Inicio > Economía marxista > «Realisation in Marx’s Theory of Value: A Reply to Kincaid»: Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho

«Realisation in Marx’s Theory of Value: A Reply to Kincaid»: Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho

In a review of our work, Kincaid suggests that we are ‘productivist’, reducing interpretation of Marx and capitalism to production at the expense of the relatively independent role that can be played by the value-form in general and by the money-form in particular. In response, we argue that he distorts interpretation of our work through this prism of production versus exchange, unduly emphasises the independence of exchange to the point of underconsumptionism, and simplistically collapses the mediation between production and exchange in the restructuring that accompanies the accumulation of capital.

Keywords: Marx, capital, profit, composition of capital, money, value theory, Kincaid

We very much welcome Jim Kincaid’s review article of our books, Marx’s ‘Capital’ 1 and The Value of Marx 2 and the complimentary remarks that he has to off er. But the leitmotif of his commentary is one concerning our ‘limitations’, a term he uses often to describe our contributions. The nature of his critique is apparent from his title ‘Production versus Realisation’ in which he claims that we are ‘productivist’ because, according to him, we give undue emphasis to production at the expense of exchange.

Before dealing with this charge in detail, it makes sense to place the two books in context. Marx’s ‘Capital’ is in its fourth edition, the first having been published in 1975, with this and the previous editions solely authored byFine. The first edition appeared in a Macmillan student series of economics texts and was confined for that purpose to 25,000 words. Its success allowed it to outlive the series by a long way and for it to be successively expanded to its current 50,000 words. Th e third edition was published in 1989 but Macmillan declined the chance of a new edition, with Pluto taking it on instead. From the outset, and currently, the purpose has been to off er a faithful representation of Marx’s political economy as far as word-length and the nature of the material would allow, whilst also engaging modern ‘students’, university or otherwise, in Marx’s ideas on economics in the hope that they would become attached, not least going on to read the real thing.

Marx’s ‘Capital’ has done well in terms of translations and longevity, the latter against a declining interest in Marxist political economy and of active Capital reading groups and the like. It is significant that popular presentations of Marx’s political economy are notable for their absence and/or failure. There are good reasons for this. His ideas are complex and not readily subject to
simply summary; they are also controversial and subject to misinterpretation, not least when forced through the prism of orthodox, and even heterodox and sympathetic, economics; and there is a need to strike a balance between abstract theory and contemporary events, needs and interests.

Across these competing tensions, Marx’s ‘Capital’ has achieved some modicum of balance, not least with the final chapter of the fourth edition adding topics such as class, the state, globalisation, the environment and socialism. The move to joint authorship was motivated by the wish to add some fresh air to a text that had previously already been gone over three times before. The Value of Marx is altogether different, being pitched at the most advanced level. It
presumes a reading of Capital, and debates upon it, in offering its own interpretation of Marx’s political economy and the controversies that surround it. In this respect, it is a partial successor to, and advance upon, Fine and Harris’s Rereading ‘Capital’,3 providing, on a narrower terrain, some novel exposition of its own as is accepted by Kincaid (and dos Santos who offers a review of a very different kind from Kincaid’s).4 In this respect, The Value of Marx is, of course, not subject to the same tensions and constraints as Marx’s ‘Capital’ in terms of length and reader-accessibility. But it too is seen as flawed by Kincaid for similar reasons, although the critique is offered in the more technical terms of how to interpret the law of value and competition between many capitals. Kincaid also finds exchange unduly neglected across both books and focuses specifically on the treatment of the composition of capital, also providing an appendix of his own on the issue.

Realisation in Marx’s Theory of Value: A Reply to Kincaid

Historical Materialism 16 (2008) 167–180

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