Jean Cartelier– ‘Marx’s theory of value, exchange and surplus value: a suggested reformulation’

Here is an interesting article by a French value theorist I know little about. (If you know anything about Cartelier, or his milieu, please let me know):

The concept of a commodity society based on a specific division of labour (i.e. opposition between private and social labour) and that of surplus value are the most prominent achievements of Marx’s intellectual efforts in dealing with the economy of capitalism. This paper attempts to evaluate the consistency of the theoretical propositions inherent in these concepts. The main contention is that an internal criticism of Marx’s theory of exchangeandsurplusvalueleadsonetorestateitinadifferentframework. Thisframework, which may be called the ‘monetary approach’, represents an alternative to the theory of value.

The reading of Marx which is deployed here is a conceptual one, and the argumentation is purely logical. Some Marxists would argue that such a treatment is unfair and incorrect since Marx’s logic is both historical and dialectical and since his aim is not only a posi- tive theory of capitalism but also a critique of political economy. In such a view, the approach of this paper would not be Marxist. However, polemics aside, there is no rational argument against applying to Marx’s thought exactly the same criteria which are currently applied (by Marxists as well) to ordinary economic theory. There are no a priori reasons for Marx’s theory not to be submitted to the usual tests of internal consistency.

The first section of the paper is devoted to Marx’s theory of value, especially to the form of value analysis. I suggest that Marx did not succeed in deriving the concept of money from that of commodity. A careful reading of Capital, chapter 1, shows that money is presupposed by commodity production and cannot be deduced from the exchange relationship. As a consequence, money has, if anything, to be presupposed at the very outset, at the same time as the specific division of labour. To do so is to break with the typical abstraction of the theory of value which substitutes values for monetary magnitudes, where the former are thought of as expressing the essence of society, while the latter express only surface phenomena.

The second section points out the logical inconsistencies which make the theory of surplus value unsuitable for its intended purpose. A reformulation will be suggested in which the monetary character of economic relations is again central.

The rest can be found here.


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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