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Click on an option below to access. Log out of ReadCube. Three major schools of Marxian value theory are identified and situated in respect to some pivotal issues of the value controversy, in particular the postulate that living labour is the sole source of new value. Volume 28 , Issue 3. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.
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Volume 28 , Issue 3 August Pages Once increases in productivity become socially general, however, they redetermine socially average or necessary labor time; the amount of value produced per unit time then falls back to its original "base level" Marx,  a, p. This means that higher levels of productivity, once they become socially general, are structurally reconstituted as the new "base level" of productivity.
They generate greater amounts of material wealth, but not higher levels of value per unit time. By the same token -- and this is crucial -- higher socially general levels of productivity do not diminish the socially general necessity for labor time expenditure which would be the case if material wealth were the dominant form of wealth ; instead that necessity is constantly reconstituted. In a system based on value, there is a drive for ever-increasing levels of productivity, yet direct human labor time expenditure remains necessary to the system as a whole. This pattern promotes still further increases in productivity.
This results in a very complex, non-linear historical dynamic. On the one hand, this dynamic is characterized by ongoing transformations of the technical processes of labor, of the social and detail division of labor and, more generally, of social life -- of the nature, structure and interrelations of social classes and other groupings, the nature of production, transportation, circulation, patterns of living, the form of the family, and so on. On the other hand, this historical dynamic entails the ongoing reconstitution of its own fundamental condition as an unchanging feature of social life -- namely that social mediation ultimately is effected by labor and, hence, that living labor remains integral to the process of production considered in terms of society as a whole , regardless of the level of productivity.
This analysis provides a point of departure for understanding why the course of capitalist development has not been linear, why the enormous increases in productivity generated by capitalism have led neither to ever-higher general levels of affluence, nor to a fundamental restructuring of social labor entailing significant general reductions in working time.
History in capitalism, within this framework, is neither a simple story of progress technical or otherwise nor one of regression and decline. Rather, capitalism is a society that is in constant flux and, yet, constantly reconstitutes its underlying identity whereby that identity, it should be noted, is grasped in terms of the quasi-objective and dynamic social form constituted by labor as a historically specific mediating activity, rather than in terms of private property or the market.
This dynamic both generates the possibility of another organization of social life and, yet, hinders that possibility from being realized. Such an understanding of capitalism's complex dynamic allows for a critical, social rather than technological analysis of the trajectory of growth and the structure of production in modern society. We have seen that a system based on value gives rise to an ongoing drive towards increased productivity. Marx's analysis of the category of surplus-value specifies this further.
What is important about Marx's key concept of surplus-value is not only, as traditional interpretations would have it, that it purportedly shows that the surplus is produced by the working class -- but that it shows that the relevant surplus in capitalist society is one of value, rather than of material wealth. Marx's analysis of this form of the surplus indicates that, the higher the socially general level of productivity already is, the more productivity must be still further increased in order to generate a determinate increase in surplus value Marx,  a, pp.
In other words, the expansion of surplus value required by capital tends to generate accelerating rates of increase in productivity and, hence, in the masses of goods produced and raw materials consumed. Yet, the ever-increasing amounts of material wealth produced do not represent correspondingly high levels of social wealth in the form of value. This analysis suggests that a perplexing feature of modern capitalism -- the absence of general prosperity in the midst of material plenty -- is not only a matter of unequal distribution, but is a function of the value form of wealth at the heart of capitalism.
Another consequence implied by this dynamic pattern, which generates increases in material wealth greater than those in surplus value, is the accelerating destruction of the natural environment. The problem of economic growth in capitalism, within this framework, is not only that it is crisis-ridden, as has frequently been emphasized by traditional Marxist approaches; the form of growth itself is problematic. The trajectory of growth would be different, according to this approach, if the ultimate goal of production were increased quantities of goods rather than of surplus value.
The trajectory of expansion in capitalism, in other words, should not be equated with "economic growth" per se.
It is a determinate trajectory, one that generates an increasing tension between ecological considerations and the imperatives of value as a form of wealth and social mediation. The distinction between material wealth and value, then, allows for an approach that can address the negative ecological consequences of modern industrial production within the framework of a critical theory of capitalism.
Moreover, it is able to point beyond the opposition between runaway growth as a condition of social wealth, and austerity as a condition of an ecologically sound organization of social life, by grounding this opposition in a historically specific form of mediation and wealth. The relationship between value and productivity I have begun to outline also provides the basis for a critical analysis of the structure of social labor and the nature of production in capitalism.
Marx, in his mature works, did not treat the industrial process of production as a technical process that, although increasingly socialized, is used by private capitalists for their own ends.
Rather, he analyzed that process as molded by capital and hence, as intrinsically capitalist Marx,  a, pp. According to his analysis, the value form of wealth induces both ever-increasing levels of productivity and the structural retention of direct human labor in production, despite the great increases in productivity.
The result is increasingly large-scale, technologically-advanced production, coupled with the increasing fragmentation of much individual labor. This analysis provides the beginnings of a structural explanation for a central paradox of production in capitalism. On the one hand, capital's drive for ongoing increases in productivity gives rise to a productive apparatus of considerable technological sophistication that renders the production of material wealth essentially independent of direct human labor time expenditure.
This, in turn, opens the possibility of large-scale socially-general reductions in labor time and fundamental changes in the nature and social organization of labor. Yet these possibilities are not realized in capitalism Marx,  , pp. Although there is a growing shift away from manual labor, the development of technologically sophisticated production does not liberate most people from fragmented and repetitive labor. Similarly, labor time is not reduced on a socially general level, but is distributed unequally, even increasing for many.
The actual structure of labor and organization of production, then, cannot be understood adequately in technological terms alone; the development of production in capitalism must be understood in social terms as well. It, like consumption, is molded by the social mediations expressed by the categories of commodity and capital. Considered in terms of the structure of wage-labor, another dimension of this paradox of production is that a growing gap arises between labor-time inputs and material outputs.
Hence, wages and salaries increasingly become a form of socially-general distribution that retains the form of appearance of remuneration for labor-time expenditure. Yet, according to Marx's analysis of capitalism's dynamic as entailing the ongoing structural reconstitution of the necessity of the value-form , labor-time inputs remain structurally essential to capitalism. Marx's analysis of the dialectic of value and material wealth, then, implicitly argues that both a runaway form of economic growth as well as the proletarian-based form of industrial production are molded by the commodity form, and suggests that both the form of growth and of production could be different in a society in which material wealth had replaced value as the dominant form of wealth.
Capitalism itself gives rise to the possibility of such a society, of a different structuring of work, a different form of growth, and a different form of complex global interdependence; at the same time, however, it structurally undermines the realization of those possibilities. According to this interpretation, then, Marx's theory does not posit a linear developmental schema which points beyond the existing structure and organization of labor as do theories of postindustrial society ; nor, however, does it treat industrial production and the proletariat as the bases for a future society as do many traditional Marxist approaches.
Rather, it allows for an attempt that does justice to the increasing importance of science and technology and elucidates the historical possibility of a new postindustrial and post-proletarian organization of labor while, at the same time, analyzing the discrepancies between the actual form of capitalist development and the possibilities it generates.
The structural contradiction of capitalism, according to this interpretation, is not one, then, between distribution the market, private property and production, but one that emerges as a contradiction between existing forms of growth and production, and what could be the case if social relations no longer were mediated in a quasi-objective fashion by labor and if people, therefore, had a greater degree of control over the organization and direction of social life.
Marx's mature theory of history, according to this interpretation, cannot be read out of his earlier works, such as The German Ideology or The Communist Manifesto, but is an implicit dimension of his exposition in Capital. We have seen that, according to the approach I have begun to outline, the dialectical interactions of the two dimensions of labor and of wealth in capitalism give rise to a complex directional dynamic which, although constituted socially, is quasi-independent of its constituting individuals. It has the properties of an intrinsic historical logic.
In other words, Marx's mature theory did not hypostatize history as a sort of force moving all human societies; it no longer presupposed that a directional dynamic of history in general exists. It did, however, characterize modern society in terms of an ongoing directional dynamic and sought to explain that historical dynamic with reference to the dual character of the social forms expressed by the categories of the commodity and capital.
By grounding the contradictory character of the social formation in those dualistic forms, Marx implied that structurally-based social contradiction is specific to capitalism. The notion that reality or social relations in general are essentially contradictory and dialectical appears, in light of this analysis, to be one that can only be assumed metaphysically, not explained. Marx's analysis now implicitly dispensed with evolutionary conceptions of history, 22 suggesting that any theory that posits an intrinsic developmental logic to history as such, whether dialectical or evolutionary, projects what is the case for capitalism onto history in general.
Having outlined some aspects of my reinterpretation of Marx's analysis of capitalism, I would like to turn briefly to a preliminary consideration of its implications for the question of the relationship between social labor and social meaning in Marx's theory. Most discussions of this issue conceptualize the problem as one of the relation between labor, understood transhistorically, and forms of thought.
This is the assumption underlying the common idea that, for Marx, material production constitutes the fundamental "base" of society, whereas ideas are part of the more epiphenomenal "superstructure, 23 or, relatedly, that beliefs, for Marx, are determined by material interests Collins, , pp.
This was also Habermas' assumption when he argued in Knowledge and Human Interests that an analysis based upon labor which he, like the later Horkheimer, related, as an epistemological category, to instrumental knowledge must be supplemented by one based on a theory of interaction, in order to recover the notion of a social grounding for non-instrumental forms of meaning and, hence, for the possibility of critical consciousness Habermas,  , pp.
However, as I have been arguing, Marx's mature theory of social constitution is not one of labor per se , but of labor acting as a socially mediating activity in capitalism. This interpretation transforms the terms of the problem of the relationship between labor and thought. The relationship he delineates is not one between concrete labor and thought, but one between labor-mediated social relations and thought.
Marx's analysis suggests that what in other societies may very well be structured differently -- production and interaction, to use Habermas' earlier terminology -- are, on a deep level, conflated in capitalism; they are similarly mediated by labor. At the same time, he maintained that the specificity of the forms of thought or, more broadly, of subjectivity characteristic of modern society can be understood with reference to those forms of mediation.
That is, inasmuch as Marx analyzed social life and production with reference to a structured form of everyday mediation, and did not define production in concrete "material" terms alone, his approach did not dichotomize subject and object, culture and social life. The categories of his mature critique, in other words, were intended to be determinations of social subjectivity and objectivity at once.
They represent an attempt to get beyond a subject-object dualism, an attempt to grasp socially aspects of modern views of nature, society, and history, with reference to historically specific forms of social mediation constituted by determinate forms of social practice. This approach entails a very different theory of knowledge than that implied by the well-known base-superstructure model, where thought is a mere reflection of a material base.
It also is not a functionalist approach -- either in the sense of explaining ideas because they are functional for capitalist society or for the capitalist class. What is noteworthy about Marx's, frequently implicit, attempts at a social-historical theory of knowledge in Capital is that he did not deal with modes of thought essentially and ultimately in terms of social position and social interest, including class position and class interest.
Instead he attempted first to ground categorially the overarching, historically specific modes of thought within which differentiation according to classes then takes place. Those modes of thought may benefit a class; they are not, however, necessarily the expressions of that class. One of the more explicit indications in Capital of this approach to a social-historical theory of knowledge is in the famous section on the so-called fetish of commodities, where Marx speaks of the object-like relations among people in capitalism Marx,  a, pp.
Unfortunately those passages frequently have been taken to be no more than a criticism of the creeping commercialism of all aspects of social life. This approach -- given the complexity of Marx's categories and the fact that they are historically dynamic and contradictory -- allows for a historical theory of forms of subjectivity, one very different from approaches that leave the nature of thought indeterminate while examining its social function.
The "material" of Marx's mature materialist theory, then, is social. Meaning is not analyzed as an epiphenomenal reflex of a physical, material base. Neither, of course, is it idealistically treated as a completely self-grounded, autonomous sphere. Rather, the structure of meaning is treated as an immanent aspect of the structure of social mediation. It is because labor in capitalism is not only a productive activity, according to Marx, but is also socially mediating, that it is indeed constitutive of meaning. In general, within the framework of my proposed reinterpretation, the Marxian theory is not one of the material conditions of life alone but is, rather, a self-reflexive critical social theory of a historically specific, constituted intersection of culture and society, meaning and material life.
The reinterpretation of Marx's theory I have outlined constitutes a basic break with, and critique of, more traditional interpretations. As we have seen, such interpretations grasp capitalism in terms of class relations structured by the market and private property, its form of domination primarily in terms of class domination and exploitation, and the critique of capitalism as a normative and historical critique from the standpoint of labor and production understood transhistorically in terms of the interactions of humans with material nature. I have argued that such a common, transhistorical understanding of labor does not underlie Marx's critique, that his theory is not concerned with the production of social wealth in general, and that his understanding of the essential social relations and form of domination characteristic of capitalism must be rethought.
That is to say, I have sought to show that, whereas most traditional interpretations remain within the bounds of the problems posed by classical political economy, Marx changed the terms of those problems. According to the reinterpretation I have outlined, Marx's analysis of labor in capitalism is historically specific; it seeks to elucidate a peculiar quasi-objective form of social mediation and wealth value that, as a form of domination, structures the process of production in capitalism and generates a historically unique dynamic.
Hence, labor and the process of production are not separable from, and opposed to, the social relations of capitalism, but constitute their very core. Marx's theory, then, extends far beyond the traditional critique of the bourgeois relations of distribution the market and private property ; it is not simply a critique of exploitation and the unequal distribution of wealth and power.
Rather, it grasps modern industrial society itself as capitalist, and critically analyzes capitalism primarily in terms of abstract structures of domination, increasing fragmentation of individual labor and individual existence, and a blind runaway developmental logic. It treats the working class as the basic element of capitalism rather than as the embodiment of its negation, and implicitly conceptualizes socialism -- not in terms of the realization of labor and of industrial production -- but in terms of the possible abolition of the proletariat and of the organization of production based on proletarian labor, as well as of the dynamic system of abstract compulsions constituted by labor as a socially mediating activity.
This reinterpretation of Marx's theory thus implies a fundamental rethinking of the nature of capitalism and of its possible historical transformation. By shifting the focus of the critique away from an exclusive concern with the market and private property, it provides the basis for a critical theory of post-liberal society as capitalist and also could provide the basis for a critical theory of the so-called "actually-existing socialist" countries as alternative and failed forms of capital accumulation, rather than as social modes that represented the historical negation of capital, in however imperfect a form.
Although the logically abstract level of analysis outlined here does not immediately address the issue of the specific factors underlying the structural transformations of the past twenty years, it can provide a framework within which those transformations can be grounded socially and understood historically. It provides the basis for an understanding of the non-linear developmental dynamic of modern society that could incorporate many important insights of postindustrial theory while also elucidating the constraints intrinsic to that dynamic and, hence, the gap between the actual organization of social life and the way it could be organized -- especially given the increasing importance of science and technology.
By developing a non-linear account of capitalism's pattern of historical development, this reconceptualization allows for a systematic elucidation of features of modern society that can seem anomalous with in the framework of linear development theories: notable are the continued production of poverty in the midst of plenty, the apparently paradoxical effects of labor-saving and time-saving technology on the organization of social labor and social time, and the degree to which important aspects of modern life are shaped by abstract and impersonal forces despite the growing ability of people to control their social and natural environments.
Inasmuch as it seeks to ground socially, and is critical of, the abstract, quasi-objective social relations, and the nature of production, work, and the imperatives of growth in capitalism, this interpretation could also begin to address a range of contemporary concerns, dissatisfactions and aspirations in a way that could provide a fruitful point of departure for a consideration of the new social movements of recent decades and the sorts of historically constituted world views they embody and express. Finally, this approach also has implication for the question of the social preconditions of democracy, inasmuch as it analyzes not only the inequalities of real social power that are inimical to democratic politics, but also reveals as socially constituted -- and hence as legitimate objects of political debates -- the systemic constraints imposed by capital's global dynamic on democratic self-determination.
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