Why a Theory of Value?

The gentleman from Unlearning Economics asked me recently in response to my rebuttal of Steve Keen’s critique of Marx’s theory of value why indeed there is any need for a value theory at all. It seemed to him labor as the measure of value was simply assumed by Marxists, and even if their explanations of the economy were clearly better than others and they can rebut the critiques of Keen, Bose and others, it is still not clear why there should be such a thing as a ‘labor theory of value’ at all. I find I often run into this problem with many intelligent, critical people who are by no means unwilling to take my Marxisant analysis seriously, but who simply do not get what kind of thing a theory of value is, let alone Marx’s; and then indeed it must seem a strange and unnecessary quasi-metaphysical imposition. Now initially I thought this as well, and before I fully immersed myself in Marxist thought I was quite hostile to the notion of the labor theory of value, or even the need for such a theory at all. And indeed neoclassical economists have spent more than a century trying to refute both Marx’s theory and the need for such a theory at all. However, it is not so much just Marx’s arguments in Capital itself that convinced me, as my wider reading giving me a more historically and anthropologically grounded perspective about production and exchange in history, and I would venture to say the concept of a theory of value can only make sense if put explicitly in this wider context. Continue reading “Why a Theory of Value?”

The Politics of Masculinity in the Afghan war

In the discussions on the question of anti-imperialism versus the necessity of intervention in the wake of the ‘War on Terror’, the gender dimension has been a much undertheorized one. While I am by no means a scholar of gender studies and barely qualified to speak at length on the topic, it has struck me that in the political dynamic around the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan this dynamic presents itself at least in part in the form of a politics of masculinity. This is true, it seems to me, of many of the major participants in the political and military conflict regardless of which ‘side’ they were on, and with an underlying drive not as dissimilar as has often been suggested. I can do no more than to vaguely sketch out my impression of this politics of masculinity, in the hope that some greater specialist can perhaps correct or elaborate upon this hunch. Nonetheless, I think it is a point worth making, because the interaction between gender and the ideology of politics is a potent one and has been throughout history, and it may serve to deflate somewhat the arrogance and pretensions of the different parties concerned with regard to their own significance and motives. Continue reading “The Politics of Masculinity in the Afghan war”

Some Critical Notes on the Fetishism of the Party, or: Why I am Not a Trotskyist

The proliferation of the micro-party in the West is a subject many times examined, and I would not pretend to say too much that is original about it. Already Hal Draper wrote much on this subject, the libertarian communist tradition has had various critiques, and there has moreover been a very considerable literature of self-examination and party histories among the micro-parties in different countries. The majority of this last literature both concerns and is produced by the Trotskyists, and it is they who have by far the largest proliferation and attach the greatest importance to the multiplicity of such micro-party structures; moreover, in some respects these formations themselves seem to follow from Trotskyist thought more organically than they do from other currents. This is not to say that this phenomenon is wholly unique to Trotskyism, as there have been various Maoist, ‘anti-revisionist’ and other micro-parties as well, often demonstrating the same essential weaknesses.

But it is in Trotskyism that it has the greatest focus of attention, and since the fall of the USSR it is Trotskyism that has numerically and politically the greatest support in most Western countries among the whole spectrum of independent Marxist groupings and associations (therefore not counting Marxists inside social-democratic formations). For this reason, it is particularly important to make a few critical notes about the persistent weaknesses of this political current in its practice, in order to mark out a clear difference of method and viewpoint on my part, as well as to invite some more productive reflection than the usual. Of course, as always with such critiques, whoever fits the shoe should put it on – my aim is not a personal nor a specific attack on this or that organization as such, but to point out what I see as some persistent trends many or most have in common, and which to me appear as unhelpful or even destructive. So what I shall write about Trotskyism in general here may be applied wherever it fits best. Continue reading “Some Critical Notes on the Fetishism of the Party, or: Why I am Not a Trotskyist”