Failed Abstraction – The Problem of Uno Kōzō’s Reading of Marx’s Theory of the Value Form

In: Historical Materialism
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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 (–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.

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