Inicio > Economía marxista, Filosofía marxista > “Money and Totality: Marx’s Logic in Volume I of Capital”: Fred Moseley

“Money and Totality: Marx’s Logic in Volume I of Capital”: Fred Moseley

A widely accepted interpretation of Marx’s theory (e.g. Morishima, Steedman) is that Volume I of Capital is primarily about the determination of the labor-values of individual
commodities. In other words, Volume I presents mainly a microeconomic theory, and the main microeconomic variables determined are the labor-values of commodities, rather than the prices of commodities.

I have argued in previous papers (Moseley 1993, 2000, 2002) that Volume I is primarily about the determination of the total increment of money ( M), or total surplus-value, produced in the capitalist economy as a whole. In other words, Volume I presents mainly a macroeconomic theory, and the main macroeconomic variable determined is the total money profit for the economy as a whole. I have called this a ‘macro-monetary’ interpretation of Marx’s theory. (Others who have presented various aspects of such a ‘macro-monetary’ interpretation include Mattick 1969, Yaffe 1976, Rosdolsky 1977, Mattick Jr. 1981, Carchedi 1984, Foley 1986, and Bellofiore 1989.)

This paper provides further detailed textual evidence to support these two main points – that Volume I presents a monetary theory and that it presents a macroeconomic theory of the total surplus-value.

1. Volume I is about money

According to a widely held interpretation of Marx’s theory (e.g. Steedman, Morishima, etc.), Volume I of Capital is about the labor-values of commodities, i.e. the labor-times required to produce commodities. The main variables determined in Volume I are the labor-values of individual types of commodities. The key concepts of constant capital, variable capital, and surplus-value are interpreted to be defined in Volume I in terms of labor-times – as the quantities of labor-times required to produce the means of production, the means of subsistence, and surplus-goods, respectively. The ‘value rate of profit’ is defined as the ratio of the labor-value of surplus-goods to the sum of the labor-values of the means of production and the means of subsistence. According to this interpretation, money and prices play no essential role in Volume I. Prices are not determined in Volume I. It is argued that money and prices are sometimes used in Volume I to illustrate labor-values or as a shorthand for labor-values, but money and prices are not themselves the subject of Volume I, or determined in Volume I. Rather, labor-values are determined in Volume I. One can write the equations which represent the theory in Volume I without introducing money at all (e.g. Steedman, Chapters 3 and 4; Morishima, Chapters 3-5). Volume I is often described as presenting the “value system”.

I argue that this ‘labor-value’ interpretation of Volume I is mistaken. Volume I is not about the determination of labor-values. Rather, Volume I is about the determination of quantities of money and prices. These money magnitudes and prices are determined by quantities of labor-time, which are taken as given. In logical terms, money magnitudes and prices are the explanandi, the variables that are to be explained or determined, and quantities of labor-time are the explanans, the givens in terms of which the explanandi are explained or determined. Money magnitudes and prices in Volume I are not inessential illustrations or short-hand for labor-values, but are themselves the variables that are determined or explained in Volume I.

This section reviews some key chapters in Volume I in order to support this ‘monetary’
interpretation of Volume I.

Money and Totality: Marx’s Logic in Volume I of Capital

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