my contribution

"InAnd For Itself: Freedom. On the Historical Tendency of a RenewedCritique of the Political Economy of Labour" to the book "beyond Marx" (editors Karl Heinz Roth/Marcel van der Linden), published in german in 2009, to be published in english next year. Translation by Max Henninger.


Asfor the bold rejection of traditional fields of inquiry proposed, inGermany, by Michael Heinrich and other advocates of a ‘monetarytheory of value’,[1] it fails to escape the objective problems associated with Marx’slegacy. While it is surely correct that any analysis of thecapitalist economy that fails to take account of monetary mediationremains blind, it is no less true that a monetary value theory thatsays nothing about the figuration of use value and the employment oflabour power, nowhere intersects with empirical investigation and isunable to argue in quantitative terms remains empty. A scientificsolution cannot consist simply in heroically taking sides by optingfor an arbitrarily chosen position. The point is rather to arrive atnew insights. Positions grounded in the labour theory of value allowone to demonstrate that the use value structure of production isdetermined by the parameters of the labour process itself. The theoryof value is neither superfluous nor a mystical arcanum accessibleonly to the initiate.[2] On the contrary, analysis of the value form’s development beginsprecisely from knowledge of why commodities expose, through therelations between them, a content entirely alien both to their owncorporeality andto their producers.[3]

Marxbegan from these reflections and extrapolated elements of the theoryof accumulation even within the framework of the first volume ofCapital;in the second volume, he developed a first theory of the reproductionof social capital, i.e. of the structure of the social division oflabour; finally, he introduced the notion of the necessary formationof a general rate of profit.[4] Marx was aware that the theory of accumulation cannot be adequatelydiscussed within the framework of the abstractions presented in thefirst volume of Capital.For the expanded reproduction of capital presupposes the successfulrealisation of commodities on the market; the theory of accumulationneeds therefore to take into account categories associated with themature process of circulation (capitalism’s ‘surface’).Moreover, realisation on the market is an aspect of the struggle overdistribution, or of the distribution process, which determines keyelements of capitalism (the real wage, the rate of accumlation, thedistribution of investments and total labour) while simultaneouslyoccluding the categories of the production process (prices ofproduction instead of value, fictitious capital and interest). Supplyand demand are not autonomous forces. They merely reflect superficialnotions of production and individual and productive consumption,processes that relate to one another in multiple ways and don’tneed to be linked together expostthrough politics and forms of regulation. Not only do restrictions onproduction negatively affect the prospects for income from labour andprofit; they also make means available that can be used to curblosses. Economic crises are no superation of capitalism. Theyrepresent the violent restoration of a dynamic equilibrium – evenif one needs, perhaps, to be a Marxist like Anwar Shaikh in order tounderstand this.[5]

SinceMarx had understood that accumulation consists not in the amassmentof wealth but in the reproduction of the capital relation, discussionof classes was moved to the book on capital and could find itssystematically justified place nowhere but at the end of the thirdvolume. Objective class position is decided not by one’srelationship to individual aspects of the abstract labour process,which in fact has long featured several collective labourers as itsagents, but by the ways in which one’s social position isreproduced. The integrated theory of accumulation Marx strove toformulate would in fact have provided us with modern bourgeoissociety’s law of movement. But the task lay far beyond the capacityof any single person.

[1] Michael Heinrich, Die Wissenschaft vom Wert, Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot, 1999.

[2] Gerhardt, ‘Arbeitswert, Kreislaufbetrachtung und Profit’, working paper, unpublished

[3] The substance of value cannot be shown other than through exchange. Thus the rule of exchange appears as the property of a related thing, and money appears not as a medium for representing the general (or as a standardised measure), but rather as the general itself. “All forms of society, in so far as they reach the stage of commodity production and money circulation, take part in this perversion.” MECW, vol. 37, p. 814.

[4] Evidently, a distribution of proceeds and hence of the means of accumulation that follows the rule ‘price = labour value’ as formulated in the first volume of Capital would lead to (relative) overaccumulation in labour-intensive and insufficient investment in capital-intensive branches of the economy. The resulting discrepancy would entail limits on production even in labour-intensive branches once all reserves have been used up (due to lack of supplies). In the USA, the level of internal sourcing of gross investment has never sunk below 80 percent since 1960 (sometimes rising considerably higher); in the German Federal Republic, it has not sunk below 60 percent. Till van Treeck/Eckhard Hein/Petra Dünhaupt, Finanzsystem und wirtschaftliche Entwicklung: Tendenzen in den USA und in Deutschland aus makroökonomischer Perspektive, Düsseldorf: Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, 2007. A greater or smaller proportional reduction presupposes a relatively unified growth rate across all reproductive branches; this growth rate is represented by the dual of a unified rate of profit in the production price system. See e.g. Luigi Pasinetti, Lectures on the Theory of Production, London/Basingstoke: MacMillan 1977.

[5] [http://homepage.newschool.edu/~AShaikh/].

-- www.hausderdemokratie.de www.lunapark21.net http://planwirtschaft.wordpress.com/

-----Ursprüngliche Mitteilung----- Von: Angelus Novus <fuerdenkommunismus at yahoo.com> An: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu <marxism at acidification.economics.utah.edu>; lbo-talk <lbo-talk at lbo-talk.org> Cc: pen-l <pen-l at sus.csuchico.edu> Verschickt: So, 25 Dez 2011 7:29 pm Betreff: [lbo-talk] The German Debate on the Monetary Theory of Value

A good brief sumamry in the form of a book review, from Science and Society 72, 4 (2008)

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