Uno Kōzō (1897–1977) was Japan’s foremost Marxian economist. His critique of Marx’s method in Capital, especially regarding the ‘premature’ introduction of value-form analysis in Volume I, motivated him to rewrite all three volumes of Capital in his book The Principles of Political Economy (1950–2).
Notwithstanding Uno’s increasing popularity in international Marx research, I will present a critical paper that looks at a fundamental misunderstanding in Uno’s reading of the value form. In what is one of the most significant discussions of the value form in postwar Japan, Uno argues that ‘value’ and money as its ‘bearer’ cannot be understood in abstraction from personal interaction and human wants in commodity exchange. By drawing on the Japanese documents and supporting the view of Uno’s rival Kuruma Samezō (1893–1982), I want to show that it can, and how Marx understood the ‘law of value’ as a non-personal law of social domination.
FurihataSetsuo‘Entwicklung des japanischen Kapitalismus und marxistische Wirtschaftswissenschaft in Japan’[The Development of Japanese Capitalism and Marxist Economics in Japan]PROKLA. Zeitschrift für politische Ökonomie und sozialistische Politik1987667690
HeinrichMichaelDie Wissenschaft vom Wert. Die Marxsche Kritik der politischen Ökonomie zwischen wissenschaftlicher Revolution und klassischer Tradition[The Science of Value: The Marxian Critique of Political Economy between Scientific Revolution and Classical Tradition]1999MünsterVerlag Westfälisches Dampfboot
KataokaKōji‘Kahei seisan ron no hihanteki kentô. Kahei no sonzairon josetsu’[Critical Research in the Theory of Money Production: An Introduction to the Ontology of Money]Keizaigaku Zasshi1994953/4133153
KubotaKen‘Die dialektische Darstellung des allgemeinen Begriffs des Kapitals im Lichte der Philosophie Hegels. Zur logischen Analyse der politischen Ökonomie unter besonderer Berücksichtigung Adornos und der Forschungsergebnisse von Rubin, Backhaus, Reichelt, Uno und Sekine’[The Dialectical Presentation of the General Concept of Capital: The Logical Analysis of Political Economy with Special Consideration to Adorno and the Research Results of Rubin Backhaus Reichelt Uno and Sekine]Beiträge zur Marx-Engels-Forschung. Neue Folge2009HamburgArgument-Verlag
KurzRobertGeld ohne Wert. Grundrisse zu einer Transformation der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie[Money without Value: An Outline for the Transformation of the Critique of Political Economy]2012BerlinHorlemann
MasakiHachirō‘Marxsche Wertformtheorie als notwendige Kombination zweier Methoden. Eine methodologische Reflexion’[The Marxian Value-Form Theory as a Necessary Combination of Two Methods: A Methodological Reflection]Osaka City University Economic Review1986211941
Marx1961pp. 552–3. All translations from the original German and Japanese reference-literature quoted in this article are my own except where otherwise indicated.
Walker2012pp. 15–37. I refer to this work in a footnote below.
See Oguro1986p. 24.
Hoston1986p. 38. For a good overview of the Kōza-ha-Rōnō-ha debate see Hoston 1986 pp. 35–75; Sugihara 1987 pp. 27ff.; Itō 1980 pp. 22ff.; Gayle 2003 pp. 24ff.; Hoff 2008 pp. 48–52.
Hoff2008p. 98. See Fukumoto 1926.
Morris-Suzuki1989p. 80. See Hoff 2008 p. 97.
See Kuruma2008p. 73. Original references: Uno and Sakisaka 1948 pp. 142 157 159 160.
Uno and Sakisaka1948p. 166.
Uno and Sakisaka1948pp. 233–4.
See Kuruma2008p. 95.
Uno and Sakisaka1948p. 164. See also Kuruma 2008 p. 113. Uno’s overall rejection of the ‘substance’ or labour theory of value – and consequently his somewhat twisted understanding of Marx’s radical break with classical political economy – is probably best reflected in the following excerpt from the same book: ‘The abstraction of value from the exchange relation between two commodities discarding their owners is similar to the abstraction of fruit from pear and apple. . . . We must comprehend the relation between two commodities subjectively from the viewpoint of the linen owner not objectively apart from both owners. If we start with such a formalistic abstraction as commodity linen and commodity coat to have something in common (a third which is neither linen nor coat) it is difficult to understand the true meaning that the linen is in the relative form with the coat in the equivalent form.’ (Uno and Sakisaka 1948 p. 178 emphasis added.) However to ignore the ‘formalistic abstraction’ of reified human expenditure of labour power means also to ignore the whole idea of Capital I claim: why in societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails human labour necessarily takes the form of value – the very condition under which commodities (‘bearers of value’) could be and are matter-of-factly exchanged.
Kuruma1957pp. 24–5. I will quote the passage in full length below.
Marx2008p. 101. Emphasis added.
Kuruma1957p. 82. The corresponding passage in Marx is the following: ‘We see then that everything the analysis of commodity value told us before is told by the linen itself as soon as it interacts with another commodity the coat. Except that it reveals its own thoughts in the only language it is familiar with the language of commodities. In order to say that its own value is created by labour in its abstract quality of being human labour it says that the coat in so far as it counts as its (the linen’s) own equal therefore being value consists of the same labour as the linen does itself. In order to say that its sublime value-materiality [Wertgegenständlichkeit] is different from its materiality as a stiff canvas-like body it says that value looks like a coat and therefore – in so far as the linen itself is a value-thing – it and the coat are as alike as two peas.’ (Marx 2008 p. 67.)