A Guide to Value-Form Theory
It’s winter in the middle of a global pandemic. You have time on your hands and you like to read. Maybe you’ve stumbled across Heinrich twitter and want to know what the hell is going on? Maybe you’ve read Michael Heinrich’s Introduction to all 3 volumes of Capital or you listen to (and patronize) Reel Abstractions, but you still want to read more value-form theory (at least until Science of Value comes out?)
This blog post will introduce you to other important contributions and contributors to value-form theory. I have tried my best to include free links to all of the readings. If the reading does not have a link, you may be able to find it somewhere else for free online. I am also happy to take suggestions for what to add. I wrote this quick and off the top of my head.
What’s the Deal with Value form theory?
Value-form theory is a clumsy way of designating a way that people from all over the world, from the early 20th century until today, have interpreted and expanded on Capital. Although one of the hallmarks of value-form theory is to distinguish its interpretation of Capital from the standard interpretation, this does not mean that people working in value-form theory have similar theoretical social or political orientations. Some are Althusserians, some are influenced by Adorno and Horkheimer, some are Trots, some are Maoists, some are left communists, some are communizers, some were elected to representative governments, and indeed some probably have little to no political commitments at all (although I can’t think of any).
Overviews of Value-Form Theory
There are a number of useful overviews of these approaches to value-form theory and how they distinguish themselves from other interpretations of Marx.
Further reading: Jan Hoff, Marx Worldwide
Schools and Thinkers
Further reading: Friedrich Harry Pitts, New Ways of Reading Marx.
Since I have written this post for those who are familiar with Heinrich, in the rest of the post I will focus on readings or talks that overlap with Heinrich’s approach: Althusserian Marxism, Frankfurt School Critical Theory, Open Marxism, Communization, and the marxological work of figures who were affiliated with the International Symposium on Marxist Theory.
Heinrich’s introduction to Capital is a great overview of a value-theoretic interpretation of the Critique of Political Economy. The two following guides complimented Heinrich’s interpretation. I also found them helpful as guides to reading Capital.
Interpreting Capital and the critique of political economy
There are also a number of important interpretations of Capital as a Critique of Political Economy in the value form tradition that opposes itself to
Larsen (ed.) Marxism and the Critique of Value
Patrick Murrary, The Mismeasure of Wealth
Paul Mattick Jr, Theory as Critique
Werner Bonefeld, Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy
Debating the critique of political Economy
As Heinrich’s argument about the ambivalence of the critique of political economics indicates, there are many different interpretations of the approach of the critique of political economy and the core categories. This has led to debates between value-theorists and between value-theorists and traditional Marxists.
See Simon Mohun (ed) Debates in Value Theory for debates between value theorists and other Marxists on the this issue
See the several edited collections from the ISMT for debates on these issues between value-form theorists. (such as Bellofiore and Taylor, The Constitution of Capital)
I would also recommend the following on topics that are central to value-form theory:
Werner Bonefeld, Kapital and its Subtitle: a Note on the Meaning of Critique
John Holloway, Read Capital: The First Sentence, Historical Materialism vol 23:issue 11.
Diane Elson, The Value Theory of Labor
Simon Clarke (available here)
Riccardo Bellofiore, The Multiple Meanings of Marx’s Value Theory
Werner Bonefeld, Abstract Labor and Laboring
Riccardo Bellofiore, The Adventures of Vergesellschaftung
Simon Clarke, Marx’s Theory of Crisis
Beverly Best, Distilling a Value Theory of Ideology from Volume 3 of Capital, Historical Materialism, 23:1
Expanding on capital
As Heinrich also points out, Marx did not finish the critique of political economy. A number of thinkers have provided their own value-theoretical critics of disciplinary thinking that parallels Marx’s critique of the discipline of Political economy.
Economics and Sociology
Simon Clarke, Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology
Chris O’Kane, Capital, The State and Economic Policy
Jack Copley & Alexis Moraitis, Beyond the Mutual Constitution of States and Markets: On the Governance of Alienation, New Political Economy
Joshua Clover and Christopher Nealon, Literary and Economic Value, Oxford Research Encyclopedias.
Tony Smith, Beyond Liberal Egalitarianism
Werner Bonefeld, Capitalist State: Illusion and Critique
A number of other thinkers have developed value-theoretical accounts of areas of capitalist society that Marx did not include in his unfinished critique.
Labor and Class
Dinerstein and Neary (ed) The Labor Debate: An Investigation into the Theory and Reality of Capitalist Work
Beverly Best, Political Economy Through The Looking Glass: Imagining Six Impossible Things About Finance Before Breakfast, Historical Materialism, 25(3)
Ilias Alami, Money Power and Financial Capital in Emerging Markets: Facing the Liquidity Tsunami
Holloway and Picotto (ed). The state and Capital: a Marxist Debate
Simon Clarke (ed.) The State Debate
Suzanne De Brunhoff, The State and Economic Policy
Geert Reuten, The Unity of the Capitalist Economy and The State.
Milios et al., Rethinking Imperialism
Tony Smith, Beyond Liberal Egalitarianism
Marcel Stoetzler, Critical Theory and the Critique of Anti-Imperialism
Lise Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women
Roswitha Scholz, Patriarchy and Commodity Society
Endnotes, The Logic of Gender
Amy D’eath, Gender and Social Reproduction Theory in The SAGE Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory
Chris Chen, The Limit Point of Capitalist Equality
Hylton White, How is Capitalism Racial?
Werner Bonefeld, Critical Theory and the Critique of Antisemitism
The Present Moment
Simon Clarke, Keynesianism, Monetarism and The Crisis of the State
Aaron Benanav and John Clegg, Crisis and Immiseration, Critical Theory Today.
Moishe Postone, The Current Crisis and the Anachronism of Value
Endnotes, Communisation and Value-Form Theory
Werner Bonefeld and Sergio Tischler (ed) What is to Be Done?
Holloway, Dinerstein, Bonefeld, For a Practice of Commoning
Blumenfeld, Expropriation of the Expropriators