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Value in Marx

Value in Marx: The Persistence of Value in a More-Than-Capitalist World

George Henderson
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Value in Marx
    Book Description:

    Long prone to dogmatic disagreement, the question of value in Marx's thought-what value is, the purpose it serves, its application to real-world capitalism-requires renewal if Marx's work is to remain vibrant. InValue in Marx, George Henderson offers a lucid rereading of Marx that strips value of its turgid theoretical reduction and reframes it as an investigation into the tensions between social relations and forms as they are rather than as what they could otherwise become.

    Drawing on Marx'sCapitalandGrundrisse, Henderson shows how these volumes do not harbor a single theory of value that equates value to capital. Instead, these books experimentally compose and recompose value for a world that is more than capitalist. At stake is how Marx conceives of human freedom, of balanced social arrangements, and of control over the things people produce. Henderson finds that the limits on social becoming, including the tendency toward alienated existence, haunt Marx even as he looks beyond the critique of capital to an emancipated society to come.

    Can these limits be confronted in a creative, even joyful, way? Can they become aspects of what we desire, rather than being silenced and denied? As long as we persist in interpreting value broadly, following it as an active and not a shut-down, predetermined feature of Marx's texts, Henderson ultimately views Marx as responding positively to these challenges and employing value as a powerful tool of the political imaginary.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3968-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Did Marx Have a Theory of Value?
    (pp. ix-xxvi)

    The theory of value, readers of Karl Marx know, occupies a prominent place in his writings and his politics. This is so because it is capitalism to which value seems most attached: capitalism taking Marx’s world by storm, value being the predominant lever for the study of political economy in his day. Where capitalism would rudely heap everything on the market, from bibles to whiskey, and where the self-same dollar could buy passage to heaven or hell, as it were, and in the bargain upend the difference,valuewould coolly reveal the equivalences holding this chaotic jumble together—this “immense...

  5. Part I

    • 1 The Value–Capital Couplet and How to Break It
      (pp. 3-34)

      How odd that value, the great compass by which nearly everything in Marx’s political economy can be found—commodity, capital, labor, etc., etc., etc.—eludes easy use. No sooner does the needle point north to capitalism as the treacherous land ahead than northmoves; the needle spins and points to other lands—utopian socialism, associated production, and some other et ceteras Marx gets to in the first chapters ofCapital.It is not that any of these lands might be the one true north which causes value’s way-finding abilities to shift. It is that Marx himself is this north, and...

    • 2 The Politics of Capitalist “Totality” in a More-Than-Capitalist World
      (pp. 35-56)

      The argument that value, properly understood, presupposes capital and all the forms Marx elaborates for it in the chapters and volumes ofCapitalbeyond those I have considered so far is sometimes deployed to emphasize that when Marx analyzes simple circulation (C . . . M . . . C), he does not mean that such a social form actually exists or is a historical precursor to capitalism proper. Rather than outlining a separate mode of simple commodity production or independent/petty commodity production, Marx is developing a first cut at the value theory that contains the presumption of further theoretical...

  6. Part II

    • 3 The End of Value (As We Know It)
      (pp. 59-88)

      The third volume ofCapital, like the second, assembled for publication by Engels after Marx’s death, is a mammoth tome designed to explore further the themes of the preceding volumes and perhaps to begin the task of integrating them—in flawed and confusing fashion, many have argued. Readers of volume 3 primarily see it as Marx’s major statement on how labor values and commodity prices, acknowledged to be different in volume 1 though not dealt with there, are theoretically reconcilable, the former now proved as the basis of the latter. This is the famous transformation problem to which I alluded...

    • 4 From Necessity to Freedom and Back Again: Abjected Labor, Tainted Value
      (pp. 89-108)

      No. But also, yes! Sort of. Repeatedly, Marx shows that value is a problem that eludes capital’s apparatuses. In showing us that capital is a failed attempt to give determinate shape and form to value, he shows that value, in an alternate reckoning, lies elsewhere, in a world that remains to be made. It is a very risky strategy, as I have suggested, for the more he repeats his point, leveraging this, that, and the other mechanism or outcome of capital to do so, the more he conjures a set of problems whose solutions are hardly automatic or self-evident. Indeed,...

  7. Part III

    • 5 The Value Hypothesis: Three Scenes for a Political Imaginary of Value
      (pp. 111-148)

      In the summer of 1868, Marx wrote a letter to his then-friend Ludwig Kugelmann that gathers together many of the core themes I try to ferret out in this book. In frank annoyance with his detractors, he writes:

      All that palaver about the necessity of proving the concept of value comes from complete ignorance both of the subject dealt with and of scientific method. Every child knows that a nation which ceased to work, I will not say for a year, but even for a few weeks, would perish. Every child knows, too, that the masses of products corresponding to...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 149-160)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-168)
  10. Index
    (pp. 169-171)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 172-172)