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Abstract

This article proposes a reading of value theory firmly entrenched in the historicist framework of political Marxism; one which gives precedence to social relations and historical development over abstract logic and formal models. It argues that Marx's theory of value can be read as elucidating how social norms are being unwittingly created under capitalism by contrast with precapitalist societies. The article is divided into two sections. The first examines the two main ways in which value is considered within Marxism and highlights the problems that can emerge when taking into account the issue of the specificity of capitalism. The second section offers an alternative formulation of value theory grounded in the notion of alienation. This leads to the conclusion that the idea that value is shaped by labour refers to a political fact about decisions concerning the organisation of the labour process, rather than an economic fact about the expenditure of labour in the process of production. Value reflects the class struggles over the labour process and the norms that govern social life, rather than an embodied quantity of socially necessary labour-time expended within the labour process.

In: Historical Materialism
In: Historical Materialism

Abstract

Marxism has often been associated with two different legacies. The first rests on a strong exposition and critique of the logic of capitalism, grounded in a systematic analysis of the laws of motion of capitalism as a system. The second legacy refers to a strong historicist perspective grounded in a conception of social relations that emphasises the centrality of power and social conflict to the analysis of history. This article challenges the prominence of structural accounts of capitalism by showing how the tension between these legacies has played out within Political Marxism, both orientations already having co-existed, somewhat uneasily, within Robert Brenner’s original contributions to the Transition Debate. Through this internal critique and re-formulation of Political Marxism, we wish to open a broader debate within Marxism on the need for a more agency-based account of capitalism, which builds more explicitly on the concept of social relations, to recover the historicist legacy of Marxism.

In: Historical Materialism

Abstract

This is a response to the contributions to the symposium on our initial article, ‘Political Marxism and the Rules of Reproduction of Capitalism: A Historicist Critique’.

In: Historical Materialism