Marx and modern value theory
Marx's value theory is standardly interpreted as a theory of price: qualitatively, as a kind )f materialist sociology, concerned to show how money, markets and prices, in a developed form, are the mere reflux of a particular mode of production, i. e. capitalism; and quantitatively, how the configuration of money prices may be related to the proportions of social labour-time expended in the various sectors of the economy. According to this view, Marx's value-project is foundational for the understanding of the laws of motion of capitalist society, a motion which is thence shown to rely on the performance and appropriation of surplus labour under capitalist relations of production. As such, human activity is taken to serve an alien will and intelligence, namely, that of capital. Apart from the last sentence (though, admittedly, this in itself is an important caveat) there is little in this standard reading of Marx's value-project to distinguish its orientation from that of the value-moderns. Moreover, in making the wage-contract and its performance the very site of the deformation of human purpose - in intimating that the imposition of a purpose alien to a properly human form of activity comes with the wage contract - any distinction between Marx and value-modernity is all but obliterated. I will want to argue below that, to avoid doing violence to his value-project, Marx's labour theory of value needs to be interpreted in such a way that labour is explicitly understood as a systematically constituted form of self-limiting activity. My aim is to show the various forms that this 'activity of alienation' takes and how the key value-phenomena, organised markets, prices and money, are implicated in this process of selflimitation.