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

Angelus Novus fuerdenkommunismus at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 29 07:41:20 PST 2011

Julio wrote:

> Volume 3 of Capital was (or the manuscripts that made it into it were)
> written before volume 1.

This is sort of true, but misleading. It's more accurate to say that the manuscripts making up Vol. III are older than the final, published version(s) of Vol. I. Of course Marx wrote Vol. I before Vol. III, but he also polished up and revised the manuscripts from the former throughout the course of his life. So for example, the official French translation (the last version to be overseen by Marx himself) contains many passages from the "Revision Manuscripts" for Vol. I that support those who argue for the "monetary" interpretation of Marx's value theory.

I realize this might come across as irritating nitpicking, but I'm only saying this because I've also said similar things in the past (probably on this very list).

> The general commodity form could conceivably survive the removal of the > conditions that make the money form necessary.

I don't agree with this, and I don't think that Marx would either. Marx's entire analysis of the forms of value in Chapter One is aimed at Proudhonian socialists who wanted to abolish the money form while retaining commodity production, which Marx correctly regarded as an impossibility. Marx's intent is to show the necessity of money to the process of commodity production and exchange. In the most banal sense, a commodity is something exchange (and in our society, produced) for money.

I think the confusion comes in when we regard pre-commodity articles of "exchange", like good being bartered, as "commodities". But if I have multiple copies of an out-of-print book, and my best friend has some rare post-punk vinyl record I want, and we trade, than there hasn't been an act of "commodity" exchange. We just traded some use-values.

> In turn, the commodity form is the form that social cooperative labor
> takes under certain social conditions. It is possible for a society to
> eliminate the conditions that force cooperative labor into the commodity > form, but that does not abolish the need for cooperative labor
> altogether. Thank God.

All of this I agree with, and much of what you write after. On the connection between fiat money and commodity money, I'm still rather agnostic. World capitalism seems to hurtle along without it for the last 40 years or so. But I agree for whatever psychological or sociological reasons, people might be thrown back to some primitive form of "commodity money" in extreme circumstances (nuclear war, environmental disaster, zombie apocalypse (sorry, I'm a recent Walking Dead fan), etc.)

> the logical and historical precedence of commodity production with
> respect to capitalist production proper.

In my previous arguments with Charles, I have never disputed the historical existence of commodity production prior to capitalism. What I have argued against is the existence of a mode of production called "simple commodity production" in which commodities exchange according to socially necessary abstract labor time, according to the conscious calculation of producers. All of this directly contradicts Marx's conception abstract labor as a relationship and process blindly consummating itself behind the backs of the producers.

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