At 14:20 15/11/99 -0000, you wrote:
The World Trade Organisation negotiations with China is clear evidence that
the law of value does not operate in an unadulterated fashion. It is
evidence that there is no such thing as free trade in any comprehensive
sense. It would appear that there never has been a free exchange of
commodities in any enduring sense. The law of value and the specific laws
of capital operate in an significantly adulterated way. The state has
always played an historically significant role in relation to the
circulation of both commodities and capital. Consequently to try to apply
Capital to the contemporary world economic situation in any pure way will
simply produce conceptual abstraction. Marx's Capital cannot be used as a
naive model that can be naively used to provide a comprehensive
understanding of the capitalist economic system. Capital is a work of
abstraction. This may explains how much of Marx's political work even after
he written Capital are in at least many cases free
from the form presented in Capital.
Although I would not put things quite the way George does, this is a very
important and creative theme. How does the law of value operate on a global
I argue that we need a "field" version of the marxian theory of value,
analogous to the field theory of gravitation. By that I mean that the
intensity of the field varies greatly at different locations in the matrix.
There is a relationship between the strength of the field and the "objects"
in the vicinity.
A matrix plotted in two dimensions would show a variety of hills, troughs
and mountains. There might even be ravines.It is possible to imagine a two
dimensional unfolding of the surface of the Earth plotted in this fashion.
What shall we say causes the intensity of field at any one geographical
location? Clearly not geography itself - not the physical distance between
Capitalism has not spread evenly across the earth, as simplistic versions
of marxism suggest it should on the assumption that capital will always
seek the cheapest labour power.
On the contrary the uneven accumulation of capital is one of the
fundamental features of the capitalist mode of production.
I suggest the intensity of the value field is a function of the circulation
time of capital.
In Capital Vol 2 Ch 14, Circulation Time, Marx discusses for example the
shipping of a commodity to India. He comments:
"The mere relative length of the transit of the commodities from their
place of production to their market produces a difference not only in the
first part of the circulation time, the selling time, but also in its
second part, the reconversion of the money into the elements of the
productive capital, the buying time."
Clearly although today electronic means of communication enable some forms
of money to be transmitted much faster than Wedgwood tea services to India
in the 19th century, there are still very different circulation times.
Probably even more so.
One of the most important circulation times are for those products of
capitalist production that are sold to the mass market of working people.
>From the point of view of production, capitalism needs them concentrated in
a relatively close geographical area and sharing a common culture,
increasingly well educated to be able to be exploited in the working of new
technology. From the point of view of sale, capitalists also have to take
account of the different price of labour power of skilled workers in
This accounts for the sense in which one of the largest continents
geographically, Africa, appears almost irrelevant in terms of the
capitalist economic system. It could "fall of the map" as one US official
was quoted as saying undiplomatically. The map it falls of is what I am
suggesting is a gravitationsl field map of value, as understood in a
There is indeed no such thing as abstractly "free" trade in a concrete
world, and abstractions always have to be related to the concrete. It is
not that the law of value is "adulterated" by accomodating a world in which
the price of labour varies over a range of 30 to 1. It is that the uneven
application of the law of value is manifest through and in the course of
these differences about prices of production.
China's entry to the WTO is a new step in which the battle lines are being
redrawn. We will see whether China has done this on terms that will enable
it to retain more surplus within its own borders or whether it will
haemorrhage to the metropolitan capitalist heartlands.
But in terms of the world situation, I am suggesting that what Marx called
the absolute general law of capitalist accumulation is now manifested on a
world scale. In Capital volume 1, Ch 25, section 4, he states this is
the greater the functioning capital, the greater the reserve army.
Although rises in productivity may mask the workings of exchange value, I
suggest therefore that the greater the capital in the metropolitan
countries the greater the reserve army of labour in the countries of the
third world, and the greater the relative difference in exchange value
These contradictions will not be resolved until we have expropriated and
socialised global capital.
So I would say to George, that the entry of China to the WTO does not
weaken the relevance of the marxian theory of value, but it does suggest we
should apply it in the form of a field theory analogous to a gravitational
I would appreciate comments and criticisms on this contribution.
I am copying it also to marxism-thaxis at Utah.
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