I do not deny Marx’s labour theory of value. I only have doubts of the method of its proof.Uno Kōzō, 19651
(In economic theory), the confusion in the issue of money is for a big part characterised by what is understood by ‘capitalism’ – regardless whether the corresponding position is affirmative or critical.Ingo Stützle2
Circulation, or the exchange of commodities, creates no value.Capital Volume I, p. 266.
Of the early works, Value Theory (Kachiron, 1947) presents Uno’s most pertinent study in the substance (jittai), the form (keitai) and the ‘essence’ (honshitsu) of value (kachi). It also contains his first thoroughly conceptualised theory of money, set within a close commentary on the first 6 chapters of Volume I of Capital, opening an outlook onto Capital Volume II, and his main thesis to be elaborated in his later work, the Principles (Keizai Genron), about the theory of value as a theory of social reproduction. The discussion in Value Theory belongs to the ‘theory of pure principles’ or ‘pure capitalism’ within the framework of stage theory, as discussed in the previous chapter, even though the conceptualisation of stage theory as such is only outlined in the early 1950s. In this chapter, we therefore evaluate Uno’s earlier theoretical work to reconstruct his motivation for the theory of principles or pure theory, that introduces the second part of the present volume, ‘The Object of the Critique of Political Economy’.
Saying that Value Theory is representative of the theory of principles in Uno’s three levels-approach is justified on the basis that Uno has not made significant changes to his basic theory of value throughout his entire career. Later works such as the Principles (1950/52), in which the theory of pure capitalism is prominently discussed, but also the 1966 text ‘Two Specific Terminologies in Marx’s Political Economy: Fetishism and Metamorphosis’ fundamentally draw on Uno’s early results and even defend the position maintained in Value Theory. The monograph therefore informs Uno’s theory of value as such and is not restricted to an ‘early period’ of his theoretical interest. In this chapter therefore, we will discuss the ideas developed in Value Theory in broad connection to his later value-theoretical approach.
Value Theory also forms the argumentative basis to the ‘Debate on the Value form’ (Kachikeitai ronsō) taking part within important figures and researchers of Marxist and classical political economy of the Capital Studies Group3 at Hōsei University in Tokyo in 1947 which was first documented in a script of the roundtable discussion in a special series of the journal Hyōron that became known as the ‘Value Debate’ (Kachiron ronsō) of Japanese Marxism.4 The script for Hyōron was re-published as the two-volume monograph Shihonron kenkyū (Studies in Capital) with Kawade Shobō in 1948 and 1949, subtitled ‘The Commodity and The Exchange Process’ (1948) and ‘The Circulation Process’ (1948), co-edited by Uno and Sakisaka Itsurō.5 Because of this debate’s theoretical and contemporary proximity to Uno’s Value Theory, some of the debates’ significant claims, made by Uno and others, regarding the method of value form analysis and the ‘role of the commodity owner’, will also be mentioned in this chapter. I will not take up a detailed analysis of the argument that has taken place especially between Uno and Kuruma Samezō that has been the subject of a previous article.6 Since both aspects – the method of value form analysis and the role of the commodity owner – form crucial aspects of Uno’s value theory, they present the cornerstone of our subsequent evaluation.
We will see why Uno’s assumption that in order to understand the form of value, one has to bring in the commodity owner of the commodity in the relative form of value, has devastating consequences for Uno’s understanding of Marx’s project in Capital. This theoretical basis, informed by the emphasis on use value against value and the mode of circulation against that of production in Marx’s conception, does not only affect the labour theory of value. It also prominently represents Uno’s theory of money as a nominalist theory of functional relations, reminiscent of Samuel Bailey’s functionalist theory of value as a forerunner of marginalist neoclassical economy, as well as echoing in some strands of Analytical Marxism that attempt to separate the labour theory of value from the theory of money, or discard them both as ‘intellectually bankrupt’.7 We will see that in Marx’s conception, the separation of the labour theory of value from the theory of money precisely dismisses the problem of fetishism, and thus ironically invites a fetishistic interpretation of value. In this chapter, we will present Uno’s emphasis on use value and the circulation process to prepare the presentation of value theory as a theory of social reproduction based on the reproduction of use values, that is the permeating claim of his later work, the Principles, and indeed the major hypothesis of the theory of ‘pure capitalism’. The aim of this chapter is to show how Uno’s intervention results in a theory of value without fetish, a theory stripped of the critical core of Marx’s own theorisation of the capitalist mode of production, regressing to the pre-critical (vorkritisch) framework of classical political economy’s theories of value and money.
The analysis of the capitalistically produced commodity forms the setting to Marx’s analysis of the value form in Section 3 of the first chapter of Capital. The aim of the analysis is to determine ‘how, why, and by what means a commodity becomes money’.8 Because more pertinently than in a commodity, value manifests itself in money or gold, ‘value-as-such’, constituting the ‘dazzling’ fetish character of the value forms, it forms the object of the inquiry in this crucial section. Marx therefore defines the task of the analysis of money as something
never even attempted by bourgeois economics. That is, we have to show the origin of this money-form, we have to trace the development of the expression of value contained in the value-relation of the commodities from its simplest, almost imperceptible outline to the dazzling money-form. When this has been done, the mystery of money will immediately disappear.9
The ‘important corrective to Marx’ Uno allegedly made in determining a ‘shift from Marx’s fetishism of commodities to the more fundamental fetishism of money (and ultimately the fetishism of capital itself)’10 will show itself instead to be a derivation of Marx’s ‘three particularities arising from the equivalent form’, which serve as the explanans to money. Money itself is therefore not an explanans, but an explanandum that needs to be based on the particularities of the equivalent form that it assumes in the exchange of commodities, i.e. as ‘value’. This specific Problemstellung informs Marx’s analysis of the value form in the third section of the first chapter of Capital Volume I. Therefore, Marx expresses the task of the analysis of the value form in the need ‘to show the origin of this money form’, in the (apparently simpler) form of the commodity, and its double determination of use value and value. In other words, in declaring the concept of money instead of the commodity form as the basis of fetishism, Uno mistakes the object of the analysis – the ‘dazzling money-form’ – for the analysis of the object. By conducting the analysis of the money form from the vantage point of the ‘double character of labour represented in the commodities’,11 Marx tracks down the fetish-character that the commodity form already assumes, and which finds a ‘more complete’ form in money. Excluding the commodity form from the analysis of fetishism, however, especially the inversion of concrete-useful and abstract-general human labour in the equivalent form of value, would therefore lead to a fatal misconception of the fetishism already at work in money, from which the ‘automatism’ of the capital fetish can only be insufficiently explained. As we will show in more detail, Uno, in his demand for a strictly formal approach to a theory of money, an approach that brackets the significance of abstract labour to refer it – in very dubious fashion – to the production process, gives way to a functionalist reading that disregards the problem of the material expression of abstract labour already effective in the category of money. The theory of value, money, and capital however do not exhaust the topics of Value Theory. Building on his interpretation of value in a ‘pure capitalist society’, Uno concludes that the production of the means of livelihood (use values) is at stake in the reproduction process of capital, so that labour power always has to be readily supplied, even though it cannot be ‘directly produced’ by capital itself. This is the ‘axis’ of pure theory, as we have seen in the previous chapter, and what Uno occasionally – though not in Value Theory – terms the muri of labour power. At the heart of Uno’s value theory lies the idea that the guarantee for capital’s self-sustenance must be provided by the laws of capital circulation itself. In a nutshell, therefore, Uno’s value theory is a theory of social reproduction in the ideal abstract of ‘pure capitalism’, but not a critique of how that social reproduction is organised.12 In the following, we will examine the value theoretical basis for this assumption, starting with Uno’s perspective on abstract labour.
3.1 The Problem of Abstract Labour in Uno’s Theory of Value
3.1.1 Transhistoricity or Historical Specificity?
Value Theory in large parts assumes the form of a commentary on the first five chapters of Capital Volume I, while omitting the Fetish Chapter in Chapter 1 that only appears in the ‘Conclusion’ and anticipating the formulae of the circuits of the three different forms of capital (money, productive and commodity capital) in Capital Volume II. In the extensive introductory chapter to Value Theory,13 in a section called ‘Two or three Warnings about the Object and Method of Value Theory’ (subheaded ‘The Use Value of the Commodity’), Uno proposes that use value contrasted with value in the ‘two factors’ of the commodity must not simply be reduced to the status of the ‘material bearer of exchange value’, but has a social function as ‘use value for others’:
… when the commodity form is given as against use value, we can discuss the commodity for the first time. Accordingly, a use value which acts as the bearer of exchange value can no longer be viewed [simply] as use value. Instead, we have to think of it as the use value of the commodity, as that which undergoes a transformation. A simple use value cannot become the bearer of exchange value. What kind of use value is the use value of the ‘two factors of the commodity’ against value? Needless to say, it is a ‘use value for others’ (tanin no tameno shiyō kachi).14
This thesis is indeed programmatic, as we will see.
In ‘The Labour that constitutes Value’, the first section of the first chapter of Value Theory (‘The Substance of Value’), Uno attempts to undermine Marx’s argument about the ‘two-fold character’ of labour, abstract labour and concrete labour, being productive of value and use value, respectively. For this, Uno takes up Marx’s elaboration on different forms of production, from Robinson Crusoe stories of classical political economy to the ‘association of free men’ we find in the Fetish Section in the first chapter of Capital.15
… it is not right to interpret [the production of use values and of value] by the double character of ‘abstract human labour’ and ‘concrete-useful labour’. We need to acknowledge that, also for Marx, the meaning of the former lay in the point that it appeared as the thing that formed the commodity value. At the same time, the useful labour producing use value cannot be called ‘useful labour’ plain and simple … in Marx’s example of Robinson Crusoe, but also in the ‘association of free men, working with the means of production held in common, and expending their many different forms of labour-power in full self-awareness as one single social labour force’,16 this ‘abstract human labour’ and the ‘concrete-useful labour’ cannot be said to have an antagonistic character as in commodity production.17
Uno admits that abstract labour is the specific form of labour of commodity production as a social relation, especially in the production process, but criticises Marx for conceiving of abstract labour as a distinct feature or aspect of labour in general, as its physiological aspect:
On the one hand, all labour is an expenditure of human labour-power in the physiological sense, and it is in this quality of being equal, or abstract, human labour that it forms the value of commodities. On the other hand, all labour is an expenditure of human labour-power in a particular form and with a definite aim, and it is in this quality of being concrete useful labour that is produces use-values.18
Uno accuses Marx of failing to see the specificity of abstract labour in the production process of commodities. The physiological and transhistorical aspect of abstract labour as ‘essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles and sense organs … whatever may be its nature or its form’,19 serves as proof for Uno that Marx had failed to grasp the specificity of abstract labour in the production process of a ‘commodity-economy’. Though the above Marx quote has often served as the ‘proof’ of the physiological, ahistorical character of abstract labour, if read carefully, the context in which it is set emphasises to the contrary that this ‘physiological aspect’ – being the content (Inhalt) or ‘nature’ of the determinants of value – is not that from which the ‘mystical character’ of the commodity, and hence, its social character, springs: ‘The mystical character of the commodity does not therefore arise from its use-value. Just as little does it proceed from the nature of the determinants of value’.20 Abstract labour, in other words, understood as the ‘expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles and sense organs’, misses the point of the obfuscation taking place in the social character of abstract labour: namely its representation in money. The stakes, therefore, of Marx’s meticulous analysis of the value form in Section 3 of Chapter 1 consist in showing that abstract labour is money, a fact that has not only been missed in Uno, but in the better part of what in recent years came to be known as the ‘abstract labour debate’. This debate can be roughly divided into the advocates of the ‘physiological’, or better, ‘transhistorical’ reading of Marx’s theory of abstract labour, in which the latter entails ‘the material determination of that which in capitalist society is socially represented in the form of value’21 and those propagating abstract labour as the capitalist, i.e. historically specific social form of labour which has nothing to do with any physiological ‘expenditure of labour power’, but is ‘purely’ social and constituted in exchange.22 It is important to stress however that Starosta, Saitō and Sasaki et al. do not deny the social dimension of abstract labour. Capitalist labour, they contend, requires a further specification, however, namely being ‘private’ and ‘independent’ labour performed in a social context of general commodity exchange.23 The conditio sine qua non for value is therefore not abstract, but ‘private’ labour, whereas abstract labour is a transhistorical feature of labour in general, and therefore also a feature of labour in capitalist societies. But neither fraction seems to be interested in the specific methodological question that frames Marx’s investigation of abstract labour, and that is the origin of money. Marx traces it back from the cell-form of the bourgeois economy, the commodity. For only because money ‘is merely the reflection thrown upon a single commodity by the relations of all other commodities’,24 can it function as that which enables the exchange of these commodities. The labour needed to produce a commodity is concrete-useful labour, so that the labour that makes these commodities relate to one another as commodities, i.e. the relation of all commodities, cannot be one particular sort of labour needed to produce one particular sort of commodity. It is, instead, labour in the abstract, labour that represents25 all the concrete-useful labours, but none of them in particular. It is money. Yet, without the concept of abstract labour as money – as the necessary appearance of value, namely its ‘palpable’ form – one could also not confront the justified objections by the ‘transhistoricity’-faction against the ‘purely social form’-faction. This is reflected in Bonefeld’s failed attempt to escape the ‘physiological’ trap by determining abstract labour as the time socially specific to capitalist production. While he acknowledges objections of the ‘transhistoricity’-faction, he leaves them unaddressed, leaving the two interpretations unreconciled. But only by risking one’s professional integrity can one deny that Marx has repeatedly determined abstract labour physiologically, as ‘human labour pure and simple’, in the first chapter of Capital.26 How is this paradox – the social form determination of abstract labour specific to value and surplus value production in capitalism on the one hand, and its physiological, hence transhistorical determination, on the other – solved? We believe it is only solved by carefully regarding the intent of Marx’s analysis of the value form, and that, as we have demonstrated above, is ‘to show the origin of the money form’. It is in money, and money alone, that abstract labour, the ‘expenditure of human labour-power in the physiological sense’, without regard to the specific concrete use values it creates, receives social validity, and that is its historically specific, capitalist form. Only because abstract labour, as the muscle-burning of sugar, regardless of the specific kind of expenditure, represents all the concrete single labours, and yet none of them specifically, can it obtain a physical form in money. In the abstract labour debate, Uno would assume a third position: abstract labour is both a feature of labour in general, as a transhistorical mode of labour, existing alongside concrete labour (but never in opposition to it), and specifically capitalist by virtue of the production process. In its capitalist form, the difference between abstract and concrete labour comes to the fore in the process of production. Abstract labour and concrete-useful labour, as well as value and use value, are not specific to capitalist distribution, however, because in every society, the distribution of useful labours must be meaningfully adjusted. What is specific to the capitalist economy is its form of (mass) production. Uno’s intervention therefore consists primarily in denying the relevance of abstract labour for the process of exchange and distribution. His position is hence in opposition not only to both the ‘transhistorical’ and the ‘historically specific’ fractions, but, more problematically, at odds with Marx’s analysis of the value form showing money to be abstract labour.
In the section ‘The Labour Creating Value’ in Chapter 1 of Value Theory, Uno takes up the question of the character of labour creating value and the value determination of the commodity. He refers to the depiction of Robinson Crusoe in Marx’s Fetish Chapter, claiming that ‘while we certainly cannot say that what Robinson has obtained by his own labour are commodities’,
… these [the products of Robinson’s work] are on the one hand use values, while at the same time they, being products of ‘average labour time’ also clearly have another aspect (betsu no ichimen) … hence, it is not at all strange that ‘those relations [between Robinson and the objects of his ‘self-created wealth’] contain all the essential determinants of value.’27
What, for Uno, are the ‘essential determinants’ of value? When products assume commodity form, ‘necessary labour time in the average’ (heikinteki ni yō suru rōdōjikan) becomes the standard for the relative measure of each single product, and this is when these ‘products’, or ‘things’ (mono) are regarded as ‘values’. In the same way that Robinson must distribute ‘his total activity’ into single useful-concrete labours, a total commodity society must do the same. This is not a problem for the labour of one single individual, but for the individual labour in a society, distribution poses a problem indeed. But ‘necessary labour time in the average’ alone does not turn a ‘thing’ into value. What renders a thing capable of possessing value is that ‘necessary labour time in the average’ turns the labour of the individual into ‘labour that is demanded by society (shakaiteki ni yō suru rōdōjikan)’.28 Throughout the text, Uno relies heavily on Marx’s contention that ‘… nothing can be a value without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; that labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value’.29 From here, Uno attempts to show that there cannot be an opposition between human abstract productive of value and concrete-useful labour that produces particular use values:
We must therefore understand ‘The Double Character of the Labour Represented in the Commodities’, which Marx explains in the second section of the first chapter of Capital, from this point of view: so-called concrete-useful and abstract human labour do not present two oppositional aspects. As an antagonism, they only come to the fore in their specific form in commodity production, a point of which we must be attentive.30
In the same vein that Uno brackets abstract labour for the question of distribution, he assumes the aim of the production of commodities to be the satisfaction of social needs, not the valorisation of value, i.e. in money. With this comes the dubious insight that concrete-useful and abstract labour do not present categories of value, distribution and exchange, but mere categories of a specific form of production that implies large-scale, homogenous, and deskilled labour. Abstract labour loses its value-theoretical relevance in Uno’s interpretation.
As we will see in the following section, Uno derives this conception of abstract labour as denoting a particular form of homogeneous, simplified and contentless labour from the idea that it coincides with the technical development of the capitalist production process. He thereby conflates abstract labour with a particular sort of concrete labour, namely – to echo Ingo Elbe’s critique of Christian Iber’s very similar argument – ‘unqualified manual activity, or at least concrete labour in general. With it, abstract and concrete labour are no longer two different kinds of labour, but one and the same’.31 Consequently, for Uno, both abstract and concrete labour have existed in every historical society in one form or another. Abstract and concrete labour are therefore both social kinds of labour and not opposing factors in the determination of social mediation in the capitalist process in particular. Hence, for Uno, the introduction of and the one-sided stress on abstract labour at the outset of Capital muddles the meaning of the value form. Anticipating the discussion of the methodological objection Uno makes against the ‘premature’ introduction of abstract labour in Marx’s Capital, we will see in the following how Uno defends his claim32 that only in the difference between dead and living labour in the production process (as described by Marx in Chapter 7 of Capital Volume I) can the distinction between abstract and concrete-useful labour be proven. First, however, we shall concretise Uno’s idea of abstract labour.
3.1.2 Deskilling and Simplification as the Historically Specific Aspects of Abstract Labour
One must especially be careful of Uno’s understanding and definition of ‘social’ here, an understanding that informs his central thesis in Value Theory: ‘social’ does not primarily denote the encompassing mechanism of the total structure of both the production and the circulation process. It rather denotes the function of abstract labour to produce a value that is essentially ‘use value for others’. In being use value for others consists the social dimension of abstract labour:
In the commodity, useful labour was not united with abstract human labour as such. Rather, the same labour came to be united in the antagonistic relation of being on the one hand already useful labour for others, on the other hand one’s own human labour that had to be realised (jitsugen seraru beki) in the useful labour for others.33
Uno contrasts concrete useful labour as ‘private’ and abstract labour as ‘social’ – its difference to useful labour being expressed by the monotonous, contentless character it asssumes in capitalist production. This is also how he differentiates ‘individual production’ (kojinteki seisan), directed at self-subsistence, from ‘social production’ (shakaiteki seisan) in which the owner of the commodity, by bringing it to the market, mediates the social nexus ‘for others’, since the commodity has no use value for him. Uno quotes Marx: ‘[Labour as the creator of use values] is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself’, omitting Marx’s important addition that labour, as the creator of use-values, ‘is independent of all forms of society’ and cannot therefore present what is characteristic about capitalist society.34 For Uno however, because abstract and concrete labour do not form opposing aspects, he is at pains to argue the social status of value in specifically capitalist societies. Indeed, Uno refuses to share Marx’s objective in showing why ‘the aim of producing capital is never use value’.35 To paraphrase Uno, if abstract labour has a social function, it must be its function as producing use value for others. Hence,
[to] sum up, the labour that produces commodities transforms the two aspects of concrete-useful and abstract labour into the double character of private and social labour.36
Needless to say, also for Marx social production is production ‘for others’, i.e. for all members of society, but he clearly separates the content of ‘social production’, which concerns all historical epochs, from the social form in which this takes place under capitalist conditions: ‘[i]t is self-evident that this necessity of the distribution of social labour in specific proportions is certainly not abolished by the specific form of social production; it can only change its form of manifestation’.37 In this sense, Ernst Michael Lange correctly emphasises that Marx’s rejection of the Smithian dogma of the allegedly natural ‘propensity to exchange’ is not so much motivated by his critique of fetishism, but rather, in viewing ‘the only legitimate realisation of the human-specific disposition of the “ability-to-produce-for-others” in the immediate, direct socialisation of labour’.38 This immediate, direct socialisation of labour however is achieved by money, a form of value that contains ‘not an atom of use value’.39 For Uno, the conditions of capitalist social production also mark the difference to the ‘Robinsonaden’ in which the social cannot be expressed in ‘use value for others’, but is an individual product ‘out of necessity’ (hitsuyō ni semararete).40 However, this aspect of necessity, insofar as it is not confined to one individual, is understood as the common factor with commodity production. From the previous, we have seen Uno’s tendency to collapse the difference between abstract labour and concrete labour, as well as value and use value, in his understanding of ‘social’ as ‘production of use values for others’, by disregarding the form of social production in capitalism. The transhistorical concept of both abstract and concrete labour is repeated in the Principles where Uno claims that
[since] Marx first referred to this dual property of labour as ‘the two-fold character of labour embodied in commodities’ (Capital I, p. 41), it has often been misunderstood that only the labour that produces a commodity is endowed with this duality. On the contrary, labour in all societies possesses this property in common. As will be explained later, however, this duality of labour in general is manifested in a more specific form under the regime of commodity production, such that the concrete aspect of labour produces a specific use-value and the abstract aspect a magnitude of value.41
What structures Uno’s determination of abstract labour is the rejection of the view that abstract human labour creates value no matter what:
The view that abstract human labour creates value no matter what is an inversion of Smith who sees the relation between humans and nature as that of commodity exchange. But it is also not Marx’s view. Moreover, this would absolutely misrepresent the formation of the law of value as such. While the ‘essential determinants of value’ are included here, it has an effect as the ‘law of value’, but this determination as such does not appear as value.42
What, then, is required for abstract labour to be productive of value, if abstract labour ‘as such’ does not form a sufficient condition? To answer this, Uno moves on to the issue of the ‘Simplification of Labour by the Development of the Division of Labour’ in the development of the productive forces of capital.
In this section, following up on and concretising the previous section ‘The Labour that Creates Value’, Uno argues that the character of specifically capitalist abstract human labour consists in de-skilling, homogenisation, and standardisation as a prerequisite for ‘socially necessary labour time’, which in turn serves as the determinant of the magnitude of value. He thus introduces the content of developed (industrial) production, so that with the historical development of capitalist economy, standardisation, de-skilling (simplification), homogenisation and mechanisation come to function as the primary qualities of labour in production, related to the development of the division of labour:
This development of the division of labour exerted influence onto abstract-human labour, as the labour that creates value, by its concrete realisation (gutaiteki jitsugen).43
According to Uno, it was the exchange between communities that enforced the development of the division of labour in society, as opposed to manufacture, which already largely generated the division of labour at the workplace.44 Both have become integral to the development of capitalist economies. In this sense, ‘labour as such’ has subsumed the social division of labour in agriculture and industry as an ‘inner social division of labour’, from which we can differentiate another form, the division of labour at the workplace, first taking place in manufacturing.45 The separation of town and country, as Marx states, has been a driving force behind this development.46 In medieval societies, handicrafts still demanded work of dexterity and skill and expressed individual and regional differences. The self-sustenance of rural villages was guaranteed by blending in both artisanal products and the biggest part of agricultural produce – these were not ‘naturally’ separated. Markets were only local or consisted in scattered overseas merchandise. Merchants did not dominate production, and exports were individually and regionally confined. Quantitatively, there was also a natural limit to export. The social division of labour first took place as the separation of agriculture from other kinds of production also through overseas trade. Here, the pivotal role of merchant capital can be seen. This development went hand in hand with the transformation of the productive forces from the emphasis on quality (dexterity and skill) to quantity (mass), so that guild-based artisan organisations lost their foundation. In came the birth of manufactures. According to Uno, the social division of labour transformed its character according to the division of labour at the workplace. Artisans lost their independence and became part-time artisans, and parts of labour that required skill became increasingly separated from parts of labour that were simple to do:
The aspect of mechanisation, the depletion of content (munaiyōka) and the quantification of labour was first realised on the basis of mechanised large-scale industry that established the specific capitalist production method.47
This development had subsequently also encompassed agriculture, ‘which could not escape capitalisation’, because the peasants no longer produced their own means of subsistence, but had to acquire these means as commodities by becoming wage workers.48 This development of the subordination to industrial production of every productive sector however had direct consequences on the nature of labour, which accompanied this trajectory:
Regarding abstract-human labour as the labour that creates value in commodity production, i.e., the commodity form, it first of all begins from what we call the commodification of the surplus produce in a natural economy, which is nothing but external and accidental. The commodity form has made the transition through the division of labour in the professions of the middle ages, and lastly became an internal necessity as the capitalist commodity economy. One must understand the essential basis, which has gradually materialised during this historical development …
By the expenditure of simplified human labour power made possible by mechanised large-scale industry, different forms of labour have been realised. The expenditure of simplified labour power became key to the establishment of this system of production.49
Not only does Uno identify capitalist labour with a specific ‘type’ of labour under the conditions of mechanised large-scale industry. This view also has consequences for the ‘two-fold character’ of labour, abstract and concrete-useful labour: ‘When capital expropriated the direct producers from the means of production, just as the means of subsistence were commodified, the two-fold character of labour already became as one, namely productive labour which does not simply have two aspects. The labour that created value became the active, while the labour that created use values had to become the passive aspect’.50 In the process of the development of the productive forces, use value is rendered passive and loses its importance. Hence the advancement of abstract human against concrete-useful labour in the capitalist production process, which expresses itself as simplified, contentless and homogenous labour, and reaches its peak in large-scale industry. Two aspects appear as problematic in Uno’s conceptualisation. First, Uno sees the negligence of use value originating from the character of the labour process (becoming simplified, contentless, meaningless, quantified), not as a social necessity enforced by the specifically capitalist ‘automatic subject’ of value that posits itself as the aim of production/circulation. The new quality of labour under the condition of the division of labour and private ownership of the means of production is however merely an empirical fact and in itself not yet an explanation for what makes abstract labour productive of value. Second, Uno’s explanatory framework does not conceptually derive the meaning of abstract labour from the opposition to concrete labour. By choosing, instead, an empirical observer status, the concept of abstract labour that is pivotal to the theory of value, remains obscure: abstract labour may then take on this form or another, without being grounded on its distinction to concrete labour. In this sense, Uno conflates the concept of abstract labour with examples of the character labour can assume under conditions of mechanisation, such as being ‘simplified’, ‘homogenous’, ‘de-skilled’, or ‘standardised’ labour. However, the homogenisation of labour in standardisation processes of production and abstract human labour are not the same.51 Two lopsided identifications take place: first, the identification of abstract labour with an empirical and sensuous process (simplified labour in production). This invites the structure of the fetish by identifying a social phenomenon with its natural, observable qualities (and indeed with its transhistorical implications). Here we can detect what Rubin has criticised in the ‘vulgar economists’ as a symptom of their fetishism, namely the ‘identification of the material process of production with its social form’.52 Following from this, the second problematic identification is that of abstract labour with a specific variant of concrete labour. But, as Bonefeld has pointed out, ‘[abstract] labour is not concrete labour, however homogenised, monotonous, repetitive, senseless and boring it might be. That is, boring assembly line work is boring concrete labour, not abstract labour’.53 Abstract labour, as argued before, has no ‘labouring existence’, because it is money. It cannot be expended in the same way that concrete-useful labour is, because it only represents the social value, the social validation of labour in the context of all-encompassing commodity circulation.
The magnitude of its value-creating substance, socially necessary labour time, only receives this specific meaning in exchange for money. This however does not mean that ‘value’ is created in exchange:54 precisely because of the ‘reduction of the products of labour to a homogenous value-objectivity distinct from their multiple various use value-objectivity’ (bei der Reduction der Arbeitsprodukte auf eine von ihrer bunt verschiednen Gebrauchsgegenständlichkeit unterschiedne gleichartige Werthgegenständlichkeit),55 i.e. the condition of possibility for universal exchange, value is a category belonging to the production process, as the ‘expenditure of the self-same human labour power’56 of any individual expenditure of labour. But the difficulty lies in comprehending that despite its creation in the process of production, value does not take material shape unless it is converted into money in the process of exchange. This is where the identity of circulation and production, and production and valorisation finds its exact expression. The difference between material content and social form, concrete labour and abstract labour, and use value and value, which is crucial for an understanding of the specificity of the capitalist production mode, as well as the fetishisms it creates, is however absent in Uno’s discussion. By identifying abstract with concrete labour (and accordingly, value and use value) and claiming its transhistorical existence, though not in the form of ‘homogenisation’ typical for advanced capitalist societies, Uno’s hypothesis fatally stays behind Marx’s own critical concept. For Marx, abstract labour encompasses the totality of labour organisation under the conditions of private ownership of the means of production, wage labour, competition etc. – in other words: under the conditions of capital as a social relation. In Rubin’s words: ‘We cannot correctly understand a single statement in Marx’s Capital if we overlook the fact that we are dealing with events which take place in a particular society’.57 The dissolution of the relation between exchange value-positing abstract labour (tauschwertsetzende abstrakte Arbeit) and money, as enforced by Uno, and his deferral of the methodological locus of abstract labour from value form analysis to the ‘Production and Valorisation Process’, have their origins in this truncated understanding of Marx’s own crucial problematic of abstract labour. In the following, we shall see how Uno conceptualises the production process against the background of the previous analysis. Does his explanation of abstract vs. concrete labour in the particularly capitalist process of production, tantamount to valorisation, stand to reason?
3.1.3 Abstract as Dead Labour in the Process of Production
In the 1969 text ‘The Three Great Economic Laws that Govern Capitalism’,58 i.e. the ‘law of value’, ‘the law of population’, and ‘the law of the equalisation of profit rates’, in the section on value, Uno complains that Marx had failed to specify the kind of labour that went into the production of corn and iron, so that the ‘common denominator’ defined as ‘labour’, or ‘labour time’, was altogether arbitrary. The labour theory of value, in short, cannot be deduced from the exchange process of two commodities, but must be deferred to the capitalist production process itself:
Unlike the products which are exchanged for another according to the necessary labour for their production, where the productive relations under which they are produced is unknown, as in Marx’s exchange between corn and iron (Marukusu no ageta komugi to tetsu to no kōkan no yōni dōiu seisankankei de seisan saretano wakaranai), we should make the production process itself the foundation. In other words, we make the relations fundamental in which capital could produce corn by the labour power it has bought, and also iron, and then these products are first exchanged between the workers. On this basis, it is then extended to the exchange relations between capitalists.59
Moreover, Marx’s mistake of ‘proving’ the labour theory of value from the exchange process fatally informed the Stalinist doctrine of simple commodity production, according to Uno: ‘… Marx himself was out to prove the value of the commodity directly from the process of exchange, which brought about the Stalinist (Suitārinteki), exaggeratedly clear, but false conclusion [of simple commodity production]’.60 Not only is Uno’s failure to grasp Marx’s method of abstraction astonishing – so is the sleight-of-hand reproach against Marx’s introduction of the labour theory of value of having contributed to Stalinist ‘violence’ (ranbō). Rather, we have reasons to believe that this strong accusation is owed to a no less fatal misconception of Marx’s own fetish-critical method. To recapitulate: the exchange relations described as the ‘bourgeois sphere of self-legitimisation’, i.e. simple exchange at the beginning of Capital, concern capitalist relations of production, and these alone. By piercing through the self-representations and fetishisms of simple exchange – as though the exchange between corn and iron were a process unpresupposed by ownership relations, division of labour, competition, etc., merely presupposing ‘commodity owners’ – and presenting the specific commodity producing labour as the common denominator, Marx delivers the critical means by which to demystify this ideological sphere. It is by no means the ‘estimation’ of commodity owners, which gives value to commodities. It is a social process taking place behind their backs. In his presentation, Marx increasingly concretises this social process that gives rise to the illusion of ‘simple exchange’. The presentation of this process however, as we have explained at length in Chapter 1, presupposes capitalist exchange relations and analyses them by starting from the most superficial or abstract, and moving towards its concrete manifestations or fetishisms where its origin in abstract commodity producing labour is obliterated. We have seen that this is precisely the function of the analysis of the value form. Since the problem of fetishism intrinsic to this analysis is anathematic to Uno’s reconstruction, not only his criticism, but also his own theorisation of abstract labour in production is inflicted with serious shortcomings, as we shall see.
In the last chapter of Value Theory, ‘The Essence of Value’ (Kachi no honshitsu), Uno at last presents his exhaustive conceptualisation of abstract labour. For Uno, because abstract labour cannot be derived from the ‘simple exchange of commodities’ in the analysis of the value form, it must be elucidated from the production process of Capital. As we will see, in his interpretation of Chapter 7 of Capital Volume I, ‘The Labour Process and The Valorization Process’, Uno tacitly identifies abstract with dead labour and concrete with living labour. This identification, we contend, is highly problematic. It not only conflates two problem complexes – value as the form in which abstract labour receives material existence, with the ‘unity’ of the production and the valorisation process in which living labour alone produces value – but perverts the meaning of abstract labour to dead labour that is precisely not productive of value. Dead labour in the production process – capital in its forms of material existence of the means of production, ‘past labour in its objectified and lifeless form’61 – ‘absorbs’, or better ‘sucks in’ (einsaugen/aufsaugen) living labour to produce more dead labour-as-capital, be it new means of production or means of consumption. The reason for shifting the discussion of abstract labour away from the analysis of the value form toward the ‘real treatment of the production-process of capital’ can also be found in the Principles, where Uno maintains the logical priority of the circulation forms over the forms of production. It is the former alone in which the general commodity economic norms reveal themselves. The production process, in contrast, ‘conforms to these circulation forms’, because it has been subsumed by the process of circulation:
The forms of human relation peculiar to commodity exchanges … influence the production-processes by reaction, sink slowly into them, and finally take possession of them; the commodity economy thus secures the substantive base of its operation in a production-process by gradually encroaching upon it from the outside.62
Therefore, the analysis of production must succeed the analysis of the ‘pure circulation forms’ of the commodity, money, and capital. Accordingly, abstract labour can only be thematic in the context of production.
Let us take a look at the details of his argument. First, Uno takes up Marx’s example of the spinning process of cotton yarn in ‘The Valorization Process’:
If 6 hours of labour produce 10 kin63 of yarn, then in 10 kin of yarn a certain amount of raw cotton and machinery has been used as against the newly added product of the six hours of labour. Hence, the used 10 kin of raw cotton is the product of labour of 20 hours, and if we assume that the wear and tear of the machine costs 4 hours of labour, then the yarn is the product of 30 hours of human labour.64
Here Uno introduces an important factual distinction:
But to clarify the newly added labour in this case, according to Marx, it has a double character. Of course, the worker doesn’t perform two kinds of labour, but the same labour is in effect in two different aspects: in one aspect, there is the so-called concrete, purposeful labour (yūyō rōdō) that turns raw cotton into yarn. In the other aspect, there is the newly added labour of six hours that as a part of the 30 hours of necessary labour for the production of 10 kin of yarn, stands against the 24 hours necessary for the production of the raw material and the machinery. In the former, (Marx) shows that the raw cotton and machinery are not merely used up, but productively consumed (seisantekini shōhi seraretaru). In the latter, he argues that the consumed raw cotton and machinery are added to the new labour as the products of the same labour, and they are produced as the objectifications of the labour of a certain amount of yarn.65
In the production of new value, two aspects are in effect: on the one hand, the past labour of the materials and machines, on the other hand, the living labour that ‘productively consumes’ the materials and machines as a fraction of the total value of the product (i.e. as 6 hours of a total of 30 hours of labour that are necessary to produce 10 kin of yarn as a final product).
Uno sees these two aspects of the same labour process reflected and verified in Marx’s central argument that living labour alone is productive of new value while at the same time it transfers the value of the machines and raw materials to the new product. Let us consider Marx’s argument quoted by Uno:
The labour-time required for the production of the cotton, the raw material of the yarn, is part of the labour necessary to produce the yarn, and is therefore contained in the yarn. The same applies to the labour embodied in the spindle, without whose wear and tear the cotton could not be spun.66 Hence in determining … the labour-time required for its [the yarn’s] production, all the special processes carried on at various times and in different places which were necessary, first to produce the cotton and the wasted portion of the spindle, and then with the cotton and the spindle to spin the yarn, may together be looked on as different and successive phases of the same labour process.67
It is sometimes rewarding to note what is omitted in quotations. In his quote, Uno omits the small, but nevertheless important nuance of Marx’s identification of ‘value’ with the ‘labour-time required for its [the yarn’s] production’ verbatim: ‘Hence in determining the value of the yarn, or the labour-time required for its production …’ This passage however presents an important concretisation of the labour theory of value in the context of the valorisation process, emphasising the unity of the labour and the valorisation process in commodity production: living labour alone is productive of new value. Uno also disregards this crucial remark from the following passage:
All the labour contained in the yarn is past labour; and it is a matter of no importance that the labour expended to produce its constituent elements lies further back in the past than the labour expended on the final process, the spinning. The former stands, as it were, in the pluperfect, the latter in the perfect tense, but this does not matter. If a definite quantity of labour, say thirty days, is needed to build a house, the total amount of labour incorporated in the house is not altered by the fact that the work of the last day was done twenty-nine days later than that of the first. Therefore the labour contained in the raw material and instruments of labour can be treated just as if it were labour expended in an earlier stage of the spinning process, before the labour finally added in the form of actual spinning.68
Against the background of the analysis of Uno’s tacit identification of living with concrete and dead with abstract labour, this point, made by Marx, is decisive.
Let us just dwell here for a moment and consider what terminological uses of living and dead labour in the context of the labour and the valorisation process we find in Marx. For Marx, living labour and dead labour signify the two components of production in general, while they receive a very special meaning in capitalist commodity production in which the production process simultaneously functions as the process of valorisation. In the first sense, these two concepts pertain to social production as such. In his reflections on ‘The Labour Process’, which is the only chapter in the systematic architecture of Capital that does not exclusively assume capitalist commodity production as its object, Marx says: ‘A machine which is not active in the labour process is useless … Yarn with which we neither weave nor knit is cotton wasted. Living labour must seize on these things, awaken them from the dead, change them from merely possible into real and effective use-values’.69 In a society where the production of use values is not the aim of production, as in capitalism, living labour however belongs to a different nomenklatura. Its consumption is now synonymous with the production of value. Hence:
By turning his money into commodities which serve as the building materials for a new product, and as factors in the labour process, by incorporating living labour into their lifeless objectivity, the capitalist simultaneously transforms value, i.e. past labour in its objectified and lifeless form, into capital, value which can perform its own valorization process, an animated monster which begins to ‘work’, ‘as if its body were by love possessed’.70
Living labour therefore has two meanings, a general one pertaining to social production as such, and a specific one applying exclusively to a system of production where surplus value becomes the ultimate goal of social production. The ‘incorporation’ of living, active labour into dead or past labour, capital, in the process of production, is nothing but the process of valorisation, and presents the character of capital as dead labour feeding on the blood of living labour like a vampire.
Living labour is therefore value-creating labour. In what way does the terminology then inform us of a different meaning from that of abstract labour, as the ‘value-forming substance’?
In short, the terminology refers to two different moments of the methodological explication: while living labour refers to the kind of labour performed in the production and valorisation process in differentiation to dead labour in the form of machinery and other constant capital, abstract labour denotes the substance of value expressed in the fetish-characteristic form it takes as money, as the predominant form of value. While we can sensually experience living labour in its actual process, abstract labour as the value substance is nothing that can be experienced apart from its fetishistic expressions in money, capital, profit, rent, interest, etc. Because it is always-already materialised in a form, which no longer seems to correspond to its origin, it is obliterated or ‘hidden’ in value’s different forms. That does not mean that abstract labour has nothing to do with production, as shown above. Abstract labour however encompasses both production and circulation to figure as the very mode in which the total organisation of capitalist society revolves around value.
However, Uno levels a momentous criticism against Marx’s ‘premature’ introduction of the concept of abstract labour in the simple exchange of commodities, which also figures as Uno’s critique of Marx’s ‘proof’ of the labour theory of value. Uno prefers a ‘clear’ determination of abstract labour in the context of capitalist production/valorisation. But by deferring the presentation of abstract labour until after the significance of dead and living labour are elucidated in the analysis of production, Uno conflates the two methodological levels of the explication of living labour and abstract labour, and introduces a hyperbolic interpretative move that renders his ‘relocation’ of the locus of the ‘proof’ of abstract labour from the simple exchange process to the production process dubious:
As the products of labour, they [the commodities] are products of labour in the sense that they are embodiments of a certain amount of labour. But while we can acknowledge that, in the above example of spinning labour, the labour of the cultivation of the new cotton is a different kind of labour. I want to clearly differentiate this point in which the raw cotton and the spindle and other machinery appear as the products of another labour process in the spinning labour. For example, the productive forces of spinning are doubled, and not 10 kin per 6 hours, but 20 kin are produced (in the same time). There are 20 kin of raw cotton and a doubling of the previous wear and tear of the machinery, but, and as against the 10 kin of yarn as the product of 30 hours of labour, there is no product of labour of 60 hours, but merely a product of labour of 54 hours. Plus, the machinery used in the spinning process … is used as a whole. In contrast, not all of the raw cotton did in fact make the yarn. The raw cotton that is scattered around in the production process does not become yarn. However, since this scattering cannot be avoided in the process of producing the yarn, the labour that went into producing the scattered raw cotton becomes a part of the labour necessary to produce the yarn.
The labour needed for the production of the necessary means of production as past labour is altogether different form the labour of the consumption of labour power in the spinning process. That is, past labour external [not contained in] the spinning process is forming the necessary labour quantity for the production of the yarn as the result of the concretely useful labour of living labour in the spinning process.71
We can witness here, first, Uno’s identification of ‘concretely useful labour’ with living labour that becomes a precondition for the production of the yarn. For Uno, the labour necessary for the means of production is to be separated analytically from the labour as the consumption of living labour in the actual spinning process. It is past labour, but as such directly contributes to the value of the yarn. What then is ‘general abstract labour’? Abstract general labour for Uno is the labour of the cultivation of the cotton, the manufacturing of the spindle, etc., which is considered as a step in the active process of the production of yarn: but as past, as dead labour. Living labour, in contrast, is the concrete production process of the yarn as concrete-useful labour, as the value transfer process. At the same time, however, it counts as abstract labour (like the labour materialised in the means of production) when it is regarded as a value adding component of production. With this denomination of abstract labour to past labour and the value-adding component to living labour, Uno believes the explication of the distinction between the two, allegedly ‘prematurely’ introduced by Marx in the analysis of the value-form, is only justified in the analysis of the production process. In the Principles, he announces that
[labour] in the spinning process … functions on the one hand as what Marx calls concrete-useful labour in that, as it converts raw cotton into cotton yarn, it also preserves the labour time embodied in the means of production such as raw cotton and the spinning machine used up in the process as part of the total labour-time required to produce the yarn. Simultaneously, the same labour functions on the other hand as what Marx calls abstract-human labour in that it adds the spinning hours of labour to the labour hours already materialised in the means of production, regarding them as homogenous components of the total labour-time embodied in the final product. The same labour, in other words, possesses two entirely different aspects, the one being quite specific and the other perfectly abstract. In the present example, the former aspect requires that the labour should be suitable for the production of the cotton yarn; the latter aspect requires that it should not be different, as the expenditure of human labour, from that which is embodied either in the raw cotton or in the spinning machine. A production-process can furnish various specific products only with labour that possesses this dual character.72
In the former case, the labour of spinning, the ‘concrete’ labour in Uno’s view, is regarded as a part (ichibubun to suru) of the whole product, whereas all of the components of the whole labour process, as well as that of past labour, are regarded as one (issō) in the case of ‘abstract-human’ labour. In this reading, machines, tools, any forms of fluids, substances, and additives, i.e., means of production, is understood as the product of abstract labour, while the expenditure of living labour, in preserving the value of these, forms its concrete-useful part. The latter assumes the character of abstract labour, however, on the condition that it is ‘equal’ to the labour materialised in the means of production, which for Uno is abstract-human, dead, or past labour.
But the respective attributions are lopsided: if anything, it is living labour alone that correlates with abstract labour, for only living labour as a part of the production process of capital, is productive of value, and only as abstract labour – in contradistinction to concrete, use value producing labour – can it be quantified in socially necessary labour time, regardless of the specific purposeful activity it performs. This form of labour, abstract labour, has nothing to do with the dead labour materialised in constant capital, and the latter does not form any kind of precondition for living labour to count as abstract-homogeneous labour.
To clarify, we should return to Marx’s terminology and the specific twist he attributes to the subsumption of labour under capital in the valorisation process. What is crucial in this context is Marx’s preliminary distinction between new or added value (Neuwert-Zusetzung) and value preservation (Werterhaltung). Value preservation is not a function of abstract labour, as Marx emphasises: ‘… the worker preserves the values of the already consumed means of production or transfers them to the product as portions of its value, not by virtue of his additional labour as such, but by virtue of the particular useful character of that labour, by virtue of its specific productive form’.73 The process of value adding or producing new value however requires that it is ‘labour in general, abstract human labour’ taking place during a ‘definite length of time’.74 Here socially necessary labour time forms the directive, as quantifiable labour that must be exchanged for a certain amount of money. Ultimately, for Marx, the specificity of value-creating labour is the unity of value preservation and the creation of new value. For, in value’s ‘metempsychosis’ from the means of production to the new product, the worker
is unable to add new labour, to create new value, without at the same time preserving old values, because the labour he adds must be of a specific useful kind, and he cannot do work of a useful kind without making products into means of production of a new product. The property therefore which labour-power in action, living labour, possesses of preserving value, at the same time that it adds it, is a gift of nature which costs the worker nothing, but is very advantageous to the capitalist since it preserves the existing value of his capital.75
In other words, we can notice a specific way that the subsumption of labour under capital comes to the fore in the valorisation process: because here, value preservation and adding new value coincide. Not concrete-useful, but abstract labour becomes the actual denominator, subsuming the form and function of any concrete-useful labour process, in its purpose for quantification in the process of exchange. The specific ‘useful’ kind of labour is rendered automatically abstract by virtue of the specific mode of production, in which ‘making products’ means to turn them into means of production for the next production cycle, labour power included. It is production-for-production.
Uno, however, insists that abstract labour, though being labour’s value-creating property, does not belong to the actual process of production, but is a manifestation of past labour materialised in the means of production.
This analytical segmentation of the components of productive capital to attribute them conceptually to concrete vs. abstract labour in the production process is however problematic, or at least designates where Uno falls short of the insight of the subsumption of concrete under abstract labour in the process of valorisation. For it is precisely the coincidence of value adding and value preservation that marks the specificity of abstract labour, labour that produces value. In Uno’s constellation, which grapples with the value-adding component of dead labour, this specific mark gets lost. Accordingly, what is crucial in Marx’s conceptualisation of the labour-as-valorisation process, namely that dead labour is never productive of value, remains unnoticed. Especially the insight that the production of value depends on the production of surplus value, through the specific properties of the labour-power commodity, is anathematic for Uno. The production of surplus value, for Uno, is rather something that benefits all of society via its production of use values: the reduction of necessary and the increase of surplus labour makes it ‘possible for society to acquire more surplus-products of various use-values’.76 What understanding of ‘society’ is behind this contention? In capitalist society, the production of surplus value is not ‘measured’ in use value, it is measured in value, i.e. socially necessary labour time. Its production is not an ‘option’ (among many) for labour-power. In its specific capitalist form determination, the difference between the paid and the unpaid component of its value product is the sine qua non of capital. Abstract labour, the form determination of concrete-useful labour in its specific capitalist form, has therefore nothing to do with the value component of constant capital. Uno however still owes the proof for the claim he made at the beginning of Value Theory, namely that abstract labour has nothing to do with being a ‘common denominator’ in the exchange process of two commodities with different use values. He returns to this point to maintain that
the spinning labour itself is on the one hand the labour of the cultivation of the cotton, and, while being different from the labour of the fabrication of the spindle, it is general abstract labour. The spinning labour process itself passes through these two aspects. It becomes the production of cotton yarn as the product of a certain amount of labour. Thus, we can see that the fact of wheat and iron that ‘both are equal to a third thing, which in itself is neither the one nor the other’ is of course not simply an abstraction in the exchange process, nor is it an abstraction in thought, but is only known as a proof [from the analysis of] the production process itself.77
To sum up: Uno’s dissociation of the concept of abstract labour from the problem of money and the fetishism of exchange, and its deferral to a ‘clearer’ demarcation against concrete labour in the analysis of the production process, is inflicted with two grave shortcomings:
It misrecognises the specific cognitive interest Marx related to his analysis of the value form. We have already seen in Chapter 1 that the critical function of abstract labour consists in the dissolution of the fetish of simple commodity exchange. By representing only the bourgeois sphere of exchange, the level of abstraction introduced by simple commodity exchange however implies that ‘already other, more complicated relations of production, more or less conflicting with the liberty and independence of individuals, their economic relationships, are the premiss that, as free private producers in simple relations of purchase and sale, they should confront each other in the process of circulation and should figure as its independent subjects’.78 The crucial distinction between abstract and concrete labour hence serves the dissolution of the fetishistic sphere of simple exchange, in showing – in the process of the analysis of the value form – the gradual dissociation of the value of the commodity in the equivalent form from its use value.
Unlike Uno believes, use value is not the motivation for exchange relations. As the equivalent form of value (or the value expression of the commodity in the relative form of value), it assumes the money-form. Not concrete-useful, therefore, but abstract labour, which has no equivalent in any actual labour process, is therefore the substance of value, necessarily expressed in money.
With the preceding discussion of Uno’s lopsided identifications, the ‘clearer’ demarcation of abstract labour in the context of production has, to the contrary, become more confused. If, then, the persuasive power of Uno’s ‘deferral’ of the discussion of abstract labour to the analysis of production has suffered in the hands of the above discussion, does Uno’s criticism of Marx’s analysis of the value form and the labour theory of value recover a more substantial ground with the introduction of the commodity owner as a heuristic motive? We shall now turn to the unfolding of Uno’s direct criticism of Marx’s analysis of money.
3.2 Uno’s Theory of Value: Methodological Individualism and the Fetishism of Use Value
In Chapter 2 of Value Theory, ‘The Form of Value’, Uno develops his interpretation of Marx’s value form analysis that the value relation of x commodity A = y commodity B (20 yards of linen = 1 coat) cannot be understood in abstraction from the commodity owner of A. According to Uno, if it were not for the commodity owner of A (of the linen), the value of the linen, expressed in the use value of B (the coat), cannot be comprehended meaningfully. Only with the commodity owner can the linen commodity be understood to occupy the position of the relative form of value, and the coat to occupy the equivalent form. Hence, as Uno remarks in Capital Studies, Section 3 of Chapter 1 of Capital Volume I, ‘The Value Form or Exchange Value’, and Chapter 2, ‘The Exchange Process’, should not be discussed separately, but in unison:
It’s not that I don’t understand why ‘The Exchange Process’ and ‘The Value Form’ are separated in such a way, but as a method, I think it is a problem … If there is something like a general use value that is separated from abstract and individual wants, I cannot understand it. I believe that it becomes clearer if we introduce the owner of the commodity in the development from the beginning of the value form to the money form. I think that for example in the relation between the linen and the coat, when the value of the linen should be expressed, for the first time we can understand the expression in the use value [of the coat], if we consider the want of the linen owner for the coat.79
Only if we assume the personal want of the commodity owner can we understand why a particular commodity – here, linen – is in the relative form and the coat in the equivalent form.80 Otherwise, Uno contends, there would be no difference between the relative and the equivalent form and the polarity so important for Marx’s exegesis would disappear: ‘If the commodity owner of the linen did not desire the coat, there would be no expression in the form of the use value of the coat’, so that ‘which commodity stands in the equivalent form is decided by the commodity owner of the relative value form’.81 Uno insists that only the role of the commodity owner helps to firmly establish the ‘mutual exclusivity’ of the relative and the equivalent form: ‘If there were no commodity owner of the linen, there would neither be a use value of the commodity in the equivalent form nor a want (yokubō) of the coat. Then the linen and the coat would express their respective value through each other … Which commodity stands in the equivalent form is decided by the owner of the commodity in the relative form of value’.82 Indeed, for Marx, the polarity of the value expression e.g. ‘20 yards of linen = 1 coat’ must be upheld, if we want to understand how the form of value emerges from the value expression in the equivalent form. But this does not mean the equation cannot be reversed, or the meaning of ‘equation’ would be lost. Hence, the argument for polarity Marx makes is an entirely different one than Uno (and his followers today)83 believe: it merely requires that two qualitatively different commodities oppose each other in the value expression, so that we do not end up with the tautology of having to equate the linen with the linen or the coat with the coat – which would be meaningless:
Of course, the expression 20 yards of linen = 1 coat, or 20 yards of linen are worth 1 coat, also includes its converse: 1 coat = 20 yards of linen, or 1 coat is worth 20 yards of linen. But in this case I must reverse the equation, in order to express the value of the coat relatively; and, if I do that, the linen becomes the equivalent instead of the coat. The same commodity cannot, therefore, simultaneously appear in both forms in the same expression of value. These forms rather exclude each other as polar opposites.84
In the appendix ‘The Value Form’ in the first edition of Capital I, this becomes even clearer:
Let us consider the exchange between linen-producer A and coat-producer B. Before they come to terms, A says: 20 yards of linen are worth 2 coats (20 yards of linen = 2 coats). But B responds: 1 coat is worth 22 yards of linen (1 coat = 22 yards of linen).
Finally, after they have haggled for a long time they agree:
A says: 20 yards of linen are worth 1 coat,
and B says: 1 coat is worth 20 yards of linen.
Here both linen and coat are at the same time in relative value-form and in equivalent form. But, nota bene, for two different persons and in two different expressions of value, which simply occur (ins Leben treten) at the same time. For A his linen is in relative value-form – because for him the initiative proceeds from his commodity – and the commodity of the other person, the coat, is in equivalent form. Conversely from the standpoint of B. Thus one and the same commodity never possess, even in this case, the two forms at the same time in the same expression of value.85
With this clarification, the assumption that without the commodity owner, one cannot understand why one commodity is in the relative and one is in the equivalent form, is shown to be highly problematic.86 Which commodity is in which form solely depends on which commodity’s value is to be determined.
To proceed to understand Uno’s particular intervention, let us consider the development of Uno’s argument carefully. In Value Theory, Uno starts by saying that the two factors of the commodity represent value as the active aspect (sekkyokuteki men) and use value as the passive aspect (shōkyokuteki men).87 ‘But value that has the active aspect is not in itself autonomous and, in reality, we cannot accept it as the “natural form” of the commodity itself’.88 Hence, value does not appear as such, ‘directly and by itself’.89 If we view the commodity from outside, we can only see its natural form, to infer its use value. Uno therefore concludes that ‘the commodity is originally a commodity for its owner. That is, while for the purchaser it is a use value, to the extent that it is a commodity for the owner, it has ceased to be directly a simple use value (for the owner)’.90 Being a commodity for its owner, the owner is interested not in its use value, but in its value. But in order to use it, any commodity must be bought. This of course touches upon Marx’s original question: why can use values under the conditions of capital only be obtained through value? In other words – why does every product of abstract human labour first and foremost assume the form of value? Yet, Uno does not seem to be very interested in this question. For him, the specificity of the commodity economy as the object of his interest concerns the fact that ‘the value of a commodity only expresses itself in the use value of another’ while ignoring the specific Problemstellung already pointing at the inversion of use value and value, and hence, of the fetish character of value in the relation of simple exchange. Uno’s misrecognition of the nature of the problem goes further, however. For Uno, the equation serving as the basis for the analysis of the value form, X commodity A = y commodity B denotes a concrete situation between commodity owners. But, as pointed out earlier, Marx’s presentation of the analysis of the value form is already itself a critical presentation of the superficial mode of ‘individuality’, represented in the commodity owners. As we will see later in more detail, it is not an analysis of the exchange process, but an analysis of the preconditions of generalised commodity exchange; preconditions which no longer appear as such in the actual exchange process. As the analysis of the preconditions of exchange, it is the analysis of money. Perhaps a passage from the Contribution shows more clearly in what way Marx’s presentation is critical, not affirmative, from the beginning:
The commodity owners entered the sphere of circulation merely as guardians of commodities. Within this sphere they confront one another in the antithetical roles of buyer and seller, one personifying a sugar-loaf, the other gold, just as the sugar-loaf becomes gold, so the seller becomes a buyer. These distinctive social characters are, therefore, by no means due to individual human nature as such, but to the exchange relations of persons who produce their goods in the specific form of commodities. So little does the relation of buyer and seller represent a purely individual relationship that they enter into it only in so far as their individual labour is negated, that is to say, turned into money as non-individual labour. It is therefore as absurd to regard buyer and seller, these bourgeois economic types, as eternal social forms of human individuality, as it is preposterous to weep over them as signifying the abolition of individuality. They are an essential expression of individuality arising at a particular stage of the social process of production. The antagonistic nature of bourgeois production is, moreover, expressed in the antithesis of buyer and seller in such a superficial and formal manner that this antithesis exists already in pre-bourgeois social formations, for it requires merely that the relations of individuals to one another should be those of commodity owners.91
In the following, we will show how the methodological individualism Uno invites with his insistence on the role of the commodity owner confronts Marx’s position of a socially mediated totality, of which ‘commodity owners’ only present the ‘superficial and formal manner’ of a much more pertinent confrontation: that between capital and labour.
3.2.1 The Role of the Commodity Owner in the Simple Form of Value
For Uno, the commodity owner in the relative form of value (linen) cannot express the value of his commodity in so-and-so-many hours of socially necessary labour time. Uno: ‘Wherever one takes it, one cannot weigh it (hyōryō shite) as something objective. But still, the commodity owner must express the value of his commodity’.92 The linen owner, for Uno, wants to express the value of the linen in another commodity, e.g. the coat, a relation in which the coat already has the same quality as the linen, as the ‘form assumed in common by the values of all commodities’,93 in the ‘coagulated state’ of human labour power.94 Nevertheless, this poses the problem that the labour of the linen cannot automatically count as that of ‘labour of human beings’ in general:
[The owner of the linen owns] linen as value, or as something that must be exchanged with another commodity. As use value, it may be the product of linen-producing labour, but as value, it is nothing but the product of homogenous human labour that produced another commodity. As regards the commodity owner of the linen, the value of the linen is given in the foundation (konkyo) expressing the value of the other commodity, but it is impossible to compare and measure the labour of others producing other products, such as the labour of making their own goods, as the labour of human beings. Hence, only the want of the linen owner can sufficiently determine the ambiguity regarding this ‘homogeneous’ expression of labour in general in the equivalent form (i.e. the coat) with the specific value expression of the relative form, i.e. the linen. The labour that produces linen becomes valuable only in its product, linen. At the same time, as different from the linen itself, the other commodity also has ‘common objectivity’ [kyōtsū shita taishōka / gemeinsame Gegenständlichkeit], but we cannot grasp this ‘objectivity’ as such. The linen owner expresses the value of his linen in wanting to exchange his linen for another commodity, for example in a coat.95
Uno quotes Marx to make his point: ‘As a use value, the linen is something palpably different from the coat; as value, it is identical with the coat, and therefore looks like a coat’96 and ‘The value of the linen, by assuming the expression in the coat, takes on an expression separate from its use value’.97 This is true as far as Uno’s observation goes. Yet, and this is crucial, Uno misses to acknowledge the inversion taking place in this particular correlation, namely that, the ‘first peculiarity which strikes us when we reflect on the equivalent form is this, that use-value becomes the form of appearance of its opposite, value.’98 One point to acknowledge therefore, and to which we will return in greater detail, is that Uno regards the analysis of the value form as an analysis of exchange relations between commodity owners, and not as an analysis of the money form of the commodity.
In Section 3 of Chapter 1 of Capital Volume I, known as the ‘analysis of the value form’, Marx demonstrates the gradual dissociation of value from use value, hence the emergence of the equivalent form or ‘value’, by analysing four steps in the development of the equivalent form (the simple form of value → the expanded form of value → the general form of value → the money form). As we will see, this gradual dissociation of value from the use value of the equivalent form is what informs the theory of money, precisely as ‘value as such’, value that bears ‘not an atom’ of use value.
Uno’s interpretation of the necessity of the commodity owner of the linen, however, misjudges the specific theoretical question involved in the analysis, namely an analysis of the necessity of money for the possibility of generalised commodity exchange, not an analysis of individual wants of commodity owners bringing about ‘exchange’. This misjudgement becomes especially clear in the treatment of quantities. For Uno, the indispensability of the commodity owner is proven where the justification is demanded for the claim that ‘20 yards of linen are worth exactly 1 coat’, and not five, or two. Already in Marx’s time, this had been an important objection that has ‘[misled] Bailey and many of his predecessors and followers into seeing the expression of value as merely a quantitative relation whereas in fact the equivalent form of a commodity contains no quantitative determinant of value’.99 Later in the Principles, Uno adopts this position:
It is not, let me stress, the value of the ‘twenty yards’ of linen, but the value of linen as such that is expressed here [in the simple value form]. Twenty yards are judged appropriate by the linen-owner to express the value of his linen because a given quantity of the use-value of the coat is wanted.100
But it is altogether independent of the want of the commodity owner if the value relations are expressed this way: in the further development of the value form, ‘[t]he accidental relation between two individual commodity owners disappears. It becomes plain that it is not the exchange of commodities which regulates the magnitude of their values, but rather the reverse, the magnitude of the value of commodities which regulates the proportion in which they exchange’.101 Admittedly, this becomes clear only in the ‘total or expanded form of value’ (Form (b)). However, what are we to make of the commodity owners once this becomes clear in retrospect? Uno is far from discarding the methodological setting of the want of the commodity owner in the further analysis. How, then, is Uno’s argument to be understood? To be sure, were the quantity of linen doubled, say, 40 yards instead of 20, and the labour productivity of both weaving and tailoring unchanged, 40 yards of linen would be worth 2 coats. In the equivalent form, the coats can only express the value of the linen, but they could not express their own value. The value of the coats cannot be addressed in a value expression where the coats are in the equivalent form. It is, however, irrelevant if the coat or the linen is in the equivalent form as a type of commodity – the magnitude of value is always determined by the socially necessary time required for its production: ‘But as soon as the coat takes up the position of the equivalent in the value expression, the magnitude of its value ceases to be expressed quantitatively. On the contrary, the coat now figures in the value equation merely as a definite quantity of some article’.102 Uno quotes this passage to demonstrate that the quantitative determination is always assumed by the commodity in the relative form of value. But Uno forgets that this relation does not require the hypothesis of a commodity owner to become socially evaluated or acknowledged. Uno however continues to adhere to his reading of the linen counting as a particular amount of use value for the owner. This is because, for Uno,
[the] amount of linen as use value is of interest to its owner only so far as it has value (sic), while the definite quantity of the coat as use value is as such (sono mama) expressed as the value body (kachi tai). But then the commodity in the equivalent form of value cannot assume this expression. That is because the equality is already established without any relation to the commodity owner. With this conception, we can neither understand the linen in the relative form of value nor the coat in the equivalent form.103
This argument rests on an insufficient grasp of the methodological vantage point of Marx’s analysis: of course, the equality between the linen and coat is already established, as we are dealing with the presupposed totality of capitalist relations, in which the equation of different products of different concrete labours has already taken place.104 What interests Marx’s analysis is the condition of possibility for this equality. In his analysis, he comes to show that value (abstract-human labour) presents this condition, not value ‘bare and simple’, but in its specific fetishistic form, in its material expression as money. How money, however, comes to fetishistically obfuscate and simultaneously ‘represent’ abstract-human labour and ‘socially necessary labour time’ (value’s magnitude), cannot be demonstrated ab ovo – it has to be shown in the process of the analysis of the capitalist production process and bourgeois political economy’s blind spots. Here also lies the significance of Marx’s polemical exclamation (about a reviewer of Capital Volume I in the German regional paper Centralblatt) in the famous letter to Kugelmann:
The chatter (das Geschwätz) about the need to prove the concept of value arises only from complete ignorance both of the subject under discussion and of the method of science. Every child knows that any nation that stopped working, not for a year, but let us say, just for a few weeks, would perish (verrecken würde) … Where science comes in is to show how the law of value asserts itself. So, if one wanted to ‘explain’ from the outset all phenomena that apparently contradict the law, one would have to provide the science before the science. It is precisely Ricardo’s mistake that in his first chapter, on value, all sorts of categories that still have to be arrived at are assumed as given, in order to prove their harmony with the law of value.105
Yet, to contend that the methodological introduction of the role of commodity owners changes the ‘arbitrariness’ of the labour theory of value, only indicates Uno’s problematic understanding of Marx’s own method and introduces other methodologically dubious presuppositions, as the following will show.
One of Uno’s main divergences from Marx’s presentation is that the linen possesses the function of ‘use value in a particular amount’ for the owner of the linen. Uno understands that the linen in the relative value form expresses value quantitatively: ‘The linen, the commodity in the relative value form, that expresses value quantitatively, does not express its value by a fixed amount of its use value, but through the opposition to the commodity in the equivalent form, a fixed amount of the coat’.106 Uno argues that if the commodity in the equivalent form can only be a ‘fixed amount’, and if the value of the relative value form-commodity rises or falls, it must be expressed in a ‘fixed amount’ of this particular equivalent value form. But then only the amount of the relative value form changes. For Uno, if the value of the coat rises or falls, the linen is subject to change: ‘… if, on the contrary, the value of linen sinks by the half or the value of the coat is doubled, then it will take on the expression of 40 yards of linen = 1 coat’.107 However, linen does not express its value quantitatively. The linen does not express value at all – it is the coat that expresses the linen’s value. Regardless of whether the value of the linen rises or falls, it is always expressed in the coat. Uno’s interpretation distorts the meaning of the value equation as the expression of the value of a particular quantity of a given commodity. To this problem, Marx gives a pertinent answer in the subsection on ‘The quantitative determinacy of the relative form of value’ (which is not be confused with any value expression of the relative from of value). Here, Marx states that, as a matter-of-fact, 40 yards of linen = 1 coat can be expressed as 20 yards of linen = ½ coat: if the value of the coat rises (or is doubled, as in Uno’s and Marx’s example), 20 yards of linen are expressed in ½ coat. If the value of the coat falls by half, 20 yards of linen = 2 coats. In other words: if the value of the linen is doubled, then 20 yards of linen = 2 coats, if its value falls by half, then 20 yards of linen = ½ coat. The value of the quantity of the linen is expressed in the coat. What Uno seems to be missing is Marx’s statement that ‘Hence, if the value of the commodity A remains constant, its relative value, as expressed in commodity B, rises and falls in inverse relation to the change in the value of B’.108 In other words, Uno maintains that the coat cannot represent the value of the linen without the assumption of the commodity owner, because the linen must change quantitatively, according to its own value, as use-value of a particular amount. But in Marx, it is the coat that expresses this value, and it is irrelevant whether we express the value of the linen in 20 yards = ½ coat or 40 yards = 1 coat. How could we measure the value of the linen if not the coat, but the linen changed its magnitude? If the equivalent form were a certain given amount, be it 1, 2, or 100, we would absurdly have to adjust the amount of the linen to its particular expression in the coat to know the value of the linen. What we will then know, however, is the reversed relation – the coat would be in the relative, and the linen in the equivalent form! We would still not know the value of the linen.
Another grave inconsistency of Uno’s interpretation is his insistence that the value expression in particular magnitudes is not caused by the measure of socially necessary labour time, but motivated by choice.
Uno’s objection against socially necessary labour time as the ‘immanent measure of value’ because of the variability of the value expression (not value itself) recalls Bailey’s polemic against Ricardo’s ‘invariable’ and ‘immanent’ measure of value inherent in the commodities exchanged, namely that ‘it (value) cannot alter as to one of the objects compared, without altering as to the other’.109 This is quite true. However, this does not present an argument against an immanent measure of value. Quite to the contrary, as Marx points out in his extensive discussion of Bailey’s concept of value as ‘quantity without quality’: ‘Bailey identifies the “invariable measure of value” with the search for an immanent measure of value, that is, the concept of value itself’. However,
[variability] is precisely the characteristic of value. The term ‘invariable’ expresses the fact that the immanent measure of value must not itself be a commodity, a value, but rather something which constitutes value and which is therefore also the immanent measure of its [the commodity’s] value. Bailey demonstrates that commodity values can find A MONETARY EXPRESSION and that, if the value relation of commodities is given, all commodities can express their value in one commodity, although the value of this commodity may change. But it nevertheless always remains the same for the other commodities at a given time, since it changes SIMULTANEOUSLY in relation to all of them. From this he concludes that no value relation between commodities is necessary nor is there any need to look for one. Because he finds it reflected in the MONETARY EXPRESSION, he does not need to ‘understand’ how this expression becomes possible, how it is determined, and what in fact it expresses.110
Uno, like Bailey, confounds the determinations of an ‘immanent’ with the determinations of an ‘invariant’ measure. He subsequently disavows the perfectly logical possibility that an ‘immanent measure’ can be variable – and in the case of abstract labour indeed must be.111 It is in this sense that value-producing labour during the working day is variable for Marx, as is the proportion, measured in time, between its paid and unpaid components – ecce what had to remain a mystery in Ricardo’s lopsided view of the exchange between capital and labour.112 In other words, for Uno, ‘the exchange value of a commodity’, as Hyoen-Soo writes, ‘that is, its value form, ought not to be its exchange relation in a different commodity. Rather, it merely indicates a one-sided expression of the value of a commodity by its owner in relation to the use value of the other, desired commodity. The value expression in the simple value form in Uno is nothing else but the subjective evaluation of the linen owner, and hence it has nothing to do with the value expression of the coat owner’.113 At this point, Uno’s methodologically individualist and subjectivist view can be diagnosed with precision. It aligns itself with Bailey’s view that determines the emergence of value exclusively in the exchange of commodities, so that ‘value denotes consequently nothing positive or intrinsic, but merely the relation in which two objects stand to each other as exchangeable commodities’.114 In the Principles, we read: ‘For the owner, the commodity must be shown to be freely exchangeable with a specific quantum of another commodity. This is how the commodity receives its value’.115 But if this were true, the question of how value could become price without causing the chaos of a myriad of subjective evaluations, could never be arrived at.116 But our uneasiness in Uno’s objection to Marx’s analysis lies deeper: like Bailey, Uno is unable to determine a measure of value that gives rise to the ‘subjective’ evaluations of the commodity owner in the first place. It is therefore burdened with unproven presuppositions that Uno ironically laments as a fault in Marx’s theory of value. Considering this possibility, Uno claims:
A commodity offered at a certain price is socially confirmed in its value only when it is recurrently purchased at that price by the money-owners who demand that commodity. … A once-and-for-all purchase, therefore, does not confirm the value of a commodity; it is confirmed only when, in recurrent transactions at prices fluctuating in response to the forces of demand and supply, a central price emerges at which normal trade takes place.117
Without any further mediation, the ‘forces of demand and supply’ fill in for a missing conceptualisation of the basis for exchange relations in Uno. But far from being presuppositionless, the framework of ‘demand and supply’ abounds with methodological presuppositions. In this claim, the social conditions that must be fulfilled so that the individual can appear as a demanding and supplying agent on the market are left unaddressed. Moreover, what social conditions have to be fulfilled, so that the market itself can appear as an adequate site to social production and distribution? ‘Demand and supply’ already presuppose market relations, which presuppose a mode of production for which market relations form the adequate form of exchange, which presupposes generalised commodity production which itself presupposes the relation between capital and labour as a class relation. In other words, Uno’s framework relies on an understanding of society based on individual choice and want as an immediate and direct object of cognition. In Uno’s conception of this object, individual freedom is an uncontested ‘given’, not a historically specific manifestation of society in which commodity exchange mediates class relations. We have seen that, for Marx, the ‘confrontation between capital and labour’ is hidden in the ‘simplest notion of exchange’, in which the notion of socially necessary labour time comes to assume the objective determinant of value ‘behind the backs’ of the producers. This framework is not only absent, it is contested by Uno in favour of a general notion of individual choice and want that in no way addresses the specificity of exchange relations as they prevail in a capitalist society. It therefore unsurprising that Uno’s conception should regress to a purely subjective notion of value in which its social character is eclipsed.118
3.2.2 The Four Peculiarities of the Equivalent Form
The mystery of value Uno unwittingly confronts, however, does not lie in the relative form of value. It lies in the equivalent form. In the subsection on ‘The equivalent form’, Marx – in the appendix to the first edition of Capital more prominently than in the subsequent editions – points to the ‘four peculiarities’ (Eigenthümlichkeiten) of the equivalent form. This is the single most important theoretical insight Marx gains from the analysis of the value form. It presents the explanatory framework for the inherent nexus between abstract labour, value and money, as the emergence of the fetish-character of the value form, i.e. the nexus that Uno fails to identify. In other words, it comprises Marx’s analysis of the fetishism of the value-form as we confront it in bourgeois political economy.
In the first peculiarity of the equivalent form, we find that the ‘use-value becomes the form of appearance of its opposite, of value’.119 This has already been demonstrated in the task of the simple form of value, namely to demonstrate the possibility of how one particular commodity (the linen) can express its own value in another commodity ‘outside and alongside it’, and more particularly in its ‘natural form’ or use value. Yet, the use value of the coat assumes the appearance of its opposite, value. But this only happens
within the value-relation to it, into which any other commodity A (linen, etc) enters, and only within this relation. In itself, considered in isolation, the coat, e.g., is only a useful thing, a use-value, just like the linen, and hence its coat-form is only the form of use-value (ist nur Form von Gebrauchswert) or natural form of a definite type of commodity. But since no commodity can relate to itself as equivalent and therefore also cannot make its own natural hide an expression of its own value, it must relate itself to another commodity as equivalent or make the natural hide of the body of another commodity its own value-form.120
This is the first inversion that goes unnoticed by Uno. Marx provides the reason for the ‘mysteriousness of the equivalent form, which only impinges on the crude bourgeois vision of the political economist when it confronts him in its fully developed shape, that of money’.121 It is precisely that the equivalent form, the coat (or gold, or money) ‘seems to be endowed’ with the ‘natural’ property of direct exchangeability. For Uno, however, (and the representatives of the Uno School, as we will show later) there is nothing mysterious about money. The ‘want of the commodity owner’ and the ‘offer to sale’ simply sweep the particular problem of the conditions of possibility of value expression under the carpet by not addressing it. Also the second peculiarity of the equivalent form, namely that ‘concrete labour becomes the form of manifestation of its opposite, abstract human labour’,122 is denied flat out by Uno, as we have shown. Let us again consider the first edition of Capital:
The coat counts in the expression of the value of the linen as the value-body, hence its bodily or natural form as value-form, i.e. therefore as embodiment of undifferentiated human labour, human labour as such (schlechthin). But the labour by which the useful thing which is the coat is made and by which it acquires a definite form, is not abstract human labour, human labour as such, but a definite useful, concrete type of labour – the labour of tailoring. The simple relative value-form requires (erheischt) that the value of a commodity, linen, for example, is expressed only in one single other type of commodity. Which the other type of commodity is, is however, for the simple value-form, completely irrelevant. Instead of the commodity-type ‘coat’ the value of the linen could have been expressed in wheat, or instead of wheat, in iron, etc. But whether in coat, wheat or iron, in every case the equivalent of linen counts as the body of value with regard to the linen, hence as embodiment of human labour as such. And in every case the definite bodily form of the equivalent, whether coat or wheat or iron, remains embodiment not of abstract human labour, but of a definite concrete useful type of labour, be it the labour of tailoring or of farming or of mining. The definite concrete useful labour, which produces the body of the commodity which is the equivalent must therefore, in the expression of value, always necessarily count as a definite form of realisation or form of appearance, i.e. of abstract human labour. The coat, for example, can only count as the body of value, hence as embodiment of human labour as such, in so far as the labour of tailoring counts as a definite form, in which human labour-power is expended or in which abstract human labour is realised.123
Here is the answer to Uno’s aforementioned criticism that it is ‘impossible to compare and measure the labour of others producing other products … as the labour of human beings’. Because only insofar as the coat counts as the ‘body of value’, hence as the embodiment of human labour as such, and not a specific other kind of labour expended in the process of making the coat, can the linen measure its own value in it. Inversely, were the coat merely the result of tailoring, it could not count as the value expression of the linen, which is the result of an entirely different process (weaving). But only if the coat counts as the expression of general human labour, labour as such, can it assume the function of expressing the value of the linen, which answers Marx initial question about the condition of possibility for exchange. This inversion, however, escapes Uno, hence he cannot accept that the equivalent form should present value (and consequently money), because it serves as the embodiment of human labour in the abstract. For Uno, instead, the want of the linen owner serves as the value expression of the linen, leaving entirely open the question of the general condition for commodity exchange. What is indeed lacking is a common denominator (a ‘third’ or tertium comparationis), which would allow the commodity owner of the linen to make an evaluation in the first place. What is lacking is a ‘third of the comparison’, i.e. the quality that two things compared have in common, or that which prompts the comparison at all. This is also why, as we will see soon, an individual can only exchange her commodity for another if the exchange process of commodities is already generalised – through money. There is no such thing as ‘individual commodity exchange’. But in order to explain money as the ‘enabler’ of generalised exchange, one must first explain how money comes to assume the position of the general equivalent. This, however, is only possible, because money is abstract and general human labour, not one kind of labour in particular.
In the third peculiarity of the equivalent form, ‘private labour takes the form of its opposite, namely labour in its directly social form’.124 Here we can see how Marx rests his analysis of the value form on the totality of the relations of production in a developed capitalist economy in which the expenditure of private labour can only validate itself socially, as the mediation of the aggregate labour performed in the society as a whole. In a different context, Marx therefore states:
The owners of commodities therefore find out that the same division of labour which turns them into independent private producers also makes the social process of production and the relations of the individual producers to each other within that process independent of the producers themselves; they also find out that the independence of the individuals from each other has as its counterpart and supplement a system of all-round and material dependence.125
In the appendix to the first edition of Capital, there is a ‘fourth particularity’ of the equivalent form that in the subsequent editions, as is well known, forms an entire subchapter, ‘The Fetish Character of the Commodity and its Secret’. It corresponds to the ‘Fourth peculiarity of the equivalent form: the fetishism of the commodity-form is more striking in the equivalent form than in the relative value-form’.126 Marx shows that it is precisely the identification of use value (the natural, immediate, sensuous properties of the commodity as a ‘thing’) with value (the social characteristics of the commodity, grounded in the specific productive conditions that make generalised exchange its adequate distributive form) that gives rise to fetish-character of the commodity.127 What interests us is precisely the inversion of the essence to its precise opposite in the appearance of value that Uno fails to see. If one thing manages to appear at the same time and with regard to the same aspects as its exact opposite, we are no longer dealing with an economic theory of value based on rational choice, methodological individualism, or subjective evaluation of commodity owners. We are not dealing with a conscious phenomenon at all. Uno fails to grasp this, and at the same time fails to grasp the origin of the fetishism of both the commodity and its more developed form, money.
This is also reflected in the second part of The Political Economy of Capital (Shihonron no keizaigaku, 1969), ‘Two Particular Terminologies in Marx’s Political Economy – On “Fetishism” and “Metamorphosis” ’, one of the few instances where Uno discusses the three peculiarities of the equivalent form. He argues that
it is certainly a fact (jijitsu) that the equivalent commodity of the ‘simple form of value’ contains the secret of the money form. But it is wrong to directly generalise this. While Marx, in the section on ‘The Equivalent Form’ draws attention to the fact that ‘[the] natural form of the commodity becomes its value-form’, that ‘this substitution only occurs in the case of a commodity B … when some other commodity A (linen etc.) enters into a value-relation with it, and then only within the limits of this relation’,128 he really says that ‘the equivalent form possesses a second peculiarity: in it, concrete labour becomes the form of manifestation of its opposite, abstract human labour’129 and that ‘[thus] the equivalent form has a third peculiarity: private labour takes the form of its opposite, namely labour in its direct social form’.130 But I think that the development towards the money form is already anticipated. That, however, is not all. In fact, the labour that produces the money commodity of gold is certainly not directly the ‘form of appearance of abstract-human labour’, and it is neither ‘labour in directly social form’. Like other commodities, it is nothing but the product of ‘private labour’.131
Uno rejects the idea that the labour that produces gold is ‘directly’ abstract-human labour as such. And of course it is not. But this is not Marx’s argument in the context of the three (resp. four) peculiarities: the argument is not about the production of gold or any other commodity that serves as money, which is indeed the product of concrete-useful and ‘private’ labour, but about the precondition for exchange, in which the commodity in the equivalent form must assume a form that renders it equivalent to the other commodity. Marx shows that this common denominator cannot be the specific concrete labour that went into the different kinds of production of different commodities. It must therefore ‘assume the position’ of abstract labour. It is in this sense that ‘gold’ assumes this position. There is no question that gold production is concrete labour, and so is the tailoring that makes the coat. But as the products of concrete labour, they cannot represent the other commodity. They can only do so as abstract labour, labour representing all and no specific commodity at the same time. Uno however pays no heed to this inversion taking place in the peculiarities which are crucial to an understanding of the emergence of the fetish-character of the commodity – and that of money.
3.2.3 The Role of the Commodity Owner in the Expanded and in the General Form of Value
As is clear from the previous discussion, Uno centres his interpretation on the relative importance of use value. In his critique of the expanded form of value (z commodity A = u commodity B or v commodity C or = w commodity D or x commodity E or = etc.; 20 yards of linen = 1 coat or = 10 lb. Tea or = 40 lb. Coffee or = 1 quarter of corn or = 2 ounces of gold or = ½ ton of iron or = etc.),132 Uno claims that the series of commodities that could serve as equivalent forms of value is not infinite, nor is this form an extension of the simple form. In already anticipating the money form, Marx’s flaw, according to Uno, consists in that the ‘citizen’ in the world of commodities as the ‘joint contribution of the whole world of commodities’133 [gemeinsames Werk der Warenwelt, rather ‘enterprise’ or ‘deed’ than ‘contribution’] of all the other commodities cannot be arrived at without the logic of the commodity owner. For Uno, this already becomes clear in the expanded form of value: ‘I think this schema [20 yards of linen = 10 pounds of tea] does not follow from 20 yards of linen = 1 coat. Also in this case, the tea is wanted by the commodity owner, because it represents a certain amount of what he wants. So, depending on the fact, it might as well be 10 yards of linen = 5 pounds of tea’.134 In the Principles, Uno repeats the argument, adding emphasis on the use value and quantitative dimension of the equivalent. He maintains that the value expression 20 yards of linen = 1 coat expresses the value of the linen pure and simple, without making a claim as to the value of the 20 yards. Because the value expression hinges on the subjective evaluation of the commodity owner of A alone,
the linen owner must regulate the quantity of his linen standing in its position of relative value-form every time a different equivalent commodity enters his value expression with a specific quantity. For instance, if he sets aside twenty yards for a coat, he may set aside 2 yards for half a pound of tea, etc. Marx’s illustration in which the same ‘twenty yards of linen’ face some quantities of all the equivalent commodities … fails to bring home the significance of the equivalent commodities whose ‘use-value’ alone can reflect the value of the linen.135
From this evaluation, Uno’s misinterpretation of the function and task of Marx’s analysis of the value form becomes crystal clear. Let us stress two aspects that strike us as indicative of Uno’s misunderstanding. First, if only to repeat what is fundamental to the exegesis of the value form, the function and task of value form analysis in Chapter 1 of Capital Volume I lies in having ‘to show the origin of this money-form, [such that] we have to trace the development of the expression of value contained in the value-relation of the commodities from its simplest, almost imperceptible outline to the dazzling money-form’. As a starting point, this would require the determination of the value of the commodity in the relative form of value, e.g. linen. As a matter of fact this can only be accomplished if we assume a particular amount of the linen. ‘Linen pure and simple’ can never take the form of a commodity (unless we think that concepts can be weighed and measured). If we admit that ‘the concept of linen’ cannot be subject to value expression, we must attach a particular amount to it. This has nothing to do with the subjective gusto of the commodity owner: we do not strive to know how much of the linen the commodity owner would ‘set aside’; we strive to know the value of the linen. Hence, Uno confuses the task of the analysis of value, i.e. to reveal the ‘secret’ of the value form of money, with an analysis of the personal wants of the commodity owner (‘how much can I get for this particular commodity?’) – a hypothesis that, as argued above, is in itself fraught with methodological presuppositions that Uno at no point considers. But, since the value of a commodity can never be expressed in its own ‘natural shape’, it must be expressed in another commodity. Hence the coat. However, the coat does not remain the only commodity in which the 20 yards of linen find their value expression. The simple form is defective and needs extension. The value of a commodity A can also express itself in the natural form of another commodity B, C, D, etc., so that we arrive at an infinite series of commodities that represent the value of 20 yards of linen. And here is the second significant gap in Uno’s interpretation of the value form: in the total or expanded form of value, Marx, whose intention is to demonstrate the social origins of the money form of value, demonstrates the gradual exclusion of the use value aspect from the value relation of commodities – something that Uno ignores.
Because the value of the 20 yards of linen can indeed be expressed in many different types of commodities, it is of no importance which use value these commodities serve: they only serve as value expressions of the linen. The answer to the question ‘How is it possible that the value of a commodity expresses itself in the use value of another?’ entails the reversal of the question: it is only possible on the basis that the value of a commodity is not expressed in the use value of another at all. In the expanded form of value, i.e. the inversion of the value expression (20 yards of linen = 1 coat or = 10 lb. Tea or = 40 lb. Coffee or = 1 quarter of corn or = 2 ounces of gold or = ½ ton of iron or = etc.), Marx stresses the ‘indifference’ of the use value in the equivalent form:
… the endless series of expressions of its [the commodity’s] value implies that, from the point of view of the value of the commodity, the particular form of use-value in which it appears is a matter of indifference.136
He further argues:
The accidental relation between two individual commodity owners disappears. It becomes plain that it is not the exchange of commodities which regulates the magnitude of their values, but rather the reverse, the magnitude of the value of commodities which regulates the proportion in which they exchange.137
This gradual abstraction from use value is so important for the understanding of the money form that Marx adds:
The second form, B, distinguishes the value of a commodity from its own use-value more adequately than the first, for the value of the coat now stands in contrast with its natural form in all possible shapes, in the sense that it is equated with linen, iron, tea, in short with everything but itself.138
In other words, being a ‘coat’ is only a determination among many other possible placeholders for the value of the linen, e.g. tea, coffee, corn, gold, etc. Uno however rejects the idea that the coat merely serves as the ‘value body’ (Wertkörper) of the linen etc., for to him the linen still also represents a certain amount of use value. Therefore, neither can the use value of the commodity in the relative form be abstracted from, for it is maintained in the value expression of the use value in the equivalent form, according to Uno. The various use values should also be expressed in various amounts, according to Uno, so that, unlike Marx’s presentation of the extended form of value, it should rather be:
1 coat = 20 yards of linen5 lb. of tea = 10 yards of linen10 lb. of coffee = 5 yards of linen2 quarters of corn = 40 yards of linen10 ounces of gold = 200 yards of linen½ ton of iron = 20 yards of linenx commodity A = Y yards of linen.139
Uno goes on to quote Marx to claim that this equation fulfils both the conditions of the expanded as well as the general form of value: ‘The commodities now present their values to us, (1) in a simple form, because in a single commodity; (2) in a unified form, because in the same commodity each time. Their form of value is simple and common to all, hence general’.140 Needless to say, Marx makes this statement about the general value form in which a particular amount of one commodity acquires the position of value equivalent to all the other commodities. Form (c), the general value form, is arrived at by abstracting entirely from the use value of the commodity in the equivalent form, while ‘[the] two previous forms (let us call them A and B) only amounted to the expression of the value of a commodity as something distinct from its own use-value or its physical shape as a commodity’.141 With his reformulation of the schema, Uno collapses the difference between form (b) the expanded form, and (c) the general form. Yet, he agrees with Marx on an important point: namely that in forms A and B, it is ‘the private task … of the individual commodity to give itself a form of value, and it accomplishes this task without the aid of the others, which play towards it the merely passive role of the equivalent’.142 The commodity owner is not required to understand how this form emerges, only how the particular amounts emerge. This however changes dramatically, in Uno’s view, when the relative value form in the general form of value is concerned. Suddenly, a qualitative change occurs that affects not only the quantities, but the very form in which the equation becomes general. To understand this, the role of the relative value form in relation to the commodity owner becomes inevitable. When Marx says: ‘The general form of value, on the other hand, can only arise as the joint contribution of the whole world of commodities. A commodity only acquires a general expression of its value if, at the same time, all other commodities express their values in the same equivalent; and every newly emergent commodity must follow suit …’,143 Uno understands the commodity owner as a prerequisite for this development:
The owner of the coat, like the owners of the tea, coffee, corn, and so on, express the value of each commodity in a single, identical commodity that is the linen. This is established as the ‘joint contribution of the whole worlds of commodities’ … when these commodities express their value opposite the linen, one cannot say that their use value is abstracted from.144
To prove his point, Uno quotes Marx to show that the use value aspect is not simply passive and to be abstracted from in the relative value form. Thus, the labour objectified as the values of all commodities except the linen
is not just presented negatively, as labour in which abstraction is made from all the concrete forms and useful properties of actual work. Its own positive nature is explicitly brought out, namely the fact that it is the reduction of all kinds of actual labour to their common character of being human labour in general, of being the expenditure of human labour-power.145
But this ‘positive character’ cannot help but be expressed as abstract human labour. Indeed, the reduction to abstract human labour is a ‘positive’ one, because it unifies the values of the commodities to give them social validation, it does not merely rely on a negative definition (‘abstraction from’). ‘Positive’ and ‘negative’ are used as logical terms, not as qualifiers denoting value judgments. Uno does not notice that Marx’s statement has nothing to do with ‘preserving’ the use value side of the commodities. To the contrary. The evolution of the value form that ‘sheds’ use value is constitutive of the universal equivalent of money.
Uno does not consider the problem of the fetish-characteristic of value. We have argued that this flaw can be traced back to his disavowal of the ‘three peculiarities’ of the equivalent form and the inversion constitutive for it, especially that of value and use value.146 But it is precisely the merit of Marx’s theory of value (which is tantamount to his theory of money) to have ‘rejected theories which derived value from use value, money from the technical properties of gold, and capital from the technical productivity of means of production’.147 Instead, Marx’s analysis is an analysis of the social forms value assumes and their obfuscation in their technological and material forms of appearance. As Simon Clarke observes,
Marx showed that the individual is only constituted as a private individual, and property as private property, on the basis of a mode of social production in which the co-ordination of social labour is achieved through the alienated form of the exchange of the products of labour as values. The apparent form of exchange as the exchange of things between private individual property owners is accordingly only the fetishised form of appearance of social relations between people. The exchange relation is therefore inexplicable in abstraction from the particular social relations it articulates: the form of exchange cannot be detached from its social content, a content which political economy only conceals by attributing social powers to things. Similarly, the technologistic conception of production is only the fetishised form of appearance of capitalist social relations of production, in which the production of things is subordinated to the production, appropriation and accumulation of surplus value, as the alienated form of surplus labour.148
Uno, in his critique of abstract labour as the basis for exchange relations, insisting on its substitution for the individual want of the commodity owner, is little aware of the inversion of the material and the social relations of production, expressed in the fact that value appears as a ‘thing’ that exerts its magical spell over the productive relations between people, so that ‘the process of production has mastery over man, and man not yet mastery over the production process’.149 It is precisely the gradual dissociation from use value that characterises the evolution of the money form, and money can be meaningfully applied only in general social, not in individual exchange situations. Marx’s analysis demonstrates how ‘our actions’ already presuppose complex social structures – structures of developed commodity production, which presuppose money – that in turn put the framework of ‘our actions’ into perspective. As Rubin writes,
… the capitalist glows with the reflected light of his capital, but this is only possible because he, in turn, reflects a given type of production relation among people. As a result, particular individuals are subsumed under the dominant type of production relations. The social form of things conditions individual production bonds among particular people only because the social form itself is an expression of social production bonds.150
By no means can the social implications of Marx’s theory of value be understood if the ‘want of the commodity owner of the commodity A’ is taken to be the motive for exchange. This view truncates the relation between the relations of production and fetishism to a simplistic methodological framework of the rationality of individual agents, which itself is embedded in a specific social context that cannot be reduced to a ‘sum of individuals’. What is at stake here is the concept of society that radically distinguishes Marx’s from Uno’s interpretation of value. For Marx, in contrast to Uno, society does not consist of individuals, but of the relations between them.151 These relations, however, indicate a social mechanism that is not exhausted in individual actions, but take place in a social context, and in capitalism specifically that of class society. As Marx time and again emphasises, the exchange relations of the commodities, that is, their value, ‘is not dependent either of the will of the wheat producer or on that of the owners of the other commodities’.152 E.M. Lange, though also critical of Marx’s analysis of the value form – for altogether different reasons than Uno – unwittingly expresses precisely what is significant about Marx’s form of presentation:
The whole process of the differentiation (Ausdifferenzierung) of money only gains momentum in Marx because the asymmetry of the relative form of value and the equivalent form is already projected in the simple value expression, and the commodity is hypothesised as the subject of action (Handlungssubjekt).153
Yet, the abstraction from ‘individual wants’ in exchange is paramount to Marx’s analysis of the money form: in fact, the analysis of the value form in the first chapter of Capital is not an analysis of exchange at all, but of the preconditions and the economic form determinations for the possibility for exchange. This has also been noticed by Frank Engster154 and Christian Iber, among others. In ‘The Significance of the Difference between the Development of the Value Forms in the First and Second edition of Capital’,155 Iber delivers a powerful explanation for why Marx discarded the simultaneous presentation of value form analysis and exchange after the Contribution, to present the analysis of the value form in separation from the process of exchange in Capital. ‘While in the Contribution, the solution to the “riddle of money” is embedded within the presentation of the exchange of commodity and money’,156 in Capital, the level of the exchange process is clearly demarcated from the level of value form analysis. ‘If value form analysis is about the derivation of money from the economic form determinations of the commodity, the analysis of the exchange process thematises the presentation of the reality of money that prevails as a necessity in the exchange process of commodity owners’.157 Hence, in contrast to the earlier conceptions of value form analysis,
Capital has a double objective: the development [of the value form] shows, first, that money can be solely explained from the structure of the commodity, and second, that, precisely for this reason, the exchange process as a social relation between subjects mediating commodity determinations is only possible on the basis of money.158
In the following discussion, we will show how Marx conceives of the money form as a social contradiction manifested in a ‘palpable’ form, and contrast it with Uno’s interpretation of money as the ‘solution’ to the contradiction between value and use-value.
3.3 Uno’s Theory of Money: Baileyan Assumptions
3.3.1 Money as the ‘Solution’ to the Contradiction between Value and Use-Value?
Here is how Marx argues the sine qua non of money in ‘The transition from the general form of value to the money form’:
Only when this exclusion [of a specific commodity to serve as equivalent, ELL] becomes fully restricted to a specific kind of commodity does the uniform relative form of value of the world of commodities attain objective fixedness and general social validity.159
‘At the same time’, Uno comments, ‘each commodity owner already simply demands the universal equivalent because of its use value, and because of that, cannot halt at the relation of the value expression of his own commodity’.160 For Uno, the use value of the commodity in the equivalent form at this step of the development, which already serves as the universal equivalent, still counts as use value, not as value. But this can only be true insofar as, as Dieter Wolf argues,
the value of individual commodities can never appear in a medium different from its use value (the commodity is a dead object, which has no means of communication, no language, etc.). [Because of that], value cannot appear in it at all (Wert [kann] an ihr überhaupt nicht erscheinen) … If the commodity must appear as value, it can do so only in the medium of use value, but then the commodity can only appear in a use value which is different from its use value.161
We have seen that both the relative form and the equivalent form count as use values for Uno: the relative form, because the commodity owner of the linen always takes the quantity of the linen into account, the equivalent form, because its use value expresses the value of the quantity or amount of the commodity in the relative form. The use value of the universal equivalent must hence be special: it conforms to a ‘social function’. For Uno, in consequence, money must be a ‘universal use value’, a ‘use value for everybody’. But for Marx, the movement from the simple form of value to the money form demonstrates the process of total dissociation from use value in the money form. Uno however sticks to Marx’s initial condition that ‘the value of a commodity must be presented in the use value of another’. The crucial point overlooked by Uno is that Marx, in the course of his presentation of the analysis of the value form, pervades with this condition to its utmost and consequential end – only to show that ‘sticking to’ the use value dimension of the equivalent is bound to end up in self-contradiction.162 Exchange of something we can rightfully call ‘commodities’, and which therefore implies general commodity production, is impossible without money, for it already requires that the ‘whole world of commodities’ relates to one specific commodity as its universal equivalent. Crucially, therefore, the universal equivalent, by virtue of its universality and generality, undergoes an inversion in which its use value ‘body’ is paradigmatically value. This inversion corresponds to the first peculiarity of the equivalent form (‘use value becomes the form of appearance of its opposite, value’). It is important to note however that Marx arrived at this inversion, or paradox, only by following the initial presupposition through. Hence, in order to show the decisive paradox of money, in that money’s use value precisely consists in being its opposite, namely value, Marx proceeds from the conventional notion that the value of a commodity is presented in the ‘use value’ of another. In the Contribution of 1859, Marx, as against the later version in Capital, still holds that with this move, the ‘contradiction’ between value and use value is apparently solved:
The commodity which has been set apart as the universal equivalent is now an object which satisfies a universal need arising from the exchange process itself, and has the same use value for everybody – that of being carrier of exchange value or a universal means of exchange. Thus the contradiction inherent in the commodity as such, namely that of being a particular use value and simultaneously universal equivalent, and hence a use value for everybody or a universal use value, has been solved in the case of this one commodity.163
For Uno, the ‘desire’ or ‘want’ (yōkyū) for a commodity A, B (or C, etc.) is decisive not only for the quantities given in exchange, but also the role of money: ‘Money necessarily evolves from such a desire for the commodity’.164 He continues: ‘[Money] may not fundamentally solve the “opposition-contradiction” (tairitsu mujun) between value and use value in the commodity, but it is the method of solving it in reality [through the act of exchange]’,165 and in the Principles, he says:
Money, therefore, is the first concrete step towards the settlement of the so-called contradiction between the value and the use value of a commodity, a contradiction that reflects the character of the commodity economy which generates a social relation based on the individual pursuance by traders of private interest.166
‘Traders of private interest’ are however far removed from the analysis of money in Marx’s presentation. Before money can be conceived of as something ‘desired’, he non-empirically traces money’s constitutive role for exchange to the specific function it has as a ‘merely formal existence’, as ‘empty signifier’, as that which is precisely not desired, because it in itself lacks any useful qualities. In the same passage from the Contribution, therefore, Marx clarifies that money does not ‘practically’ solve the contradiction between use value and value, but preserves it:
Whereas now the exchange value of all other commodities is in the first place presented in the form of an ideal equation with the commodity that has been set apart, an equation which has still to be realised; the use value of this commodity, though real, seems in the exchange process to have merely a formal existence which has still to be realised by conversion into actual use values.167
For Uno, on the other hand, ‘it is not as the fixed amount of the use value of the equivalent, but through the different amounts of the money commodity that the value of the single units of each of the commodities is expressed: 1 ton of iron = 2 ounces of gold, 1 quarter of corn = 1 ounce of gold, 1 centner mocca coffee = 25 ounces of gold etc, 1 single unit of commodity A = X ounces of gold’.168 In money as the ‘universal use value’, the contradiction of being a use value for its non-owner and a value for its owner, disappears. But Uno here overlooks the problem implied by money as value. At no point does he ask why this kind of contradiction emerges in the first place. Already in the Grundrisse, Marx sees the fundamental contradiction primarily in the notion of (exchange) value169 – i.e. in money itself:
It is not at all apparent on its face that its character of being money is merely the result of social processes; it is money. This is all the more difficult since its immediate use value for the living individual stands in no relation whatever to its role, and because, in general, the memory of use value, as distinct from exchange value, has becomes entirely extinguished in this incarnation of pure exchange value. Thus the fundamental contradiction contained in exchange value, and in the social mode of production corresponding to it, here emerges in all its purity.170
Money is not use value – it is not food and shelter, clothes and schooling – but an expression of social relations of production in which food, shelter, clothes and schooling cannot be obtained, but through it. It indicates the fundamental contradiction in the capitalist mode of production, which is never directed at the satisfaction of needs. In different terms, money itself presents the contradiction in the fact that people cannot directly satisfy their needs, but need money in order to do so. In Clarke’s words: ‘… money does not remove the uncertainty attached to particular exchanges, it merely expresses that uncertainty in a universal form. Money does not resolve the inconvenience of barter, it generalises it. Far from expressing the rationality of exchange, money expresses the irrationality of a system of social production in which provision for human need is achieved only through the alienated form of commodity exchange’.171 Marx’s unabashed critique of positions hypostasising money as a ‘solution’ to this contradiction must therefore also be viewed as a critique of the apologetics of bourgeois relations of production:
… it is in the character of the money relation … that all inherent contradictions of bourgeois society appear extinguished in money relations as conceived in its simple form; and bourgeois democracy even more than the bourgeois economists takes refuge in this aspect … in order to construct apologetics for the existing economic relations.172
In the manuscripts to the Theories of Surplus Value, and finally, in Capital, Marx is even clearer: money is not at all perceived as the ‘solution’ to a contradiction – money ‘does not abolish these contradictions, but rather provides the form in which they have room to move’.173 Marx’s attempt is directed at dismantling the ‘apparent’ solution money seemingly provides. In the Theories of Surplus Value, Marx therefore directly links what he calls the ‘development of the contradiction’ between value and use value to the fetishistic (equivalent) form in which it appears, and in which that contradiction is embodied:
The fact that the exchange value of the commodity assumes an independent existence in money is itself the result of the process of exchange, the development of the contradiction of use value and exchange value embodied in the commodity, and of another no less important contradiction embodied in it, namely, that the definite, particular labour of the private individual must manifest itself as its opposite, as equal, necessary, general labour and, in this form, social labour.174
Oblivious to the inversion in the equivalent form, this important qualitative determination is overlooked by Uno. One cannot help but notice that Uno’s interpretation solely addressing ‘commodity exchange’ as necessitating money to solve the contradiction between use value and value – discussed in almost every text published between 1947 and 1969 – bears significant similarities to Aristotle’s – rather than Marx’s – analysis of money. According to Aristotle,
[w]hen the inhabitants of one country became more dependent on those of another, and they imported what they needed, and exported what they had too much of, money necessarily came into use … and hence men agreed to employ in their dealings with each other something which was intrinsically useful and easily applicable to the purposes of life, for example, iron, silver and the like.175
But for Marx, the contradiction between use value and value is not at all solved in money. Because money is the objectification of abstract human labour176, expressed in thing-like, material form, it becomes the paradigmatic form of value in which the distinction between use value and value is lost – and the social relations that give rise to the inverted expression of value obfuscated. This, of course, is the problem of fetishism Marx’s whole analysis of the value form points toward. In the following, we shall see how Uno disavows this constellation of the problem, and substitutes it for money as explanans.
3.3.2 The Rejection of the ‘Third Thing’ and the Question of General Social Exchangeability
Three pages into his main work, Marx gives a concrete example of a meaningful condition of possibility for the category of exchangeability or commensurability (or generally of comparison, hence tertium comparationis), the so-called ‘third thing’-argument:
Let us now take two commodities, for example corn and iron. Whatever their exchange relation may be, it can always be presented by an equation in which a given quantity of corn is equated to some quantity of iron. What does this equation signify? It signifies that a common element of identical magnitude exists in two different things, in 1 quarter of corn and similarly in x cwt of iron. Both are therefore equal to a third thing, which is in itself neither the one nor the other. Each of them, so far as it is exchange-value, must therefore be reducible to this third thing.177
This idea is so pivotal for the following analysis (indeed, for the three volumes of Capital) that Marx – unwittingly anticipating the fierce objections it will receive in the history of its reception178 – provides an unusually long commentary in lieu of a proof:
This common element cannot be a geometrical, physical, chemical or other natural property of the commodities. Such properties come into consideration only to the extent that they make the commodities useful, i.e. turn them into use-values. But clearly, the exchange relation of commodities is characterized precisely by its abstraction from use-values … If then we disregard the use-value of commodities, only one property remains, that of being products of labour. But even the product of labour has already been transformed into our hands. If we make abstraction from its use-value, we abstract also from the material constituents and forms which make it a use-value … With the disappearance of the useful character of the products of labour, the useful character of the kinds of labour embodied in them also disappears; this in turn entails the disappearance of the different forms of concrete labour. They can no longer be distinguished, but are all together reduced to the same kind of labour, human labour in the abstract.179
As discussed above, Marx operates with the concept of abstract labour as the fundamental explanans for the money form of value. Abstract labour is therefore neither a ‘kind of’ concrete labour (as in deskilled labour, etc.), nor a ‘substance’ in the sense of a transhistorically valid and physical expenditure of labour, but the historically specific mode in which labour assumes a monetary form. As universal equivalent, abstract labour can buy all the different kinds of concrete labour, while being restricted to none of them specifically. By virtue of this ability, it is money. In this sense, Marx’s labour theory of value is indeed ‘substantialist’ – but one must be careful of the specific meaning of ‘substantialism’ as it indicates the form-content (Formgehalt) of value as the conceptual nexus that explains the value forms. We have already indicated that this specific level of Marx’s methodological presentation escapes Uno’s interpretation. Before we take a closer look at Uno’s arguments generally dismissive of Marx’s intervention to show that they even fail to identify it, let us consider Uno’s objection to the ‘third thing’.
According to Uno, Marx has unjustifiably separated the illustration of exchange of different commodities from his presentation of the labour theory of value: ‘To introduce the labour theory of value, Marx uses corn and iron, to analyse the value form in the “simple form of value”, he uses linen and a coat’, Uno laments.180 In ‘The Three Great Laws’,181 Uno complains that Marx had failed to specify the kind of labour that went into the production of corn and iron, so that the ‘common denominator’ being labour, or labour time, was absolutely arbitrary. For Uno, the ‘introduction’ of the labour theory of value begs the question of abstract human labour as the common denominator or the ‘third thing’ (daisansha). No such ‘common denominator’, Uno claims, can be found in the analysis of the value form. Uno is especially deprecatory of the ‘reduction to a third thing’ (daisansha ni kangen182 /daisansha ni yakugen)183 on the basis of which the different labours can be compared and exchanged. This cardinal point of critique is held by Uno throughout his entire career. For instance, in the Methodology:
… the theory of the commodity is not just argued as a labour product that is exchanged as a commodity. With the form-development of the commodity, money, and capital as basis, the production process itself is subsumed under capital. This means – and here the substance becomes clear – that it [capital] provides the form-determination of value. Rather, by immediately presenting the labour theory of value, the historical viewpoint formally established for the first time by Marx regresses to the ‘failures’ of classical political economy and cannot escape its dangers.184
For Uno, the introduction of the labour theory of value is premature and only becomes significant when capital’s form-determination and the production process is analysed.185 This view disregards Marx’s specific method that presupposes the notion of class and the exchange of capital and labour from the beginning of the analysis, as we have shown in Chapter 1 and the beginning of this chapter. Yet, Uno continues to doubt the validity of Marx’s labour theory of value within the theoretical locus of value form analysis. In his critical discussion of the ‘separation from use value’ in the value expression of the linen, Uno says:
Here we of course have the labour that made the linen, but the weaving labour is not simply useful labour. As the equal (hitoshii mono to shite) to the labour that made the coat, it is reduced to human labour as the common property of two different kinds of concrete labour. However, it certainly doesn’t immediately exist as abstract human labour common to both. That is an abstraction performed as a ‘detour’ (mawari michi) that makes the weaving labour equal to the concrete tailoring labour of the coat.186
Abstract labour for Uno, as we have seen, is an inherent factor of the commodity, and as such, anathema to the discussion of the exchange process. It must therefore be relegated to the analysis of production where its relation to concrete labour can ‘for the first time’ be elucidated. However, because Uno attempts to discuss exchange in detachment from the notion of abstract labour, he is at pains to argue the plausibility of general social exchangeability. Instead, Uno rejects ‘bringing in’ abstract labour as the common aspect of different products of labour in the exchange process. For Uno, the problem presents itself in the terms of the status of ‘abstraction’: in order to justify general human labour as the common factor of the two different concrete useful labours involved in making the coat and the linen, there is an ‘abstraction’ at work, generated by the ‘detour’ of making both labours ‘equal’ or ‘the same’ (hitoshii mono ni suru) – but, Uno argues, we cannot assume that this ‘equalisation’ of two different labours is the same as being ‘abstract labour’.187 To this we can respond two things: first, as far as abstract labour is merely considered as a ‘property’ of two different things, tacitly identified with their use value, this may make sense. But it misses the point of the totality of social production relations that the notion of abstract labour addresses, and not just that of ‘two objects’. This point has also been raised by Rubin:
Marx says: Let us take, not the chance exchange of two commodities, iron and wheat, but let us take exchange in the form in which it actually takes place in a commodity economy. Then we will see that every object can be equalized with all other objects. In other words, we see an infinity of proportions of exchange of the given product with all others. But these proportions of exchange are not accidental; they are regular, and their regularity is determined by causes which lie in the production process.188
Abstract labour as value concerns the total process of production. There is no such thing as the exchange of two single commodities that can be called general social exchange. In fact, the exchange of two commodities between two individual commodity owners has no correspondence in social reality at all. For Marx, it is a hypothesis serving to demonstrate its own impossibility – but made possible by money. Money however implies general social exchangeability: the concept of ‘individual exchange’ contradicts itself. In that sense, the whole production process of commodities logically precedes the emergence of the value form – but in this specific instance at the beginning of his study, Marx’s theoretical interest is the theory of money and fetishism which accordingly assumes the pivotal heuristic to the whole succeeding analysis. For this reason, the critique of fetishism comprises Marx’s method. But this neither entails that the production process is ‘irrelevant’ to the analysis of the value form, nor that production has nothing to do with it. Uno demands a clearer separation of the two, misrecognising the specific interrelation of the categories Marx addresses, in which abstract labour, value and money inseparably indicate a common nexus in which money is the explanandum and abstract labour (‘value’) the explanans.
Second, Uno’s objection that Marx has falsely identified the method by which he arrives at the notion of abstract labour, namely abstraction, with a property of that object, is quite bizarre: thought processes necessarily involve abstraction. This does not mean that ‘abstraction’ becomes automatically thematic as soon as one starts to think. It also does not mean that someone who thematises the concept of ‘abstraction’ is bound to confuse it with a property of the thought process itself. While the concept of ‘abstraction’ is the result of abstraction, so is the concept of ‘apple’. More importantly however, as Alfred Schmidt has emphasised,
Marx’s concept of the relations of production, and moreover, of bourgeois economy, quintessentially depends on the recognition of the simultaneously logical and historical objectivity of value. But Marx has by no means assumed that value was merely a concept necessitated by ‘economical thinking’ (denkökonomisch) in the sense of the positivist theory of science. Much rather, we can apply it meaningfully precisely because it corresponds to an abstraction that is daily performed in the process of production, which only manifests itself in the individual acts of purchase. It is neither a mere ‘working hypothesis’, nor a practical assumption necessitated by thought (denktechnische Notwendigkeit). Already in the 1859 manuscripts, Marx had provided evidence that value formation indicates an abstraction, which is not only methodologically significant, but which structures the object of the investigation itself. If we misrecognise this point, we get into great difficulties, and can no longer understand the nexus between political economy and social totality, which was so crucial for Marx.189
For Uno, the ‘core problem is that the commodity, to become the common expression of value, has no other way but to follow this method [of expressing the different concrete labours of the commodities in general abstract human labour via money].’190
How is this way characterised?
Uno’s momentous and decisive demarcation against Marx’s theory of value and money lies in suggesting the replacement of the notion of abstract labour with money itself as the ‘autonomous’ existence of value:
To say that money was originally a commodity does not amount to understanding money. Therefore, it also doesn’t amount to understanding either the commodity or value. Likewise, to say that the value of a commodity is constituted by labour does certainly not mean that one has understood the value of a commodity. The value of a commodity, constituted by labour, necessarily assumes a specific value form. But when we don’t make this clear, the fact that value is constituted by labour is not understood. However, so long as it isn’t clear that value assumes an autonomous (dokuritsu no) form of existence in money, we are no better at formally understanding its character.191
The ‘autonomous’ existence of value in money, as well as Uno’s rejection of a ‘commodity theory of money’ – i.e. the understanding of money as structurally implied in the commodity form – is decisive here. No such ‘third thing’, as Marx allegedly insisted on so as to ‘prove’ the labour theory of value, could be held accountable for the organisation of the social metabolism:
In contrast to the commodity, that, in its various and different kinds, temporarily appears in the world of commodity circulation, money always represents and mediates the circulation of all the various kinds of commodities. Rather than value sometimes assuming the shape (sugata) of the commodity and sometimes that of money, it is a relation in which it [value] must always assume the shape of money as against the commodity as use value. In other words, instead of conceiving of the ‘reduction’ (yakugen) to value as the ‘third thing’ to be a commodity, we assume the method that it is money that expresses the possibility of that ‘reduction’.192
But it is not money that expresses the ‘possibility of that ‘reduction’ ’, it is abstract labour, the kind of labour that is productive of all of the commodities, and yet not of them specifically. Money is only the form abstract labour assumes in the process of exchange. To conflate substance and form is fatal to an understanding of Marx’s project of the critique of fetishism and bourgeois political economy.
To summarise: for Uno, commensurability is not generated by a ‘third thing’ that is open to speculation, but generated by money itself. There can be no doubt:
Money substitutes the ‘third thing’.193
It is not the common denominator (abstract labour) as money, but money as the common denominator – money as ‘irreducible basic notion’194 – that makes commodities commensurable for Uno.
As we have already seen in our discussion of Chapter 1 of Volume I of Capital, proceeding directly from the proof of the so-called labour theory of value to this third thing within the commodities cannot be comprehended. It is rather the opposite. With the emergence of money, ‘the commodity appears as the opposition of use value and exchange value in money’. The inner opposition of value and use value in the commodity appears as the outer opposition of the commodity and money.195
Here both Uno’s nominalist as well as his functionalist understanding of money becomes clear: it is functionalist, because for Uno, money is what money does. This is contrary to Marx’s non-functional and essence-analytical approach, which demonstrates that money can only do what it is, i.e., mediate the different kinds of labour embodied in the various commodities, because it is the general form of abstract labour. Uno’s theory of money is however also nominalist, because money, for Uno, presents the ‘irreducible basic concept’ which cannot be further deduced, which lacks any sort of ‘substantiality’ with regard to the commodities whose values it represents. Marx, in contrast to Uno, rejected a nominalist understanding of money, as is clear from his critique of Bailey, to which we will turn in a short while.196 More poignantly, for Uno, money assumes the position of the common equivalent because it is the autonomous form of value which must appear in specific prices. Hence, for Uno, ‘there is no other method than that money expresses its own value by the price of such-and-such monme of gold, or yen of gold, or dollars of gold, and so on’.197 The danger of categorically conflating value and price is obvious. This is also reflected in the Principles where Uno maintains that ‘[t]his relation between the two elements of the commodities, value and use-value, generates value forms or the peculiar expressions of exchange value by commodities. Their price in gold is but a highly developed form of value’.198 If the explanatory framework of explaining value with abstract labour is disavowed, then just what instance price is a ‘highly developed form’ of, remains completely obscure and can only be expressed as a tautology: price is expressed in exchange value, which is expressed in money, which is explained in price. This is also confirmed by Uno’s view of money’s ‘fetish character’ consisting merely in money’s ability to purchase different kinds of use values:
That money always has direct exchangeability in confrontation with other commodities, which is to say that it is taking the initiative in the exchange of purchase and sale, shows nothing but the formal roots of the money fetish. As a matter of fact, the commodity form itself has a fetish character (busshin sūhai teki seikaku), so that in Capital, the ‘Fetish character of commodities and their secret’ reveals its essential roots, but that is because rather than the commodity, money as a fetish concretely shows this character.199
The inversion of the problem – money is not to be explained on the basis of the fetish character of the commodity, but the commodity is to be explained on the basis of the fetish-character of money – however leaves open the question how money is capable of paradigmatically representing general social exchangeability.
As indicated in the previous quote, Uno sees money’s primary function in denoting the ‘initiative’ of purchase. This is repeatedly confirmed:
… the commodity transfers direct exchangeability to the money commodity, so that they become commodities for each other. The double character of value and use value in the commodity expresses itself in the external opposition of money and the commodity. Every time, money is given in the specific position of the possibility of purchase belonging to the buyer.200
Anticipating the discussion of the convergences between Uno’s and Samuel Bailey’s respective theories of money, we can preliminarily observe that this position echoes Bailey’s identification of money with ‘power of purchase’:201 ‘If the value of an object is its power of purchasing, there must be something to purchase. Value denotes, consequently, nothing positive or intrinsic, but merely the relation in which two objects stand to each other as exchangeable commodities’.202 Although we will return to this, Marx’s critique of the notion of money as ‘power of purchase’ presents a useful summary of the previous discussion, namely the inability of a formal, functionalist and nominalist theory of money to explain money’s function of general social exchangeability, or, which is the same, the measure of value.203 ‘Power of purchasing’ hence does not explain the logical significance of money, but presents a tautology. It is well worth quoting the passage at length:
[Bailey’s] entire wisdom is, in fact, contained in this passage. ‘If value is nothing but power of purchasing’ (a very fine definition since ‘purchasing’ presupposes not only value, but the representation of value as ‘money’), ‘it denotes’, etc. However let us first clear away from Bailey’s proposition the absurdities which have been smuggled in. ‘PURCHASING’ means transforming money into commodities. Money already presupposes VALUE and the development OF VALUE. Consequently, out with the expression ‘PURCHASING’ first of all. Otherwise we are explaining VALUE by VALUE. Accurately expressed it would read as follows: ‘If the value of an object is the relation in which it exchanges with other objects, value denotes, consequently’ (viz., in consequence of the ‘if’) nothing, but merely the relation in which two objects stand to each other as exchangeable objects’ (I.e., [pp.] 4–5). Nobody will contest this tautology. What follows from it, by the way, is that the ‘VALUE’ OF AN OBJECT ‘DENOTES NOTHING’. For example, 1 lb. of COFFEE = 4 lbs of COTTON. What is then the value of 1 lb. of COFFEE? 4 lbs of COTTON. And of 4 lbs of COTTON? 1 lb. of COFFEE. Since the value of 1 lb. of coffee is 4 lbs of COTTON, and, on the other hand, the value of 4 lbs of COTTON = 1 lb. of COFFEE, then it is clear that the value of 1 lb. of COFFEE= 1 lb. of COFFEE (since 4 lbs of COTTON = 1 lb. of COFFEE), a = b, b = a, HENCE a = a. What arises from this explanation is, therefore, that the value of a use value = a [certain] quantity of the same use value.204
In the following, we will address the problem of tautology in Uno’s theory of money. It will be discussed alongside the emergence of fetishism in theories of money that denounce the substance of value.
3.3.3 The Emergence of Fetishism
For the discussion of Uno’s objections, we must come back to Marx’s earliest conception of the ‘third thing’ or tertium comparationis-argument within the context of Capital. In the research literature, it has been one of the most contested theorems of value theory, if not of Marx’s theory as a whole.205 It is especially contested in Uno’s re-formulation and perhaps even more so in the School that carries Uno’s name. To understand Marx’s labour theory of value, it is worthwhile looking at his specific intervention against the classical bourgeois labour theory of value.206 We have seen in Chapter 1 that, unlike Uno, and also e.g. Itoh,207 Reuten,208 and Arthur believe,209 Marx’s concept of abstract labour in the labour theory of value is not a residue of classical political economy, but its precise critique. The ‘monetary theory of value’ and the ‘labour theory of value’ denote one and the same theory, i.e. not two separate theorems that can be meaningfully confronted. Moreover, as we will show, it is precisely the separation of the theory of money and the theory of social labour that gives rise to fetishistic notions of value. Consequently, as exemplified in Chapter 1, Marx’s notion of abstract labour, and hence, the ‘third thing’, must be read against the theory of value in the classics. We do not have to go out of our way to see that Marx himself considered this distinction pivotal:
As regards value in general, classical political economy in fact nowhere distinguishes explicitly and with clear awareness between labour as it appears in the value of a product, and the same labour as it appears in the product’s use-value. Of course the distinction is made in practice, since labour is treated sometimes from its quantitative aspect, and at other times qualitatively. But it does not occur to the economists that a purely quantitative distinction between the kinds of labour presupposes their qualitative unity or equality, and therefore their reduction to abstract human labour.210
It is therefore absurd, as for instance Makoto Itoh claims, that ‘the direct reduction from exchange value to the social substance of value in the first section of Capital contained not only some inconsistency with the analysis of the third section, but also insufficiency of logical proof of social inevitability. Unlike the theory of forms of value, it was not essentially Marx’s original logic but rather a sort of residue of Classical value theory’.211 Arthur’s assessment is equally mistaken: ‘Like them (the Uno School) I think that the introduction by Marx of a posited ground for labour before the form of value is fully theorised represents a residue of classical political economy’.212 Arthur’s argument, moreover, is a petitio principii, since he demands that ‘capitalist production must be theorised before the grounding of value in labour is legitimate’213 – to paraphrase: capitalist production must be theorised before it can be theorised. But Marx’s Capital thematises capitalist production from the very beginning of the analysis: there can be no such thing as a ‘commodity’ that has ‘value’ without capitalist production. The presentation, however, necessitates the move from the most abstract sphere of simple exchange (as the sphere denoting the ‘only object’ of bourgeois political economy) to its manifold and intricate social conditions of possibility, that what in hindsight ‘will have made’ simple exchange appear as the ‘presuppositionless’ condition at the beginning. In other words: no man (or woman) is born as a ‘commodity owner’. The presentation of the labour theory of value at the beginning of Capital is however both a logical and methodological prerequisite: for without such an understanding of the preconditions of general commodity exchange and money, the notions of money and exchange become tautological at best, self-contradictory at worst. In his critique of Bailey, Marx therefore insists on the presupposition of abstract labour as value which gives coherence to money, the ‘third commodity’, to begin with:
… for commodities to express their exchange value independently in money, in a third commodity, the exclusive commodity, the values of commodities must already be presupposed … in order to be represented in this way, the commodities must already be identical as values. Otherwise it would be impossible to solve the problem of expressing the value of each commodity in gold, if commodity and gold or any two commodities as values were not representations of the same substance, capable of being expressed in one another. In other words, this presupposition is already implicit in the problem itself. Commodities are already presumed as values, as values distinct from their use values, before the question of representing this value in a special commodity can arise. In order that two quantities of different use values can be equated as equivalents, it is already presumed that they are equal to a third, that they are qualitatively equal and only constitute different quantitative expressions of this qualitative equality.214
In Capital, Marx emphasises that ‘… their [the commodities’] values can be communally measured in one and the same specific commodity, and this commodity can be converted into the common measure of their values, that is into money’.215 However, Uno doubts this condition of commensurability:
The problem is rather why such a thing as labour itself, the common foundation of the commodities, is not expressed as such. The common expression in money, too, is performed through nothing but the one commodity amidst all the commodities that becomes money. In order for such a commodity to become the common value expression, the centre of the question is whether there is not another way apart from this method [of assuming labour as what makes the commodities commensurable].216
Clearly, if it is simply money that makes the commodities commensurable by solving the contradiction between use value and value, then there is no need to assume money as an already fetishised expression of value. Hence the problem of fetishism is removed from the question of money in Uno and his theoretical successors in the Uno School. To identify the tautological character of this claim, we shall move to Uno’s argument for the rejection of the ‘third thing’.
To be sure, ‘value’ as such has no bodily, material existence. It therefore requires ‘above all an independent form by means of which its identity with itself may be asserted’.217 Money, as this independent form of value or value form, has for the first time ‘extinguished’ its own genesis – it leaves ‘no trace behind’218 – of its grounding in abstract labour. Consequently, the separation of form and substance with the subsequent stress on form demanded by Uno and Itoh ironically falls victim to the separation of appearance and essence that is the object of Marx’s critique. Money, appearing as separated from abstract labour, constitutes value’s ‘identity with itself’, but precisely by constituting value’s ‘identity with itself’, its relation to its essence, abstract labour, is extinguished.219 However, because essence ‘must appear’, and cannot exist ‘in itself’, we cannot say that value is merely substance. It cannot be separated from its form of appearance in money, capital, etc. To say that money measures the values of the commodities is to say that it is the necessary appearance of the expression of labour time, or, which is the same, the monetary expression of labour time,220 because the commodities cannot show in and of themselves what they are worth – they do not have their value ‘branded onto their forehead’ (‘auf die Stirn geschrieben’).221 The direct identification of ‘labour’ with value underestimates the significance of why labour must take on the form of value under the conditions of capital. The ‘premonetary’ theory of value with its emphasis on a transhistorically valid ‘labour substance’ therefore ironically discards the problem of fetishism much in the same way as the Uno School does.222 Here is also why the alleged theoretical contradiction between a ‘monetary theory of value’ and the labour theory of value is a false one.223 While (surplus) value does not emerge from exchange,224 it cannot exist apart from it. However, Uno aids and abets the false opposition of the labour theory of value and a ‘monetary’ theory of value by not acknowledging the necessity of value to appear in a concrete form. Uno’s determination of money as the ‘monopoly to buy’ or as the ‘active leadership of commodity exchange’225 of different use values remains unhinged from an explanation interested in the social form of money. By dissociating money theory from the discussion and analysis of abstract labour, however, Uno skips the analysis of how this objective relation gains a form of appearance. In sum, Uno proposes a theory of ‘money without value’, by dismissing the constitutive role and the specific character of abstract labour. Money is hence tautologically posited as self-explanatory. At this point, Uno’s presentation of money as simply the ‘mediator’ between different use values, is reminiscent of Ricardo’s negligence when it comes to examining the character of the labour that manifests itself in relative values, and accordingly, in money:
If two commodities are equivalents – or bear a definite proportion to each other or, which is the same thing, if their magnitude differs according to the quantity of ‘labour’ which they contain – then it is obvious that regarded as exchange-values, their substance must be the same. Their substance is labour. That is why they are ‘values’. Their magnitude varies, according to whether they contain more or less of this substance. But Ricardo does not examine the form – the peculiar characteristic of labour that creates exchange-value or manifests itself in exchange-values – the nature of this labour. Hence he does not grasp the connection of this labour with money or that it must assume the form of money. Hence he completely fails to grasp the connection between the determination of the exchange-value of the commodity by labour-time and the fact that the development of commodities necessarily leads to the formation of money. Hence his erroneous theory of money.226
While Ricardo, in Marx’s view, has insufficiently grasped the inner connection of the specific character of abstract labour and money, Uno denies the immediate connection between abstract labour and money in toto. In this sense, Uno falls behind Ricardo, assuming a position more akin to Bailey, as is shown in the next section. Uno fails to acknowledge the specific character of labour that is productive of value and by which alone commodities can relate to each other as values. Money, the ‘god of commodities’,227 is therefore the objectification (or ‘incarnation’) of abstract human labour in a distinguished sense. By bringing in the commodity owner, Uno assumes his method is more coherent, and, as such, does not rely on ‘unproven presuppositions’, as would be the ‘third thing’. As we have seen, however, abstract labour is not an ‘unproven presupposition’, but the heuristic to deciphering the emergence of the money fetish. We can furthermore show that the problem of ‘unproven presuppositions’ much rather belongs to Uno’s conception of the commodity owner. As pointed to earlier, for once, there is the circular logic of methodological individualism: money indeed is advantageous for the individual who uses it – but only if everybody uses it.228 In this respect, money has existed as a social fact ‘before man seeks to give an account of [its] content and meaning’.229 Money presupposes general social relations of production that enable individuals to make use of it, and thereby express and likewise conceal these relations in the first place. Abstractions that reduce the social forms of value and money to the function they have in individual agents therefore perform a petitio principii.230 Second, as Uno admits, ‘free and unhindered exchange’ presents another precondition for the commodity economy, as do the private ownership of the means of production, a large-scale division of labour, competition, etc. Only when these manifold conditions are fulfilled can the products of labour acquire a ‘social form’ as commodities. Uno’s understanding of ‘social form’ is truncated, because he only refers it to forms of circulation, while the social form of production is declared anathematic to the analysis of the commodity:
Marx’s Capital, Volume One, though entitled ‘the Production Process of Capital’, begins in fact with the discussion of such circulation-forms as commodities, money, and capital; only after the development of the form of capital does it turn to the analysis of the labour-process which is common to all societies (sic), finally opening the real treatment of the production process of capital. It cannot be doubted that Marx had an accurate grasp of the true nature of the commodity-economy, although there remain some methodological ambiguities in Capital [for instance: the misleading title of the first volume de-emphasises the primacy of the circulation-forms; the premature and unnecessary (sic) reference to the labour theory of value in the early part of Capital frequently beclouds the discussion of commodity circulation (sic)]. The pure theory of capitalism must, in any case, begin with the doctrine of circulation in which the forms of circulation alone are to be examined.231
But in Marx’s architecture of Capital, the ‘circulation forms’ of the commodity, money, and capital are precisely analysed within the ‘Production Process of Capital’ to declare their intrinsic relation – to precisely not succumb to the ‘vulgar’ illusion that money should be treated independently of production.
By merely maintaining that money is a ‘social relation’, authors of the Uno School, like Costas Lapavitsas,232 do not go further than Marx’s proclamation in The Poverty of Philosophy that ‘money is not a thing, but a social relation’. This is also reflected in the view of political economist Ferdinando Galiani (1728–87) whom Marx criticises in the Fetish chapter for contending that ‘Value is a relation between persons’ (or more accurately ‘Wealth is a relationship between two persons’).233 Authors of the Uno School altogether underestimate the role of money as the first appearance of the fetishistic character of value, precisely in its relation to abstract labour. The fine nuance is missed that money is not simply a ‘social relation’, but a ‘relation concealed beneath a material shell’, as Marx formulates his criticism of Galiani.234 But the misconception of abstract labour goes further. If money alone constitutes the ‘objectivity’ of value, what are we to make of the commodity owner whose subjective evaluation was the motivation for value expression? Needless to say, the whole complex of real abstraction or Realabstraktion, first theorised by Alfred Sohn-Rethel, and subsequently gaining momentum in the theoretical framework of Kritische Theorie,235 goes unnoticed in Uno. Therefore, not only the relation between abstract labour and money, but also the relation between the subjective and objective aspects of value is left unaddressed. The epistemological coherence in Uno’s approach must therefore be questioned. It is Reichelt’s evaluation of Adorno’s contribution to the problem of money and exchange that may illuminate Uno’s missing epistemological reflection:
Although Adorno repeatedly spoke about the exchange society, he should not be described – as he so often wrongly is – as a theorist of an exchange society in the economic sense. The essence of Adorno’s critical theory lies in the very fact that he understands the capitalist economy as an inverted reality in which individuals no longer ‘interact with one another’ on the market as rationally acting subjects, as the idea of the exchange economy suggests. Adorno criticised such a concept as ‘social nominalism’. Rather, they act as executors of constraints generated and reproduced by themselves, which are implemented in and through their conscious actions without, however, these being consciously accessible to them. This is what the strong concept of totality means, which should not be confused with the mechanistic idea in which ‘everything is linked with everything else’ (Albert), or with the hermeneutic one that operates by ‘anticipating the interpretation of a connection of meaning’ (Habermas). Totality is not a methodological postulate, but rather the concept of a real ‘becoming autonomous [Verselbständigung]’.236
For Adorno, ‘Totality … is pre-established for all individual subjects since they obey its “constraints” even in themselves and even in their monadological constitution and here in particular, conceptualise totality. To this extent, totality is what is most real’.237 Marx described the same predicament with his sarcastic diagnosis that the determination of value as socially necessary labour time asserts itself in the same way as ‘the law of gravity asserts itself when a person’s house collapses on top of him’.238 To be sure, there are different ways to perform an analysis. We do not hold that Marx’s analysis of the value form is the ‘only’ and ‘exclusive’ way to proceed from the forms of appearance to the essence of value that determines the exchange relations between commodities. Much rather, we hold that conducting an analysis by separating the two issues – money (the explanandum) and abstract labour (the explanans) – and declaring them as belonging to different levels of analysis – exchange (circulation) and production – is not an analysis at all, for the object in question (the value form of money) is simply never questioned. Uno’s exemplifications read as though the reality of money – the fact that money ‘always’ assumes the place of the universal equivalent – is the one answer we should be content with. But the ‘how, why and through what’ of this ‘reality’, which allows for the veritably deep insight into the fetishistic structure that the value form exhibits, simultaneously disclosing Marx’s method in Capital, is discarded from Uno’s approach and substituted for the poor theoretical framework of methodological individualism associated with commodity owners. It therefore also reintroduces the money fetish. This one-sided stress on the ‘form’ and the dismissal of the qualitative dimension of value is precisely the hallmark of bourgeois and vulgar political economy, which Marx has predominantly criticised in Samuel Bailey.
Bailey gives the present study a welcome argumentative template with which to consider Uno’s objections to Marx’s value theory in more detail. Indeed, Uno’s reservations against the ‘substance of value’ clearly echoes Bailey’s critique of David Ricardo’s theory of value. Because these parallels have not sufficiently come to the fore in Uno research, in the following we will elaborate on the basic theoretical similarities between Bailey and Uno which we previously only hinted at. The following discussion also serves to highlight the essential differences between Ricardo’s and Marx’s theory of value. It is safe to say that Marx has been able to refine his value theory through Bailey’s critique of Ricardo. The question is whether there is still reasonable ground to attack Marx’s mature value theory by assuming a Baileyist position.
3.3.4 Form vs. Substance: Uno Kōzō’s Baileyism
So far, we have analysed two aspects in Uno’s defective interpretation of the value form: 1. the emergence of value through the want of the commodity owner of the equivalent’s use value, and 2., the dissociation of abstract labour from the theory of money. Both views are to be commonly grounded in the misrecognition of Marx’s crucial theorem, the threefold inversion taking place in the ‘particularities of the equivalent form’. To complete the analysis of Uno’s theory of value without fetish in the context of Capital Volume I, we must take a closer look at Uno’s emphasis on ‘form’.
As a general preliminary to the problem of ‘form’ in Marx, we strongly hold that the stress on ‘form’, pivotal to Marx’s analysis of value, is not to be conflated (or, indeed, identified) with a ‘formal’ or even ‘formalist’ approach to value that ‘brackets’ (Arthur) the mode of production. In Marx’s mature work, the semantics of ‘form’ primarily denotes two aspects: a) a synonym with ‘category’, used in the same way as Hegel’s concept or Begriff, and b), as in ‘social’ form, a strictly non-generalisable, historically specific mode of production such as we find in capitalism. In this sense, Marx speaks of the form of value as ‘the particular form which labour assumes as the substance of value’.239 In reference to his taxonomy of ‘social form I’ and ‘social form II’, a helpful distinction denoting the specific form of labour assumed in capitalist production (social form I) and the value forms, i.e. the commodity, money, capital, wage, profit, rent, etc. (social form II), Brentel argues that abstract-general labour as substance of value is specifically social form (form I), which assumes its form of existence in the value-forms, the categories of bourgeois political economy (form II).240
Concerning the latter, as Backhaus contends, ‘Marx’s central demand from “the” economic science (“die” Ökonomie) consisted in “genetically developing” the “categories” or “forms”, instead of “presupposing” them’.241 Hence Marx’s coinage of the term ‘objective forms of thought’ (‘objektive Gedankenformen’), uniting both a description of the ossified nature of conventional economic categories (or forms), and their critique. As for the second, more eminent and likewise controversial usage of ‘form’, Marx was intent on conceptually differentiating ‘value’ from ‘value form’. Marx insisted that the conflation of value with value form in the phenomenon of commodity exchange was the hallmark of a deficient grasp of value. For it is precisely the analysis of the form of value – and not, as many interpreters, including Uno, believe, the positive hypostasis of form – that serves to disclose the content hidden by the form, i.e. abstract social labour. Here, the meaning of form-content (Formgehalt), which we pointed to earlier, can be elucidated. With regard to the ‘Urtext’ (Rough Draft) of the Grundrisse and its elaborate comments on form, Helmut Brentel states that, for Marx,
… a mere formal view counts as ‘merely abstract’ (Gr 935); it is fixated on a merely external form, or the external of the form (das Äusserliche der Form) respectively, and treats it as though it presented the whole. The economic form determinations are referred to as ‘superficial forms’ (Gr 934 ff.) which themselves seem to emerge from the surface of the socialisation process ‘(Vergesellschaftungsprozess)’. In this sense, the formal (das Formelle) forms the antonym to an essential, content-related, ‘qualitatively’ (Gr 185) understood form which is reassured with regard to its constitutive form-content and hence even refers to ‘form’ as one of its content-determinations.242
Social form becomes indicative of content when it is able to address the ‘grounding nexus’ (Begründungszusammenhang) that gives rise to this form. This is what is meant by the form-content Marx demands from the analysis of the value form. It does not suffice to identify value as appearing in specific forms; in fact, the theorist must be able to account for the common ground of all the value forms, which cannot directly appear as such. Marx’s critique of Ricardo, who, like Bailey, only considers specific quantities, but never the quality grounding particular amounts, directly reflects this demand: ‘[Ricardo] does not even examine the form of value – the particular form which labour assumes as the substance of value. He only examines the magnitudes of value, the quantities of this abstract, general, and in this form social labour which engender differences in the magnitudes of values in the commodities’.243 Bailey’s conclusion that there is simply no such thing as a common substance or ‘denominator’ in the relative magnitudes of value, is consequently – within his own logic – not too far-fetched. However, and this is crucial,
the relativity of the concept of value is by no means negated by the fact that all commodities, insofar as they are exchange values, are only relative expressions of social labour time and their relativity consists by no means solely of the ratio in which they exchange for one another, but of the ratio of all of them to this social labour which is their substance.244
Marx’s critique of ‘mere form’, i.e. of the economic form-determinations as they appear in his predecessors, is the most poignant when it focuses on the fetishisations of conventional form-constitution, as e.g. in the hypostasis of simple circulation and the commodity and money, supposedly presenting the ‘total’ relations of production. Hypostatisations of C-M-C or M-C-M as the ‘real’ or ‘actual’ social process – conducted by Uno in the Principles without problematising them245 – fail to see that these ‘formal’ determinations of value primarily deliver a distorted view of the really existing, fully yet-to-be-analysed relations of production which are precisely not exhausted in these circulation forms. As Brentel argues,
The ideological semblance of simple circulation is constituted precisely in that its economic determinations appear to the immediately acting subjects as well as their theoretical interpreters as exclusively formal determinations. The production of this semblance of the merely formal of so-called simple circulation results from the given form of its mediating movement itself. Because in their mediating forms C-M-C and M-C-M, simple circulation, viewed as such, only presents the ‘formal process’ (Gr 919) of mediating or realising both determinations of the commodity as use value and value in the process of exchange in such a manner that they are divided in polar form to the extremes of the exchange process, as commodity and money.246
To further indicate the importance of the distinction between value and value form, Marx made the following crucial remark:
The process of exchange gives to the commodity which it has converted into money not its value but its specific value-form. Confusion between the two attributes has misled some writers into maintaining that the value of gold and silver is imaginary.247
That value and the value form are to be strictly differentiated is key to understanding the first chapter of Capital and the critique of fetishism that follows from it, constituting Marx’s method. With this remark, Marx has also killed two birds with one stone: he both discourages the view that value is something that ‘emerges’ from exchange (the view that Uno holds) and the view that value is to be identified with the form in which it appears. But the emphasis on value form should not lead us astray: as Rubin has shown, it is precisely the ‘inner dialogue’ with his contemporary Bailey, and especially Bailey’s critique of Ricardo, that has led Marx to refine his theory of value in terms of differentiating it from ‘exchange value’, the term he used in large parts synonymously with the concept of value, e.g. in the Grundrisse and the Contribution.248 At the same time, this ‘dialogue’ can also be read as a direct rebuttal of Uno’s formalist approach to value. Like Bailey, Uno holds the assumption that 1) the quantity offered by commodity owner A in exchange for a quantity of commodity B’s use value determines commodity A’s value, so that 2) value is determined by exchange alone, and that 3), it is redundant to assume a ‘third thing’ or ‘common substance’ to arrive at a commodity’s exchange value or price. Accordingly, exchange value or price alone regulates the social metabolism: there is no content, only form. In his discussion in the Economic Manuscripts 1861–3, Marx first introduces Samuel Bailey249 as deserving the merit to have discarded the notion that there must be an ‘invariable measure’ of value, as Ricardo believed:
In order to measure the value of commodities – to establish an external measure of value – it is not necessary that the value of the commodity in terms of which the other commodities are measured, should be invariable. (It must on the contrary be variable … because the measure of value is, and must be, a commodity since otherwise it would have no immanent measure in common with other commodities.) If, for example, the value of money changes, it changes to an equal degree in relation to all other commodities. Their relative values are therefore expressed in it just as correctly as if the value of money had remained unchanged. The problem of finding an ‘invariable measure of value’ is thereby eliminated.250
As already highlighted in the previous chapter (Chapter 3.2.), it would be wrong to infer that because the common measure of value need not be ‘invariable’, there is no need for a common ground (a ‘third’) on the basis of which value can be measured at all. This is Bailey’s main thesis, held in the Critical Dissertation on Value (1825) and other works directed against Ricardo. According to Bailey, Ricardo was wrong to transform ‘value’ from being a relative property of the commodity into being something absolute.251 Long before Uno, Bailey assumes that there is no other way to determine the value of a commodity than to determine the quantitative proportion in which commodities exchange as use values: ‘If the value of an object is its power of purchasing, there must be something to purchase. Value denotes consequently nothing positive or intrinsic, but merely the relation in which two objects stand to each other as exchangeable commodities’.252 In their understanding, both Bailey and Uno however conflate the value expression of a particular use value with value itself, ignoring the difference between the superficial-phenomenal form of value in its appearance, and the condition of possibility of the one commodity being an ‘expression of value’ of the other in the first place. In other words, both for Bailey and for Uno, ‘value is fundamentally to be understood as nothing but what presents itself at the level of prices of production, i.e. relative price, a merely quantitative expression of one commodity in units of another commodity. Any relation to an ‘immanent’ or ‘absolute’ value in the sense of a common labour value determination is rejected as a relic of a substance-metaphysical kind of thought’.253
When … we regard two objects as subjects of choice or exchange, we appear to acquire the power of expressing our feelings with precision, we say, for instance, that one A is, in our estimation, equal to two B. But this is not the expression of positive, but of relative esteem; or, more correctly, of the relation in which A and B stand to each other in our estimation. This relation can be denoted only by quantity. The value of A is expressed by the quantity of B for which it will exchange, and the value of B is in the same way expressed by the quantity of A. Hence the value of A may be termed the power which it possesses or confers of purchasing B, or commanding B in exchange.254
To this, Marx responds: ‘To estimate the value of A, a book for instance, in B, coals, and C, wine, A, B, C must be as value something different from their existences as books, coals or wine. To estimate a value of A in B, A must have a value independent of the estimation of that value in B, and both must be equal to a third thing, expressed in both of them’.255 But Bailey himself is not entirely consequential in his definition of value. On the one hand, value is radically contingent and dependent on subjective evaluation by relating different quantities of different products (not of value, but use value), and on the other hand, value is a ‘property’ of things: ‘Value is a property of things, riches of men. Value, in this sense, necessarily implies exchange, riches do not’. Similar to Uno, the conflation of use value with value also obscures the conceptual relation to the role of human want. Marx ironically comments: ‘Riches which are identical with use values are properties of things that are made use of by men and which express a relation to their wants’.256 However, as Marx has shown in the fetish-characteristic ‘properties’ of the equivalent (value) form, value does indeed appear as a ‘property of things’, namely in inverted form:
In the first part of my book, I mentioned that it is characteristic of labour based on private exchange that the social character of labour ‘manifests itself’ in a perverted form – as the ‘property’ of things; that a social relation appears as a relation between things (between products, values in use, commodities). This appearance is accepted as something real by our fetish-worshipper, and he actually believes that the exchange value of things is determined by their properties as things, and is altogether a natural property of things.257
The same goes for both Uno’s and Bailey’s conception of money as merely an external expression of relative value, reducing the qualitative transformation of value into money to a quantitative measure. For Bailey, as well as for Uno, ‘ “value” is nothing but the quantitative exchange relation of things that are exchanged, and everything else is a scholastic illusion’.258 Because for Bailey, value is already constituted in a ‘monetary expression’, ‘he does not need to “understand” how this expression becomes possible, how it is determined, and what in fact it expresses’.259 To be sure, Uno, in contrast to Bailey, acknowledged the problem of fetishism addressed by Marx, manifested in the appearance of value as money. But he fatally dissociated it from the social character of labour under capitalist conditions, thereby counterfactually reintroducing the fetishistic notion of money as ‘external measure’. In doing so, Uno bizarrely turns the relation between the value form of money and abstract labour upside down: the form of value must not be explained by referring it to labour, but labour must be ‘form-determined’ – whether historically or systematically is unclear – by value. In this sense, form determines content/substance, manifested in ‘commodity economic development’:
Labour as ‘value forming substance’ abstracted (shashō) from every form and was, so to speak, nothing more than something passive and abstract (chūshōteki). As such, we cannot make it the foundation of the value form. In other words, it is developed by the value form itself. The value form of the commodity is rather grasped through the forms that this substance itself passes through, which is nothing but the process of commodity economic development. The formal determination alone clarifies the assumption of ‘the physical form in the equal objectivity of the products of labour as values’ (Marx 1976, p. 164). Moreover, in order to take on ‘the form of the magnitude of the value of the products of labour’ (Marx 1976, p. 164), the form determination itself is necessary. As the completion of the value form of the commodity, value as money necessarily appears to have this independent form (dokuritsu no katachi).260
However, at no point does Uno discuss ‘how this expression becomes possible, how it is determined, and what in fact it expresses’.261 His discussion is strictly limited to giving priority to form over substance, appearance over essence. Uno’s own ‘inversion’ of the problem therefore does not escape the pitfalls of a similar kind of question-begging to that which we have noticed in Bailey: if labour only ‘comes into play’ within the analysis of the production process of capital, we still have not understood the determination of value that in turn serves as the analytical template for capital. Uno’s argument becomes circular.262 His inversion of the problem of the relation of labour to value does not escape the Baileyist presuppositions, because Uno, like Bailey, categorically denies the importance of the ‘third thing’ as the precondition of exchangeability. Marx’s critique of Bailey therefore also holds for Uno:
Bailey clings to the form263 in which the exchange value of the commodity – as commodity – appears, manifests itself … The individual commodity as such cannot express general labour time, or it can only express it in its equation with the commodity which constitutes money, in its money price. But then the value of commodity A is always expressed in a certain quantity of the use value of M, the commodity which functions as money. This is how matters appear directly. And Bailey clings to this. The most superficial form of exchange value, that is, the quantitative relationship in which commodities exchange with one another, constitutes, according to Bailey, their value. The advance from the surface to the core of the problem is not permitted. He even forgets the simple consideration that if y yards of linen = x lbs of straw, this [implies] a parity between two unequal things – linen and straw – making them equal magnitudes. This existence of theirs as things that are equal must surely be different from their existence as straw and linen. It is not [as] straw and linen that they are equated, but as equivalents. The one side of the equation must, therefore, express the same value as the other. The value of straw and linen must, therefore, be neither straw nor linen, but something common to both and different from both commodities considered as straw and linen. What is it? He does not answer this question. Instead, he wanders off into all the categories of political economy in order to repeat the same monotonous litany over and over again, [namely,] that value is the exchange relation of commodities and consequently is not anything different from this relation.264
Uno’s tacit agreement with Bailey also pertains to his theory of money. While, for Uno, money ‘substitutes the “third thing” and guarantees the relationality of the different commodities to itself as the “solution between use value and value” ’, ‘[a]ccording to Bailey, it is not the determination of the product as value which leads to the establishment of money and which expresses itself in money, but it is the existence of money which leads to the fiction of the concept of value’.265 However, while Uno’s agreement with Bailey strikes us in the relational-quantitative approach to value and money, Uno simultaneously stays behind Bailey in the methodological individualism of the significance of the want of the commodity owner. Bailey’s view does not require ‘subjective’ evaluation – for Bailey, value is objectively manifested in the quantitative relation between different commodities as use values.266 Yet, both deny the qualitative aspect of value, a point that, among others, Rubin has emphasised and criticised in the case of Bailey. At the same time, Rubin contends that the concept of ‘form’ is not exhausted (or should not be conflated with) a ‘formalist’ reading of value. In fact, Rubin directly associates the concept of (social) form with the concept of labour: ‘ “[F]orm of value” (Wertform) does not mean the various forms which value acquired in its development (for example, accidental, expanded, and general forms of value), but of value itself, which is considered as the social form of the product of labor. In other words, here we do not have in mind the various “forms of value”, but “value as form” ’.267 Accordingly, Marx objected to ‘Bailey for limiting his analysis to the quantitative aspect of exchange value and for ignoring value’,268 and the Classics for ignoring the specific form of value consisting in its character as specific social labour. It is therefore surprising that the Unoist Itoh locates the debate on value as revolving around the two ‘extremes’ of the Ricardian school and Rubin, and not Ricardo and Bailey.269 The contrast between Ricardo and Rubin is lopsided, since they do not present opposing extremes: Ricardo’s theory of value relates value to labour (no matter how precariously), and so does Rubin, by understanding value as the social form of the product of labour. It is Bailey against which Ricardo’s and Rubin’s positions must be situated.270 The separation between substance and form, in order to hypothesise the stress on ‘form’ – understood as the ‘quantitative exchangeability of commodities in determinate ratios’ in the theory of ‘pure capitalism’271 – is Bailey’s, and stands diametrically opposed to Rubin’s stress on abstract labour as the social form of value. The conflation of form with formalism (and the wrong attribution of Rubin as a ‘formalist’) is however a symptom in many of Uno’s successors that Uno himself cannot be accused of. In sum, Uno’s Baileyism consists in holding that the value form is sufficiently determined by the exchange ratios offered for another commodity, thereby also conflating, like Bailey before him, exchange value (price) and value. This reduction to a subjectivist formalism radically diverges from Marx’s own theorisation in the social form of value, and therefore in the form-content (Formgehalt) of value:
It is therefore decisive to see that Bailey – and with him, the whole subjectivist approach in economic theory – must ignore the very level of logicity (logische Ansprüchlichkeit) which is inherent in the problem of value expression, the value expression of one kind of commodity in the use value of another. By doggedly insisting on form, he ignores the immanent content of that form (Formgehalt). In order for the commodity to be able to express its own exchange value as well as its quantitative value relations autonomously in money – as the third, excluded commodity – the values of the commodities as the common unit of reference must logically be presupposed.272
In other words, without an inherent quality that relates commodities of different use values in different proportions (quantities) to one another, the very possibility of a relation is set at nought. Without a tertium comparationis, there can be no comparatio at all.
To summarise, we can detect three distinct features of Bailey’s theory of value shared by Uno: a) the definition of value as a claim of accidental exchange relations in the sense of a subjectivist theory of price formation,273 b) the claim of the constitution of value in acts of exchange between two commodity owners, not as the social form that labour assumes under the conditions of capitalist valorisation imperative, and c) the claim of the foundation of value in the natural properties and the use value of ‘things’, as well as in the consciousness (personal ‘want’) of the agents involved in exchange.
These claims are diametrically opposed to Marx’s understanding of the problem of value constitution which precisely is not accounted for in the dimensions of subjective theories of price, dualistic exchange relations, use value functions, or the ‘personal want’ of commodity owners. To the contrary, value constitution is inherently embedded in the question of fetishistic appearances that the features identified by Bailey and Uno as constitutive of value are mere expressions of. Again, neither value, nor its fetishistic appearance in the value forms, can be explained by discarding the specific social form of labour that, as a relation of totality, makes commodities relate to each other as values in the first place.
In the following we want to examine whether Uno’s discussion of capital can tell us more about the social character of value, and therefore move beyond the theories that Marx already found to be logically flawed.
3.4 Uno’s Theory of Capital: M-C-M’ as Pure Form
Value Theory is mainly comprised of a commentary on the first chapters of Capital Volume I. While Chapters 1 and 2 have been shown to already contain Marx’s general theory of money, Uno views Chapter 3 of Capital as the locus classicus of Marx’s money theory. In Chapter 3, Marx discusses ‘Money or the Circulation of Commodities’ in the sections on money as 1. Measure of Values, 2. Means of Circulation, and money as 3. ‘Money’, namely in (a) Hoarding, (b) Means of Payment, and (c) World Money. However, Uno omits the discussion of money as measure of value that represents Marx’s important corrective to (neo)classical theories of money.274 Uno’s omission is logical, and also telling, given his rejection of money as ‘the necessary form of appearance of the measure of value which is imminent in commodities, namely labour-time’.275 For Uno, money is confined to the functions of the means of circulation, means (and aim) of hoarding, means of payment, and ‘world money’. His approach therefore imitates conventional theories of money without adding new incentives. This is also why Uno’s theory of hoarding etc., despite its many problems,276 will not be discussed here. Instead, we shall directly move on to Uno’s understanding of capital.
In the section of Value Theory called ‘Value as Capital’ (Chapter 2, Section 3), Uno presents his thesis that the development from C-M-C to M-C-M, roughly referring to Chapter 4 of Capital, was motivated by international trade and merchant capital. Like in the Methodology, where Uno discusses the historical beginnings of capitalism, he again recurs to Marx’s assumption from Chapter 2 of Capital Volume I that ‘[t]he exchange of commodities begins where communities have their boundaries …’ We have already seen in Chapter 2.1. of this volume that Uno delegates the problem of the emergence of a capitalist mode of production away from the issue of production towards the focus on exchange between communities in pre-medieval societies, and thereby away from Marx’s own understanding of primitive accumulation. It makes sense to briefly return to the discussion on method in Chapter 2. According to Michael Heinrich’s important insight, it was the separation of the producers from the means of production that initiated capitalist sociation historically, not ‘the hoarding in the hands of few’. This insight followed from the structural analysis of the concept of capital in the chapters preceding the one on ‘Primitive Accumulation’. Chapter 24 of Capital Volume I was written as the presentation of the historical instance that gave rise to the subjugation of labour under capital: ‘Only on the basis of the analysis of the capitalist mode of production it becomes therefore clear that the separation of direct producers from their means of production (and not, as could be assumed, the hoarding of money treasures in the hands of few) is the central historical precondition for the capitalist mode of production … only after the analysis of the basic structure of the capital relation, it becomes clear which historical processes have to be presented with regard to the generation of the capital relation’.277 Uno, though aware of the theoretical importance of the ‘free worker in the double sense’, here seems to attribute a stronger emphasis to the role of the ‘hoarding of money treasures in the hands of few’ in his discussion of merchant capital and the general formula for capital in M-C-M’.278 He does not clearly delineate the meaning of the historical emergence of the ‘free worker’ from his emphasis on the existence of merchant capital for the constitution of capitalism.279 In fact, within Uno’s historical systematisation of the emergence of the capital relation, this remains a pervading contradiction. While Uno draws on the unique importance of the ‘commodification of labour power’ for his theoretical elaboration on the reproduction process of capital, the commodification of labour power itself – and this ‘relation encloses a world history’ – remains external to Uno’s understanding of the history of the capital relation. Yet, at the same time, as is also admitted by Uno, industrial capital ‘is no longer merely a form of circulation’280 and therefore presupposes the labour power commodity. With regard to this contradiction, Hyeon-Soo remarks that if capital can only be understood on the social basis of the commodification of labour power, then it is a matter of fact that the concept of ‘capital’ cannot solely contain the forms of commercial or interest-bearing capital. It follows that the theory of the transformation of money into capital (as explained by Uno) is insufficient for the understanding of commodity economy in general, and that it neither implies nor mirrors the emergence of capitalism in a world market dominated by the mercantilist system, even though particular pre-capitalist forms of capital can emerge from the forms of the commodity and money.281
To solve this contradiction, Uno suggests limiting the transformation of money into capital to the pre-capitalist forms of merchant/commercial capital, explained in the framework of the self-augmentation of capital in the general formula M-C-M’. Only after this general formula has been explained can we move to understanding the emergence of surplus value in industrial capital.282 Of course, this leaves us again – as in the discussion of the value form – with the problem of the status of ‘the theory of principles’ of ‘pure capitalism’. We must concede that Uno’s theory of capital is undecided between representing a transhistorical or a historically specific, a logical or a historical account, undermining his own claim to the clear separation between the ‘three levels’ of method. To follow Uno’s emphasis on merchant capital as the not only historically, but also logically primary form of capital, let us take a look at Uno’s unfolding of the argument. The following discussion will not only show Uno’s departure from Marx, but – more pertinently – Uno’s relentless attempt to appropriate Marx’s theory for his own ends.
3.4.1 Buying Cheap and Selling Dear
Before the analysis of M-C-M’, Uno discusses the circulation form C-M-C’ (which Marx used only in the Contribution) to give further evidence to the importance of use value in simple commodity exchange. According to Uno, this development, to which he attributes C-C’ as the fundamental circulation form of pre-capitalist societies, was gradually and historically overcome by the development of money as means of circulation, hoarded money, and means of payment. What emerged in merchant or commercial capitalism was a new orientation towards money as a goal in itself.283 In close connection to the context of the historical emergence of merchant capital, Uno discusses the new form of circulation M-C-M, directed at acquiring and accumulating money as a means in itself:
Money as a means of circulation stopped circulation when it was hoarded, while at the same time, the selling of commodities preceded their acquisition and was coercively organised for the sake of the acquisition of means of payment through sale. This substantially assumed the basis of such a circulation form and was its necessary development. In other words, the increase of the circulation of gold as money on the one hand assumed these conditions, while on the other hand, it brought forward the ‘commodity-economisation’ (shōhin keizaika) on the basis of the domination of such a circulation form. The development of foreign commerce commercialised inner trade.284
Marx however does not discuss any particular historical social formation, but presents the form determinations of circulation (C-M-C, M-C-M) to introduce his notion of surplus value which, as probably his single most important term, he directs first and foremost against the fetishised concept of surplus in the mercantilist notion of ‘buying cheap and selling dear’. Uno, on the other hand, utilises Marx’s concept of surplus value to do quite the opposite: M-C-M is introduced emphatically as the very form on which capital is based, namely the mercantilist self-understanding of ‘buying cheap and selling dear’, or the price margin. It comes as no surprise then that not only the most schematistic formula for the basis for capital, M-C-M, is perceived through the lens of merchant capital by Uno – also his understanding of surplus value and the general formula of capital, M-C-M’, is paradigmatically informed by capital’s commercial form:
As money, value realises itself through the buying and selling of commodities in even more value. This is because it increases so-called surplus value. It is only this value increase, which really makes value capital.285
For Uno it is ‘not simply the domination of money’ in the change of M-C to C-M, but the fact that ‘even more money’ is acquired in M-M’. Here, Uno moves the discussion to the difference between the interests of the commodity owner and the merchant. In contrast to the commodity owner who throws money into circulation to buy and sell his commodities, the merchant invests in order to obtain more money from circulation. Money that does not take the form of a commodity cannot become capital. For Uno, this form shows itself predominantly in merchant capital.
What is crucial is the relation of merchant capital in its general form M-C-M’ to the generation of a surplus, or, in Uno’s terminology, to the self-augmentation of value (kachi no jikozōshoku). With his discussion of the ‘failed attempts’ to explain the origin of surplus value by the circulation of commodities and money in Chapter 5 of Capital, Marx put the theory to the test: capital ‘must have its origin both in circulation and not in circulation’.286 Marx unfolds his argument of the production and the validation process as being necessarily a process of the exploitation of the labour power commodity in the apparent exchange of equivalents (wage against labour) that, in reality, is not an exchange of equivalents at all, because the labourer does not sell her labour, but her labour power, the ability to work. The unique disposition of the labour power commodity – that its use value produces a value that surpasses the value of its exchange value (wages) – becomes the logical basis for exploitation. It also becomes the basis for the fetishised notion that what occurs is an exchange of equivalents: after all, wages represent the value of labour power, and in the sale and purchase of commodities, we pay for its value, not its use value. Here, Marx reveals the ongoing confusion and self-contradictions in treating the ‘selling above price’ as the source of surplus. On another level, more concrete than the merely conceptual introduction of the problematic in the ‘Contradictions in the General Formula’ in Capital Volume I, Marx treats these ‘confusions’ in Capital Volume III (predominantly Chapter 3), and also in his treatment of commercial capital: ‘… in fact the whole idea that profit is derived from a nominal increase in commodity prices, or by selling them above their value, arises from the viewpoint of commercial capital. When we look at it more closely, however, we soon see that this is just an illusion’.287 For Marx, in developed industrial capitalism, commercial capital is relevant insofar as it contributes to the formation of a general rate of profit, hence, of prices of production. Commercial capital, along with interest-bearing capital, therefore forms a separate factor in the analysis of profit. This does not mean at all however that in reality commercial capital’s own profit can be accounted for in separation from the profit of industrial capital. In reality, there is no such thing as commercial capital’s ‘pure’ profit, unrelated to the general rate of profit. Commercial capital takes a share in the average profit without contributing to it via production. The analysis in Chapter 16 and 17 shows just how commercial capital attracts ‘the part of the surplus-value or profit produced by productive capital that falls to its share’,288 as well as its role in the formation of the general rate of profit according to the proportion it forms in the total capital.289 Marx goes on to explain the ‘illusion’ that commercial profit seems to spring from ‘buying cheap, selling dear’: the merchant makes a surplus by buying the commodities below the production price resulting from total capital if commercial capital did not contribute to total capital, and hence, to industrial capital. Ironically, commercial capital can only make a profit by taking part in the share of industrial capital and therefore initially diminishing the original average profit rate. This difference of profit rates sans or avec commercial capital gives rise to the illusion of ‘buying cheap and selling dear’ without relation to capital’s production process:
Just as industrial capital only realizes profit that is already contained in the value of the commodity as surplus-value, so commercial capital does so only because the whole of the surplus-value or profit is not yet realized in the price of the commodity as realized by industrial capital. The merchant’s sale price is higher than its purchase price not because it is above the total value, but rather because his purchase price is below its total value.290
To be sure, this is as true as the math goes for commercial capital in developed industrial capitalism.
For Uno however, commercial capital is historically, and therefore also logically prior to general industrial capital. While it is obvious that commercial capital was historically prior to industrial capital, we should not commit the error to give it logical priority as a condition for the existence of industrial capital. In fact, with industrial capital becoming the main mode of production, commercial capital becomes a secondary aspect to the generation and constitution of total social aggregate, even if it directly influences the average rate of profit. In the chapter of commercial capital, Marx’s criticises treating commercial capital as the logical (‘purely theoretical’) precondition of industrial capital as such:
In the course of scientific analysis, the formation of the general rate of profit appears to proceed from industrial capitals and the competition between them, being only later rectified, supplemented and modified by the intervention of commercial capital. In the course of historical development, the situation is exactly the reverse. It is commercial capital which first fixes the prices of commodities more or less according to their values, and it is the sphere of circulation that mediates the reproduction process in which a general rate of profit is first formed. Commercial capital originally determines industrial profit. It is only when the capitalist mode of production has come to prevail, and the producer himself has become a merchant, that commercial profit is reduced to the aliquot share of the total surplus-value that accrues to commercial capital as an aliquot part of the total capital concerned in the process of social reproduction.291
These considerations however are removed from Uno’s discussion of the ‘self-augmentation’ of value. Quite to the contrary, with the conceptualisation of merchant capital as the paradigmatic form of capital, Uno maintains that for the ‘self-augmentation of value’, ‘there is no other method than “buying cheap, selling dear” ’.292 In other words, because a surplus cannot emerge from an exchange of equivalents, it must emerge from an exchange of non-equivalents, from ‘buying cheap and selling dear’. The evidence Uno allegedly draws from Marx’s critique of Condillac, however, is owed to a substantial distortion of Marx’s own argument. In the following, let us see how. Marx’s critique of Condillac293 is directed against the latter’s confusion of use value and exchange value. Condillac (and other vulgar economists) assume an exchange of equivalents (‘value for value’) ‘whenever they wish to consider the phenomenon in its purity’.294 In order to explain the origin of profit, however, Condillac must assume an exchange of unequal values in which ‘[w]hat is more to the one is less to the other, and vice versa … We wish to part with a useless thing, in order to get one that we need; we want to give less for more …’295 Marx objects:
Hence we see that behind all attempts to represent the circulation of commodities as a source of surplus-value, there lurks an inadvertent substitution [German: Quidpropro; the Japanese translation is missing], a confusion of use-value and exchange-value.296
Uno however omits the following strong argument against Condillac in his Marx quote: ‘We see … how Condillac not only confuses use-value with exchange-value, but in a really childish manner assumes that, in a society in which the production of commodities is well developed, each producer produces his own means of subsistence, and throws into circulation only what is superfluous, the excess over his own requirements’.297 Uno goes on to quote the following: ‘Still, Condillac’s argument is frequently repeated by modern economists, especially when the point is to show that the exchange of commodities in its developed form, commerce, is productive of surplus value. For instance, “Commerce … adds value to products, for the same products in the hands of consumers are worth more than in the hands of producers, and it may strictly be considered an act of production” ’.298 To this, Uno replies: ‘Even if the argument today no longer exists in this simple form, similar theories have still not been cleared away.’299 Marx declares an extremely harsh verdict against this view, quoted by Uno:
But commodities are not paid for twice over, one on account of their use-value, and a second time on account of their value. And though the use-value of a commodity is more serviceable to the buyer than to the seller, its money-form is more so to the seller. Would he sell it otherwise? We might therefore just as well say that the buyer performs what is ‘strictly’ an ‘act of production’ by converting stockings, for example, into money.300
Marx rejects Condillac’s view that equal exchange can be a source of profit: we do not pay twice for a commodity. Equal exchange of commodities does not add value and cannot be considered an act of production – note that the last sentence has a strong ironic note. So much for Marx’s refutation of the exchange of equivalents constituting (surplus) value.
However, Uno’s comment on this quote is worthy of consideration. It justifies not only the role he ascribes to merchant capital and the logic of ‘buying cheap and selling dear’ as constitutive to the basic form of capital. It also explains why, for Uno, the production process could be disregarded. Moreover, it claims to be based on Marx’s own argument. Let us consider Uno’s comment on Marx’s view of Condillac.
First, Uno contends that merchant capital ‘concretely shows the form’ of Marx’s claim that without assuming commodity form, money cannot become capital:
Of course, by this schema (M-C-M’), we cannot understand how value as capital obtains self-augmentation. Simply put, there is no other method than ‘buying cheap, selling dear’. However, as said before, even if there is an inner circulation as capital, the commodity and money have no function outside of being the commodity and money. The money owner in the purchase M-C formally appears as the buyer in contrast to the commodity owner. He does not confront him as a capitalist (shihonka to shite kore ni tairitsu suru wake dewanai). The same goes for the process C-M, the process of sale …
Finally, whether in the process M-C the commodity is bought below its value, or in the process C-M, it is sold above its value, there is no other way for the value augmentation of capital than to be performed in this mutual process.301
Uno performs a twofold trick: he acknowledges Marx’s objection to Condillac in order to use Marx’s argument to maintain that ‘the original rule of self-augmentation’ was to be found the logic of unequal exchange – for if equal exchange cannot yield profit, then unequal exchange must. Uno:
Even if the buyer, as well as the seller, perform an ‘act of production’ (seisan no kōi), commerce does not particularly do so. Here is no space for rebuttal in this clear form, but any claim that denies the so-called labor value theory must first be settled from this point.302
Uno not only uses Marx as a buttress for a view that Marx never holds, namely that the generation of surplus value in M-C-M’ takes place through the exchange of non-equivalents. He also ignores the whole succeeding discussion in which Marx precisely shows that this, for reasons of logic, cannot be the case.303 More drastically, Uno concludes that the labour theory of value fails to hold in the formation of merchant capital: ‘buying cheap and selling dear’, or the sale of a commodity above its value, is the basic form of capital for Uno. To be sure, Uno merely considers the ‘purely’ formal criteria for the surplus. But this is probably also his lacuna. For, if ‘the root of surplus value is completely irrational’,304 then we cannot simply take the form of the logic of self-validation into account. In other words, ‘buying cheap, selling dear’ – mechanisms of merchant capital as an insular and historically overcome phenomenon – do not suffice to explain, indeed distort, the general concept of capital. The general concept of capital cannot be arrived at by relations of exchange, as Marx shows in the ‘Contradictions to the General Formula’. Without repeating Marx’s historiographic arguments for the general concept of capital (see Chapter 2.1. and 5.3.), we must concede that Uno underestimates the historical significance of merchant capital’s disintegration, and not its continuity, for the emergence of the new mode of production in productive capital. In this sense, as Brentel comments, ‘Marx clearly differentiates between, on the one hand, the dissolving effect of trade and merchant capital on the older mode of production, which it simultaneously strives to keep intact, and on the other, the implementation of a new mode of production by industrial capital which is contrary to and ultimately abolishing merchant capital as an autonomous form’.305 This is also reflected in the inability of readjustments to the duties and responsibilities of merchants in the seventeenth century to account for a new production mode:
Right up to the middle of this century [the 17th century], for example, the manufacturer in the French silk industry, and the English hosiery and lace industries, too, was a manufacturer only in name. In reality he was simply a merchant, who kept the weavers working in their old fragmented manner and exercised only control as a merchant; it was a merchant they were really working for. This method always stands in the way of the genuine capitalist mode of production and disappears with its development. Without revolutionizing the mode of production, it simply worsens the conditions of the direct producers, transforms them into mere wage-labourers and proletarians under worse conditions than those directly subsumed by capital, appropriating their surplus labour on the basis of the old mode of production.306
Hence, for Marx, ‘this development, taken by itself, is insufficient to explain the transition from one mode of production to the other’.307 The ‘independent and preponderant development of capital in the form of commercial capital is synonymous with the non-subjection of production to capital; i.e. with the development of capital on the basis of a social form of production that is foreign to it and independent of it’.308 Merchant capital cannot serve as the explanatory basis for the general concept of capital as a social relation. The appropriation of alien and unpaid labour, i.e., unequal exchange in this sense alone meaningfully explains the origin of surplus value. Uno’s insistence on the formal criteria of commodity exchange as explanandum for the creation of surplus value and the general concept of capital indicates not only his disavowal of Marx’s specific cognitive interest in the problem of the fetishistic approach to surplus value – i.e. in theories of equal exchange or ‘buying cheap and selling dear’ – but also wittingly undermines the social dimension that the allegedly ‘formal’ relation between commodities entails: namely that between capital and labour. It may be useful at this point to sum up the preceding analysis. The following points outline where Uno’s reading of value differs to Marx’s value theory in the sequence that they were discussed in Chapter 3, which follows the argument of Value Theory. Uno differs from Marx’s conception
in the rejection of the concept of abstract labour for the analysis of exchange relations and distribution, advocating its deferral to the analysis of production,
in the understanding of abstract labour emerging historically with simplification, deskilling and homogenisation in large-scale industry, hence as a form of concrete labour,
in the attribution of abstract labour to dead, and concrete-useful labour to living labour in his reading of ‘The Production Process’ in Chapter 7 of Capital,
in the claim that the subjective evaluation by the owner of the commodity in the relative form of value (linen) about the commodity in the equivalent form (the coat) determines its value, against value determination in socially necessary labour time,
in the theory of money as the ‘solution’ to the contradiction between use value and value and the Baileyan view of money as ‘power of purchase’,
in the conflation of ‘form’ with ‘formalism’, and the prevalence of form over the substance of value, and
in the determination of merchant capital as the paradigmatic form of capital in the formula M-C-M’, disavowing the transformation of money into capital by the process of production and the exploitation of labour power.
In the following, we will see how Uno conceives of the theory of value as a theory of social reproduction within the context of Principles of Political Economy. In this context, we will discuss how Uno grounds his theory of social reproduction in an equilibrium theory of price. In doing so, we will show that Uno conflates Marx’s presentation of the reproduction schemas in Capital Volume II with his price theory of Capital Volume III. The transformation of value into prices of production, and with it, the formation of the general rate of profit, will be presented by taking the results from Uno’s value theory as basis. We will see that Uno radically departs from Marx’s critical framework to present us with an apologetic view of the capitalist system.
In the foreword to the 1965 edition of Value Theory, Uno 1973 , p. 196.
Stützle 2015, p. 177.
Apart from Uno Kōzō, the discussion group consisted of political economists Aihara Shigeru (1909–93), Arizawa Hiromi (1896–88), Okazaki Saburō (1907–90), Kuruma Samezō (1893–82), Sakisaka Itsurō (1897–85), Suenaga Shigeki (1908–77), Suzuki Kōichirō (1910–83), Tsushima Tadayuki (1901–79), and Tsuchiya Takao (1896–88).
The first six ‘Capital Studies’ roundtable sessions were numbered 1–6 and the last three issues supplemented with subtitles, starting in January 1947 with issue 9 of the Hyōron (pp. 69–98 of the issue), and continued until April 1947 with issue 12 (Capital Studies, no. 4). After a break in May and June, the next issue appeared in July (issue no. 13) of ‘Capital Studies’ no. 5 (pp. 37–64, with the separate title ‘The Fetish Character of the Commodity’). The discussion was taken up again between September and November (issues 14–16, with the sequence of subtitles: ‘The Measure of Value’, ‘Means of Circulation’, and ‘Money’) and concluded with the New Year’s edition of January 1948 (issue 17), subtitled ‘The Transformation of Money into Capital’ (literally: ‘The Capitalisation of Money’). The members of the group were taking notes during the discussion, which were the basis for the Hyōron edition. Many special thanks to Namiko Holzapfel for gathering the detailed information from the Hōsei Research Library.
It was re-published in 1958 with Shiseidō. The original version is not to be confused with Uno’s monograph Studies in Capital (Shihonron no kenkyū) that had been published with Iwanami in 1949.
See Lange 2014.
Elster 1986, p. 192. See also: ‘The labour theory of value and the theory of the falling rate of profit are very poor specimens of deductive reasoning’. Jon Elster 1986, p. 188. This objection shows where Elster’s insight into Marx’s method is poor: Marx did not undertake any kind of ‘deductive reasoning’ to develop his key theorem. The opposition ‘deductive-inductive’ falls flat with regard to the analytical logic Marx uses in Capital. See Chapter 1.
Marx 1976, p. 186.
Marx 1976, p. 139. Emphasis added.
Walker 2016, p. 12. Walker refers to Karatani Kōjin’s appropriation of Uno’s ‘important corrective to Marx’.
‘Doppelcharakter der in den Waren dargestellten Arbeit’. See Marx 2008, p. 949.
This is how Werner Bonefeld characterises what is ‘at the center of the critique of political economy’. Bonefeld 2014, p. 1.
Uno 1973 , pp. 201–65.
Uno 1973 , p. 218.
Marx 1976, pp. 169–70.
Marx 1976, p. 171.
Uno 1973 , pp. 271–72.
Marx 1976, p. 137.
Marx 1976, p. 164, quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 267. See also p. 271.
Marx 1976, p. 164. Emphasis added.
Starosta 2008, p. 16. See also Kicillof and Starosta 2007 and 2011, Wolf 2008a, Carchedi 2011, Saitō and Sasaki 2013.
Heinrich 1999, Murray 2000, Postone 1993, Arthur 2004, especially Bonefeld 2010. A further objection to the ‘transhistorical’ reading can be found in Ellmers 2017. His reception-historical objection contends that after the demise of the Ricardian school, subjective theories of value (Bailey et al.) were further ‘gaining ground’ (Ellmers 2017, p. 94), so that Marx felt the need to resist ‘circulation theories of value’ by stressing the material-physiological character of value-creating human labour. This however does not explain the schism in the historical/transhistorical determination of abstract labour following from this intervention.
This is especially emphasised in Starosta 2017.
Marx 1976, p. 184.
‘Represents’ here refers to all concrete-useful labours as they enter into the sphere of circulation.
‘Products of labour’ in abstraction from their ‘useful properties’ are ‘merely congealed quantities of homogenous human labour’ (Marx 1976, p. 128); as such, they present the ‘commodity values [Warenwerte]’ (ibid.), ‘… the value of a commodity represents human labour pure and simple, the expenditure of human labour in general’. Marx 1976, p. 135. ‘On the one hand, all labour is an expenditure of human labour-power, in the physiological sense, and it is in this quality of being equal, or abstract, human labour that it forms the value of commodities’. Marx 1976, p. 137.
Uno 1973 , p. 268. Quote from Marx 1976, p. 170.
Uno 1973 , p. 269.
Marx 1976, p. 131. Quoted in Uno 1973 , pp. 270 and 280.
Uno 1973 , p. 269.
Elbe 2008b, p. 242.
Uno 1973 , pp. 349–50.
Uno 1973 , p. 269.
Marx 1976, p. 133.
Marx 1973, p. 600. The perversity of capital’s self-illusion, pretending to be interested in use value rather than value, came forward in the news of Nov. 8, 2016 when Adidas announced the market release of sneakers made entirely from ocean plastic. Rather than showing how capital’s ‘voracious hunger for profit’ does not halt at profiting from its own waste-producing logic, it suggests that the purchase of these sneakers was an environmental act.
Uno 1973 , p. 272.
Marx 1988 [1868–70], p. 68. Original emphases.
Lange 1978, p. 30.
Marx 1976, p. 128.
Uno 1973 , p. 270.
Uno 1980, p. 32. See also Hyeon-Soo 1995, p. 102.
Uno 1973 , p. 274.
Uno 1973 , p. 274.
See Marx 1976, pp. 471–2.
See Uno 1973 , p. 275.
‘The foundation of every division of labour which has attained a certain degree of development, and has been brought about by the exchange of commodities, is the separation of town from country. One might well say that the whole economic history of society is summed up in the movement of this antithesis’. Marx 1976, p. 472.
Uno 1973 , p. 279.
Uno 1973 , p. 279.
Uno 1973 , p. 279.
Uno 1973 , p. 278.
See Chibber 2013 who points to the same conflation of abstract with homogenous labour e.g. in the works of Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd.
Rubin 1973 , p. 28.
Bonefeld 2010, p. 260.
The valorisation process is ‘entirely confined to the sphere of production’. Marx 1976, p. 302.
Marx 1987 , p. 4.
Marx 1987 , p. 4.
Rubin 1973 , p. 3. This is of course Postone’s main argument. Postone 1993.
‘The Three Great Economic Laws that Govern Capitalism’, in Uno 1974 .
Uno 1974 , p. 17.
Uno 1974 , p. 20.
Marx 1976, p. 302.
Uno 1980, p. XXIV.
A kin usually refers to a weight measure of about 600 grams (= 160 monme) in Japan, or a ‘loaf’ of bread of about 300–400 grams. Other references to monme were also known. See the Kōjien, ed. by Shinmura 1979, p. 596.
Uno 1973 , p. 347. For Marx’s original example, see Marx 1976, p. 293 ff.
Uno 1973 , p. 347. Emphasis added.
Marx interjects a footnote here, referring to Ricardo’s title of Section III of the chapter on value in the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation: ‘Not only the labour applied immediately to commodities affects their value, but the labour also which is bestowed on the implements, tools, and buildings with which such labour is assisted’. Ricardo 1969 , p. 13.
Marx 1976, p. 294. Quoted in Uno 1973 , pp. 374–8.
Marx 1976, pp. 294–5.
Marx 1976, p. 289.
Marx 1976, p. 302.
Uno 1973 , p. 349. Emphasis added.
Uno 1980, p. 24. See also Uno 1964, pp. 51–2.
Marx 1976, p. 308.
Marx 1976, p. 308.
Marx 1976, pp. 314–15. The emphasis relates to where the translation has been amended to fit the original.
Uno 1980, p. 24.
Uno 1973 , pp. 349–50.
Marx 1987 [1857–61], p. 466.
Uno and Sakisaka (ed.) 1948, p. 142.
See Uno and Sakisaka (ed.) 1948, p. 160.
Uno and Sakisaka (ed.) 1948, p. 166.
Uno and Sakisaka (ed.) 1948, p. 166.
That the polarity of relative and equivalent form of value must be guaranteed by an ‘offer to sell’ that depends on the intervention of the owner of the commodity in the relative form, hence, a market participant, has recently also been emphasised by Lapavitsas in Lapavitsas 2005 and Lapavitsas 2017 and other Uno School theorists, such as Sekine in Sekine 2013 . For a critique of this position, see Lange 2017.
Marx 1976, p. 140. Note E.M. Lange’s careful objection with regard to the perspective Marx takes here. According to Lange, Marx’s perspective in (what Lange terms) formula I, ‘x commodity A = y commodity B’, oscillates between a neutral observer’s position and one of the involved parties. The latter is indicated by the formulation ‘… in this case I must reverse the equation …’ Asymmetry can however only be attributed to what Lange terms formula II, ‘x commodity A is worth y commodity B’. According to Lange, this form ‘describes the perspective of action (Handlungsperspektive) of the commodity owner of A who must find out or consider … for what amount of commodity B he wants to (or can) exchange his commodity A. If a relation of exchange is to be described by the perspectives of those involved in the process of exchange, however, then formula II must be supplemented by formula III, ‘y commodity B is worth x commodity A’. Marx however ignored this asymmetry of the perspective and rather identifies the perspective of one of the parties involved in formula II with the neutral observer position in formula I. As Lange, however, admits, the reasons for this may go deeper than just being a slip of mind. In Marx’s understanding, ‘the subject’ of the relation is neither one of the involved parties nor the observer – and also, as he points out in the Randglossen, ‘neither “value” nor “exchange value”, but the commodity’. Marx 1987 [1875–83], p. 358. ‘What is contained in this reference, on the one hand, is that it has a critical punch line if Marx thematises commodities, and not their producers or their owners. The qualification of the commodity as subject supposes that in this society things, namely commodities, are subjects, not their producers and/or their owners’. Lange 1978, p. 13. For a more detailed discussion, see Chapter 1, and also Lange (Elena Louisa) 2014.
Marx 1983 , p. 765. The Appendix to the first edition of Capital Volume I was translated by Mike Roth and Wal Suchting in Capital and Class, 4 (1978): 130–50, now in Mohun 1994, pp. 9–34 and
In Studies in Capital, Uno insists that ‘[if] there were no commodity owner of the linen wanting the coat, then [value] could not be expressed in the form of the use value of the coat. Abstracting from the want [of the owner of the linen] would mean that the value of the coat itself were expressed in the linen, and they would express each other relatively. But this is not the meaning of “being relative”. Uno and Sakisaka (ed.) 1948, p. 162. ‘For example, if there were no owner of the linen, there would neither be a use value of the commodity in the equivalent form nor a want (yokubō) of the coat. Then the linen and the coat would express their respective value through each other. … Which commodity stands in the equivalent form is decided by the owner of the commodity in the relative form of value’. Uno and Sakisaka (ed.) 1948, p. 166.
Uno 1973 , p. 289.
Uno 1973 , p. 289.
Uno 1973 , p. 289.
Uno 1973 (1947), pp. 289–90.
Marx 1987 [1857–61], p. 331.
Uno 1973 , p. 290.
Marx 1976, p. 159. The original term is gemeinsame Wertgestalt. Marx 2008, 81.
Marx 1976, p. 142. Paraphrased in Uno 1973 , pp. 290–1.
Uno 1947 , p. 291.
Marx 1976, p. 143. In the original: ‘… als Wert ist sie “Rockgleiches” und sieht daher aus wie ein Rock’. Marx 2008, p. 66.
Uno 1973 , p. 291.
Marx 1976, p. 148.
Marx 1976, p. 148. Emphasis added.
Uno 1980, p. 8. Emphasis added.
Marx 1976, p. 156.
Marx 1976, p. 147. Quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 293.
Uno 1973 , pp. 293–4.
In an often underappreciated passage, Marx honours the scientific endeavours of his predecessors in their attempt to demonstrate the economic relations post festum, and yet points to their inability to apply this method to the ‘absurd form’ that money takes the position of the ‘collective labour of society’: ‘Reflection on the forms of human life, hence also scientific analysis of those forms, takes a course directly opposite to their real development. Reflection begins post festum, and therefore with the results of the process of development ready to hand … Consequently, it was solely the analysis of the prices or commodities which led to the determination of the magnitude of value, and solely the common expression of all commodities in money which led to the establishment of their character as values. It is however precisely this finished form of the world of commodities – the money form – which conceals the social character of private labour and the social relations between the individual workers … If I state that coats or boots stand in a relation to linen because the latter is the universal incarnation of abstract human labour, the absurdity of the statement is self-evident. Nevertheless, when the producers of coats and boots bring these commodities into a relation with linen, or with gold or silver (and this makes no difference here), as the universal equivalent, the relation between their own private labour and the collective labour of society appears to them in exactly this absurd form’. Marx 1976, pp. 168–9.
Marx 1988 [1868–70], pp. 68–9. Reichelt’s bizarre interjection that Marx’s polemical tone indicates that he believed himself to have been ‘caught red-handed’ (Reichelt 2013, p. 108) only reveals Reichelt’s own shortcomings in understanding Marx’s method, against Reichelt’s better insights in The Logical Structure of the Concept of Capital (2001 ).
Uno 1973 , p. 293.
Uno 1973 , p. 293.
Marx 1976, p. 145. Interestingly, one of Marx’s contemporaries, John Broadhurst, who attempted to ‘cut away the ground’ from Ricardo’s labour theory of value, made a similar argument to Uno’s that Marx refers to in a footnote to the second edition: ‘The vulgar economists have exploited this lack of congruence between the magnitude of value and its relative expression with their customary ingenuity. For example: “Once admit that A falls, because B, with which it is exchanged, rises, while no less labour is bestowed in the meantime on A, and your general principle of value falls to the ground … If he [Ricardo] allowed that when A rises in value relatively to B, B falls in value relatively to A, he cut away the ground on which he rested his grand proposition that the value of a commodity is ever determined by the labour embodied in it; for if a change in the cost of A alters not only its own value in relation to B, for which it is exchanged, but also the value of B relatively to that of A, though no change has taken place in the quantity of labour to produce B, then not only the doctrine falls to the ground which asserts that the quantity of labour bestowed on an article regulates its value, but also that which affirms the cost of an article to regulate its value”. (J. Broadhurst, Political Economy, London 1842, pp. 11 and 14). Mr Broadhurst might just as well say: consider the fractions 10/20, 10/50, 10/100 etc. The number 10 remains unchanged, and yet its proportional magnitude, its magnitude in relation to the numbers 20, 50, 100 continually diminishes. Therefore, the great principle that the magnitude of a whole number, such as 10, is “regulated” by the number of times the number 1 is contained in it falls to the ground’. Marx 1976, pp. 146–7.
Bailey 1967 , p. 5. Quoted in Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 331.
Marx 1989b, p. 348. See also Brentel 1989, p. 11, who discusses Bailey’s mistake at length. All capitals in the original.
In a striking analogy, Marx quotes Bailey – ‘It is impossible to designate or express the value of a commodity, except by a quantity of some other commodity’ – to comment: ‘(As impossible as it is to “designate” or “express” a thought except by a quantity of syllables. Hence Bailey concludes that a thought is – syllables.)’ Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 333.
See Chapter 1.
Hyeon-Soo 1995, p. 72.
Bailey 1967 , pp. 4–5.
Uno 1964, p. 21.
These ‘subjective evaluations’ of course inform the price formation theory of neoclassical economics, which Uno’s view ultimately leans on.
Uno 1980, p. 9.
Uno further betrays his own theoretical roots in neoclassical economics when he argues that the decisions of individuals in a capitalist commodity-society ultimately contribute to the common best: ‘[The commodity-economic laws] … emerge as a large number of independent individuals repeatedly strive to achieve their own self-seeking and myopic goals by the process of trial and error. For the totality of their acts, plied each independently, ends by forging stable social relations that suit capitalist society’. Uno 2016 , p. 16. ‘The economic laws are enforced through this corrective process [of the law of value], in which social imbalances tend to be removed, as individual producers pursue their profits’. Uno 2016 , p. 17.
Marx 1976, p. 149.
Marx 1976, p. 150.
Marx 1976, p. 151.
Marx 1976, p. 255.
‘Now this fetish-character emerges more strikingly in the equivalent-form than in the relative value-form. The relative value-form of a commodity is mediated, namely by its relation to another commodity. Through this value-form the value of the commodity is expressed as something completely distinct from its own sensible existence. At the same time it is inherent in this that existence as value (Wertsein) is a relation which is alien to the thing itself and hence that its value-relation to another thing can only be the form of appearance of a social relation hidden behind it. Conversely with the equivalent-form. It consists precisely in the fact that the bodily or natural form of a commodity counts immediately as the social form, as the value-form for another commodity. Therefore, within our practical interrelations, to possess the equivalent-form appears as the social natural property (gesellschaftliche Natureigenschaft) of a thing, as a property pertaining to it by nature, so that hence it appears to be immediately exchangeable with other things just as it exists for the senses (so wie es sinnlich da ist). But because within the value-expression of commodity A the equivalent-form pertains by nature to the commodity B it seems also to belong to the latter by nature outside of this relation. Hence, for example, the riddle (das Rätselhafte) of gold, that seems to possess, by nature, apart from its other natural properties, its colour, its specific weight, its non-oxydisability in air, etc., also the equivalent-form, or the social quality of being immediately exchangeable with all other commodities’.
Marx 1976, p. 148.
Marx 1976, p. 150.
Marx 1976, p. 151.
Uno 1974 , p. 78.
Marx 1976, pp. 154–5.
Marx 1976, p. 159.
Uno 1973 , p. 299, Footnote. Emphasis added.
Uno 1980, p. 8.
Marx 1976, p. 155.
Marx 1976, p. 156. Quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 298.
Marx 1976, p. 158.
Uno 1973 , pp. 301–2. See also Takatsuka Yoshihirō’s critique of Uno’s reformulation of the expanded form of value, in Takatsuka 1979, pp. 56–9.
Marx 1976, p. 157. Quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 302.
Marx 1976, p. 158.
Marx 1976, pp. 158–9.
Marx 1976, p. 159.
Uno 1973 , p. 302–03.
Marx 1976, pp. 159–60. Quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 303.
There is a striking similarity of Uno’s approach to fetishism with the Russian economist Pyotr Struve (1870–1944) who sees the problem of fetishism not implied in the concept of value, but in capital, although capital is only a further developed value form. For a discussion of Struve, see Rubin 1973 , p. 49 ff.
Rubin 1973 , p. 41.
Clarke 1991, p. 163.
Marx 2008, p. 95. Own translation. The English translation is incomplete. See Marx 1976, p. 175.
Rubin 1973 , p. 25.
For the significance of Marx’s critique of methodological individualism in classical political economy, see Heinrich 1999, pp. 154–5.
Marx 1976, p. 196.
Lange 1978, p. 21.
Engster’s rejection of the interpretation of value form analysis as an analysis of exchange is motivated by his critique of Sohn-Rethel’s reading of Marx’s ‘systematic-categorial analysis of the value-form of the commodity as an empirical-historical event (Geschehen)’. Engster 2009, p. 19. Engster’s estimation is unequivocal: ‘By misconceiving the significance of the non-empirical status of value-form analysis, Sohn-Rethel is unaware that Marx … does in no way develop a logic of commodity exchange … [nor] an exchange between “commodity owners”, but the necessity of money from the purely logical-categorial analysis of the value form of the commodity’. Engster 2009, p. 20.
Iber 2006, pp. 189–99.
Iber 2006, p. 189.
Iber 2006, p. 189.
Iber 2006, p. 190. Emphasis added. The first edition of Capital still assumes a middle position between the simultaneous presentation of the analysis of money and exchange and its separation, while already in the 1872 edition, the two presentations belong to different chapters.
Marx 1976, p. 162. Quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 304.
Uno 1973 , pp. 304–5. Emphasis added.
Wolf 1985, p. 141.
The problem of the self-contradiction in ‘premonetary theories’ of value is similarly brought up by Backhaus, in Backhaus 2011, pp. 149–50.
Marx 1987 [1857–61], p. 288. See, however, the later discussion of money as a means of circulation in which Marx admits to the ‘inherent contradictions’ made possible by money: ‘The separation of sale and purchase makes possible not only commerce proper, but also numerous pro forma transactions, before the final exchange of commodities between producer and consumer takes place. It thus enables large numbers of parasites to invade the process of production and to take advantage of this separation. But this again means only that money, the universal form of labour in bourgeois society, makes the development of the inherent contradictions possible’. Marx 1987 [1857–61], p. 334.
Uno 1973 , p. 309.
Uno 1973 , p. 309.
Uno 1980, p. 7.
Marx 1987 [1857–61], pp. 288–9.
Uno 1973 , p. 306.
In the Grundrisse, Marx still uses ‘exchange value’ and ‘value’ synonymously.
Marx 1973, pp. 239–40.
Clarke 1991, p. 166.
Marx 1973, pp. 240–1.
Marx 1976, p. 198.
Marx/Engels 1989, p. 317.
Aristotle 1966, 1257 a. Quoted in Marx 1987 [1857–61], pp. 351–2, footnote.
Throughout his work, Marx uses different formulations to express this ‘objectification’ over and over again: ‘Money is now objectified labour’, Marx 1953 [1857–8], p. 942 (own translation), ‘Money is not a symbol, just as the existence of a use value in the form of a commodity is no symbol. A social relation of production appears as something existing apart from individual human beings, and the distinctive relations into which they enter in the course of production in society appear as the specific properties of a thing – it is this perverted appearance, this prosaically real, and by no means imaginary, mystification that is characteristic of all social forms of labour positing exchange value. This perverted appearance manifests itself merely in a more striking manner in money than it does in commodities’. Marx 1987 [1857–61], p. 289. ‘This physical object, gold or silver in its crude state, becomes, immediately on its emergence from the bowels of the earth, the direct incarnation of all human labour. Hence the magic of money’. Marx 1976, p. 187. ‘Money as a measure of value is the necessary form of appearance of the measure of value which is immanent in commodities, namely labour-time’. Marx 1976, p. 188.
Marx 1976, p. 127.
Already in 1896, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk published his famous rejection of the ‘third thing argument’ in Karl Marx and the Close of his System. See Böhm-Bawerk 1973 , pp. 81–90. Uno was arguably influenced by Böhm-Bawerk, although he presented a (precarious) critique of the chapter on Marx in Böhm-Bawerk’s ‘Capital and Interest’ (‘Kapital und Kapitalzins’, 1884) in the introduction to Value Theory.
Marx 1976, p. 128.
Uno 1973 , p. 297.
‘The Three Great Economic Laws that Govern Capitalism’, in Uno 1974 .
Uno 1973 , p. 297.
Uno 1973 , p. 313.
Uno 1974 , p. 158.
Chris Arthur (in Arthur 2004) holds the same view. For a critique of this view in Arthur, see Lange 2016.
Uno 1973 , p. 291.
Uno 1973 , p. 291.
Rubin 1973 , p. 110.
Schmidt 1968b, p. 278.
Uno 1973 , p. 308.
Uno 1973 , p. 312.
Uno 1973 , p. 316. Emphasis added.
Uno 1973 , p. 314.
Backhaus 2011, p. 181.
Uno 1973 , p. 313.
Backhaus sets the discussion of the nominalist, i.e. ‘money-prioritising’, theory of money against a theory of money that develops the concept from the commodity form within the history of the reception of the ‘logical’ vs. the ‘logico-historical’ presentation of Marx’s categories, labelling the first a ‘deductive’ and the latter an ‘inductive’ theory of the value form. He proposes the significance of the nominalist view while he attempts to emphasise the necessity of a ‘inner correlation (inneren Zusammenhang) between Marx’s value theory and his theory of money’. Backhaus 2011, p. 129. See also Backhaus 2011, p. 179. We will see in Chapter 5 how the post-Uno School appropriates the views of the Neue Marx-Lektüre to discard the labour theory of value, ignoring Backhaus’s endeavours to precisely relate value and money theory. This misreading is however owed to Backhaus’s own irresoluteness or ‘Herumtappen’ (Backhaus 2011 p. 140) as to how value and money are precisely related, ascribing his own indecision to Marx. We will return to this in Chapter 5.2.
Uno 1973 , p. 314.
Uno 1980, p. 5.
Uno 1974 , p. 80.
Uno 1974 , p. 78.
A view also held by the Uno School’s Costas Lapavitsas in his claim of money as the ‘monopoly’ to buy. For a critique of this view, see Lange 2017.
Bailey 1967 , pp. 4–5.
Suzanne de Brunhoff’s study Marx on Money, while offering insights to the function of money as a means of circulation, also insufficiently accounts for the phenomenological function of money as the measure of value. This is because she begins her commentary with Chapter 3 of Capital (‘Money or the Circulation of Commodities’), and not with the analysis of the value form, i.e. Marx’s general theory of money, in Chapter 1. We also disagree with her contention that ‘money is studied in abstraction from capitalism’ (De Brunhoff 2015 , p. xiii). Like in Uno and many other commentators on Marx’s theory of money, Marx’s methodological fetishism-critical approach seems to be of no importance in her analysis, which we believe (and show here to be) is the cause of major faults in assessing his theory.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], pp. 327–8. Original emphasis.
Not only in the context of Analytical Marxism and Uno School theorists, such as Sekine 1975, Albritton 2005 (especially p. 174 ff.), and Lapavitsas 2005, but also in recent interpretations within the so-called ‘value-form theory’-branch of Marxian economics, the ‘third thing’ is disqualified as a premature supposition. See e.g. Chris Arthur 2004, Geert Reuten 2005, David Harvey 2018. For a critique of Arthur’s and Reuten’s position, see Lange 2019. For other critical discussions of the ‘third thing argument’, see Cutler et al. 1977/8, Furner 2004. Furner’s misrecognition of Marx’s central fetishistic-critical implications is thoroughly discussed by Patrick Murray in Murray 2006. In the debates surrounding the transformation problem (see Chapter 4.3.), Marx’s labour theory of value has been more generally attacked. A useful overview of the different accusations against Marx’s core theory is provided in Heinrich 1999, pp. 272–6.
Assuming that the classics, predominantly Smith and Ricardo, had a ‘labour theory of value’ to begin with. Our doubts as to this have been presented in Chapter 1.
Itoh 1976, pp. 313–14. Note Heinrich’s critique of Itoh’s conflation of ‘physiological labour’ with ‘abstract labour’. Heinrich 1999, pp. 212–13.
Reuten 1993, p. 89.
Arthur 2006, p. 10.
Marx 1976, 173.
Itoh 1976, pp. 313–14. Also note Itoh’s remarkable attempt to keep the relation between abstract labour and money at bay: ‘Marx does not regard the common property of commodities only as the embodiment of abstract human labor. He emphasizes that “commodities have a value-form common to them all, and presenting a marked contrast with the varied bodily forms of their use-values” (I, p. 47). He means here the money-form or the price-form of commodities as the completed form of value, logically developed from the simple, elementary form of value’. Itoh 1976, p. 310. Not much is said here except for the truism that the money-form is developed from the simple form of value. The question is what constitutes the very simple form of value from which the money-form, the ‘dazzling fetish’, can be developed at all.
Arthur 2006, p. 10.
Arthur 2006, p. 10.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 321.
Marx 1976, p. 188. Quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 307.
Uno 1973 , p. 308.
Marx 1976, p. 255.
Marx 1976, p. 187.
F. Engster goes even further and demands that Capital should be read by taking money as the vantage point: ‘… Marx’s Capital must be read by taking money as the vantage point. That is, already labour, the commodity, and the analyses of their value forms must be considered from the “standpoint” of money, as if the economy is the object of determination for money. Then it is money that gives a double determination to the commodity and it is also money that makes the three distinctions … with regard to labour, especially by separating abstract labour from concrete labour and thereby constituting the substance of value, abstract labour’. Engster 2014, p. 80.
Or MELT, originally ‘the value of money’, which was theorised concurrently, but independently, by Gérard Dumenil (1980), Duncan Foley (1982) and Alain Lipietz (1982). It presents the factor by which the value-price divergence can be explained on the basis of the labour theory of value. We will return to Foley’s conceptualisation in more detail to contrast it with Thomas Sekine’s view of the ‘law of value’ as the law of general equilibrium. See Chapter 5.2.
Marx 2008, p. 95.
‘… when Marx defines exchange-value as the mode of appearance of value, one should mobilize here the entire Hegelian weight of the opposition between essence and appearance: essence exists only insofar as it appears, it does not pre-exist appearance’. Zizek 2010, p. 214.
For the discussion of this ‘false opposition’ and critique in the post-Unoist Japanese value theory, see Chapter 5.
Pertinent in this regard is Marx’s critique of Torrens, Malthus and Proudhon. See Marx 1981, pp. 128–31.
‘[i]n contrast to a ruler or a fundō, money does not only function as a measurer, but also stands in the position of active leadership of commodity exchange itself. Commodities are not being exchanged because they express their value in money, rather, exchange is performed as the purchase of commodities through money. Understanding that this process takes place through the schema C-M-C’ is, rather, the scientifically investigated result that, in the back of the real process of purchase, it is something that is socially performed’. Uno 1973 , p. 314. A fundō is a minted coin of silver or gold, used as a measure and dating back to the Edo period. Between 1665 and 1876, the fundō za, the ‘fundō guild’, introduced it as a weight standard. Since then it was used only as a measure, and as a means of payment only in cases of emergency. See the Kōjien. Shinmura 1979, p. 1980.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 389.
Marx 1987 [1857–61], p. 359. N.I. Stone translates ‘Lord of commodities’ (Marx 1904, p. 166). The original is ‘Gott der Waren’. Marx 2015, p. 103.
See Frank H. Hahn 1987, p. 26. Quoted in Stützle 2015, p. 184.
Marx 1976, p. 168.
We can also note Lapavitsas’s (who belongs to the Uno School) adherence to the individualistic model, reminiscent of new classical macroeconomics or New Keynesianism (with their emphasis on micro strcutures), which is best reflected in this passage: ‘Commodity owners purposely seek others in order to engage in exchange, but it is assumed for simplicity that there are no search costs. Commodity owners are also assumed to be unrelated and probably unknown to each other, lacking social or other ties (of rank, kinship, religion, custom, or through the production process) (sic). The social background against which they interact is compatible with their essential foreign-ness from each other, as well as with being motivated by economic gain. Their interactions have an overwhelmingly economic (more strictly, commercial) content, which is fundamental for the emergence of money’. Lapavitsas 2005, p. 554.
Uno 1980, p. xxiv. The quote in square brackets is Sekine’s own insertion, but reflects Uno’s own later remark: ‘Marx begins the first chapter of Capital, vol. 1, by pointing out the importance of the commodity-form that products assume. But after stating that use-value and value are the two elements of the commodity, he immediately attributes the substance of value to labour that is required to produce the commodity. But the production process of a commodity is not yet analysed at this stage. Neither can it be because production itself does not assume the form of the commodity even if products do. Commodity production must assume the form of capital rather than that of the commodity. This means that commodity production or the production process of capital can be introduced only after the conceptual development of the form of the commodity into that of capital. Marx’s treatment of the labour-process in Part III (‘The Production of Absolute Surplus Value’) of Capital Volume I, is handicapped by his prior discussion of commodity production at the beginning of the book and fails to be fully developed as the labour-and-production process common to all societies’. Uno 1980, pp. xxvii–xxviii.
Ingo Stützle emphasises this aspect in Lapavitsas in Stützle 2015, p. 179, footnote.
‘Ricchezza è una ragione tra due persone’, in Galiani, Ferdinando, Della moneta, p. 221, in Volume 3 of Scrittori classici italiani di economia politica, Parte moderna, Milan 1803, quoted in Marx 1976, p. 167. Thanks to Riccardo Bellofiore for the precise translation.
Marx 1976, p. 167.
For an overview of Sohn-Rethel’s concept of real abstraction throughout his writings from the 1930s to the 1970s, see Lange 2021 (forthcoming).
Reichelt 2007, p. 5.
Adorno 1976, p. 12. Quoted in Reichelt 2007, p. 5.
Marx 1976, p. 168. A footnote also refers to Engels’s similar formulation: ‘What are we to think of a law which can only assert itself through periodic crises [Revolutionen (sic)]? It is just a natural law which depends on the lack of awareness of the people who undergo it’. Marx and Engels 1975 [May 1843 – June 1844], p. 433.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 399.
Brentel 1989, p. 14.
Backhaus 2011, p. 410.
Brentel 1989, p. 244.
Marx 1989a [1861–3], p. 399.
Marx 1989a [1861–3], p. 399.
Uno 1980, p. 10; also see Uno 1964, pp. 31–2.
Brentel 1989, p. 244.
Marx 1976, pp. 184–5. One of those ‘writers’, according to Marx, was John Locke: ‘Locke had already said that gold and silver have a purely imaginary or conventional value; this was the first blunt opposition to the contention of the monetary system that only gold and silver have genuine value’. Marx 1987 [1857–61], p. 395.
See Rubin 1973 , pp. 109–10.
For a debate on Marx’s critique of Samuel Bailey, see Furner 2004 and Murray 2006.
Marx 1989b [1861-63], p. 320.
‘The contradiction involved in affirming the stationary or invariable value of any object amidst the variations of other things, is so direct and palpable, that it may be instructive to point out the way in which a writer of such powers of reasoning, as Mr. Ricardo unquestionably possessed, has been led into so strange and manifest an error’. Bailey 1967 , p. 16.
Bailey 1967 , pp. 4–5.
Brentel paraphrases Bailey’s position. Brentel 1989, p. 108.
Bailey 1967 , p. 3. Marx does not quote this passage from the Dissertation, but a corresponding passage in the Observations on certain verbal disputes in Pol. Ec. that could not be confirmed.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 316. Originally in English.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 316.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 317.
Brentel 1989, p. 112. This comment is directed at Bailey.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 341.
Uno 1973 , pp. 361–2. Emphasis added.
See the previous quote, Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 341.
We assume that Uno analyses the value forms as they are specific to capitalist society. If Uno regarded the basic forms of value as ‘transhistorical’ categories, valid in pre-capitalist sociation as well as in the capitalist one, he could no longer maintain that he held a ‘theory of principles of pure capitalism’. With the methodological reflections of the clear separation of the three stages of presentation taken as a premise, we must assume that Uno cannot both hold a transhistorical and a historically specific theory of value. Hence the question about the possibility of form determination of value in abstraction from the notion of specifically capitalist character of labour, is justified.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], pp. 326–7. Original emphasis.
Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 326.
Which of course leads to other problems, such as ‘price chaos’. See Rubin 1973 , p. 110.
Rubin 1973 , p. 112, footnote.
Rubin 1973 , p. 113.
See Itoh 1980 and 1988.
Simon Clarke directs a trenchant critique at Itoh’s position: ‘For Itoh, the Uno approach resolves this dilemma [between the Ricardians and Rubin] by radically separating the theories of the form of value and the substance of value. The pure theory of the forms of value does not make any reference to the substance of value, but only to the quantitative exchangeability of commodities in determinate ratios, which ratios are determined by the social process of reproduction’. Clarke 1988, p. 135. Clarke’s criticism of the Uno approach is that it remains confined to a ‘dualistic theory’ by positing ‘such a separation in the first place’ while purporting to retain both. The notion of abstract labour then is reduced to its ‘technical features of the production process under average conditions’. Clarke 1988, p. 137. It remains ‘a feature of the labour process as a technical process, independently of the social form of production’. Clarke 1988, p. 136. In other words, this understanding of abstract labour is yet another crucial difference to Rubin who emphasised that the identification of abstract labour with the material and technical aspect of production is the precise expression of fetishism. See Rubin 1973 , p. 28.
‘The pure theory of the forms of value does not make any reference to the substance of value, but only to the quantitative exchangeability of commodities in determinate ratios, which ratios are determined by the social process of reproduction of commodities lying behind their regular exchange against money’. Clarke 1988, p. 135.
Brentel 1989, p. 120.
We will return to discussing Uno’s marginalist theoretical assumptions in Chapter 4.2.
Engster 2014, p. 89.
Marx 1976, p. 188.
One of them being the identification of wealth with use value: ‘In commodity economy, wealth is nothing but simply use value. But it can also not stop at commodities’. Uno 1973 , p. 325.
Heinrich 1999, p. 178.
See also Marx 1989b [1861–3], p. 405: ‘It is not the ownership of money which makes the capitalist a capitalist. For money to be transformed into capital, the prerequisites for capitalist production must exist, whose first historical presupposition is that separation. The separation, and therefore the existence of the conditions of labour as capital, is given in capitalist production; this separation which constantly reproduces itself and expands, is the foundation of production’.
Brenner delineates the two clearly and shows why the latter is not a sufficient condition for the emergence of capitalist relations of production. See Brenner 1977, p. 45. Also see Chapter 2.1.
Uno 1980, p. 16.
Hyeon-Soo 1995, p. 94.
See Uno 1980, pp. 14–18.
See Uno 1973 , p. 329.
Uno 1973 , p. 329.
Uno 1973 , p. 329.
Marx 1976, p. 268.
Marx 1981, p. 397. For the discussion of the role of commercial capital in the systematic context of Capital Volume III, in contrast to Uno’s understanding, see Chapter 4.1.
Marx 1981, p. 395.
See Marx 1981, p. 398. If we follow Marx’s example and assume that the total industrial capital advanced during the year is 720c + 180v = 900, and the rate of s (s’) is 100 %, then we have a product of 720c + 180v + 180s = 1080. p’ is 20 % (s/c+v). If we now assume that in addition to the productive capital of 900, there is a commercial capital of 100, so that the total capital size increases to 1000, then commercial capital’s share is 1/10. ‘It thus takes a one-tenth share in the total surplus-value of 180 and gets a profit rate of 18 per cent. The profit to be divided among the remaining nine-tenths of the total capital is now only 162, or similarly 18 per cent on the capital of 900. Thus the price at which C is sold to the merchants by the holders of this industrial capital of 900 is 720c+180v+162s = 1062. If the merchant adds to his capital of 100 the average profit of 18 per cent, he sells the commodities at 1062 + 18 = 1080, i.e. at their price of production … If he still does not sell the commodities above their value or price of production, this is precisely because he bought them from the industrial capitalists below their value or price of production’.
Marx 1981, pp. 399–400.
Marx 1981, pp. 400–1.
Uno 1973 , p. 332.
Le Commerce et le gouvernement, considérés relativement l’ un à l’ autre (1776) remains Etienne Bonnot de Condillac’s (1714–80) only economic work. He was originally a philosopher, supporter of John Locke’s empiricism, and published widely on epistemology.
Marx 1976, p. 260.
Condillac, Le Commerce et le gouvernement (1776), Paris 1847, quoted in Marx 1976, p. 261.
Marx 1976, p. 261. Quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 333.
Marx 1976, pp. 261–2.
Marx 1976, p. 262. Marx quotes from S.P. Newman, Elements of Political Economy, Andover and New York 1835, p. 175.
Uno 1973 , p. 333.
Marx 1976, p. 262. Quoted in Uno 1973 , p. 333.
Uno 1973 , p. 332.
Uno 1973 (1947), p. 333.
In Capital Volume III, Marx is very outspoken about this: ‘… in the process of circulation, no value is produced, and thus also no surplus-value. The same value simply undergoes changes of form. Nothing at all happens except the metamorphosis of commodities which by its very nature has nothing to do with the creation or alteration of value. If a surplus-value is realized on the sale of the commodity produced, this is because it already existed in the commodity … Commercial capital thus creates neither value nor surplus-value, at least not directly’. Marx 1981, p. 392. In this context and section, we can also find a repetition of Marx’s objection to Condillac from Capital Volume I.
Uno 1973 , p. 334.
Brentel 1989, p. 182.
Marx 1981, pp. 452–3. Competition between industrial and merchant cities further contributed to the divide, and explain the politically reactionary character of merchant against industrial capital: ‘In modern English history, the actual merchant estate and the trading cities also appear to be politically reactionary and in league with the landed and financial aristocracies against industrial capital. Compare for example the political role of Liverpool as against Manchester and Birmingham’. Marx 1981, p. 445 (footnote 46).
Marx 1981, p. 444.
Marx 1981, p. 445.