Friday, April 11, 2008

The Symptom of Value

A comrade suggested on Marxmail that we Marxists should focus on money to save Marx's theory of value. This is my response:
Although in an inverted fashion, the questions that have been raised by Rakesh Bhandari imply the fundamental methodological difference between Marx and the classical political economy.

On couple of occasions Marx mentioned how preceding economists incorrectly began with analyzing “the real and the concrete” outcomes of the historical development of capitalist production, for Marx, “which have already acquired the stability of natural, self-understood forms of social life, before man seeks to decipher, not their historical character, for in his eyes they are immutable, but their meaning”. Out of the sphere of classical political economy this critique might be regarded as relevant about the economics after Marx, just think about Keynes’ theory of prices which is focused on the connection of the quantity of money and the changes in the price-level.

With running the risk of antagonizing comrades here, let me define price as the symptom of value. Although it is the final and the actual manifestation of value, in a repetitive fashion, it speaks about a fixed, concealed meaning that underlies the value. But just as Marx has revealed perplexingly that instead of disclosing a hidden meaning, what if it is the immediate, concrete form of value that conceals its authentic nature, the mechanism of social relations that produce value? If we return to the metaphor above, and remember Lacan’s statement that the real excludes meaning, there is a remarkable resemblance between Marx’s never-ending critiques of political economy and his decisive break with the its methodology and Lacan’s famous declaration that “psychoanalysis is a scam”. It is a scam as long as it supposes there is a direct, unambiguous connection between the meaning of the symptom and the real. Similarly, bourgeois economics is a scam as long as it presupposes that the meaning of immediate forms of capitalist production could be deciphered by investigating the real. As Marx said:

“The whole mystery of commodities, all the magic and necromancy that surrounds the products of labour as long as they take the form of commodities, vanishes therefore, so soon as we come to other forms of production.”

Therefore, it is not a wise idea to focus on money-form to save Marx’s theory of value. This approach would be exact opposite of his methodology.
On Marxmail, Angelus Novus wrote:
"Mehmet, by any chance have you read the first chapter of Slavoj Zizek's The Sublime Object of Ideology? :-)
I am somewhat skeptical of Zizek, due to his reputation as being an academic comedian, but I was very pleased to see that he heavily leans upon Alfred Sohn-Rethel in his discussion of Marx's analysis of the commodity. Anyone who uses Sohn-Rethel as areference for these discussions is fine with me. "
Mehmet Çagatay:
Hello Angelus,
No, I didn't read Zizek's book. Two years ago I tried to read it while I was staying at the house of a friend but because that I was so desperately in love with my host, I couldn't manage to focus and didn't understand anything. I didn't read it afterwards as well since that book reminds me her.
To be honest, a while ago I read Jacques Alain Miller's essay on symptom.My references to Lacan generally orginates from Miller.

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