On Materiality and Social Form: A Political Critique of Rubin's Value-Form Theory

In: Historical Materialism
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  • 1 Department of Politics, University of Manchester;, Email: guidostarosta@yahoo.co.uk
  • 2 Faculty of Economic Science, University of Buenos Aires;, Email: akicillof@gmail.com

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This paper critically examines I.I. Rubin's Essays on Marx's Theory of Value and argues that two different approaches to value theory can be found in that book: a more 'production-centred' value-form theory uneasily co-exists with a 'circulationist' perspective. This unresolved tension, the authors claim, reflects a more general theoretical shortcoming in Rubin's work, namely, a problematic conceptualisation of the inner connection between materiality and social form that eventually leads to a formalist perspective on the value-form. Furthermore, the paper argues that all those antinomies are an expression of the historical and political context underlying Rubin's work, in which Marxism was being codified as state ideology. The political implications of Rubin's formalism are explored through the critical examination of its consequences for the comprehension of the social determinations of the revolutionary subjectivity of the working class.

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