In part one of this series I emphasized the highly irregular, even dishonest, methods David Harvey employs in his introduction to Marx’s Capital, A Companion to Marx’s Capital. In particular, I called attention to Harvey’s use of the terms “a priori” and “cryptic” to characterize how Marx handles the fundamental categories of political economy, the critique of which is the project Marx undertook by writing Capital.
Since Capital is a critique of the theories of Marx’s contemporaries, it is not surprising that he begins with the categories already in place at the time he wrote his book. Harvey is essentially criticizing Marx for subjecting the categories of political economists like Ricardo, Malthus, Barbon, Mills and others to critical analysis, when this is precisely the project Marx had in mind when he began writing Capital.
When, for instance, Harvey criticizes Marx for making the ‘a priori’ assertion that the labor time required to produce commodities lay behind their exchange values, Harvey knows, or should know, that Marx is actually dismissing the argument of one school of political economists who claimed the values of commodities were expressions of their utility, i.e., of their capacity to satisfy human needs.
It is rather puzzling Harvey would call Marx’s argument that labor, not utility, gives commodities their values an “a priori leap by way of assertion” unless he has another candidate for the job. In this part I will show that this is just Harvey’s motivation. Harvey does not think either labor or utility gives commodities their values; rather, Harvey is of the school that believes value itself is impossible until money has already emerged.
In Marx’s argument, money is just another commodity, while the value-form school believes value arises from exchange, not production. Thus exchange is necessary to reduce concrete particular use values into commodities. Knowingly or not, Harvey’s “Companion to Marx’s Capital” is a polemic against Marx’s Capital on behalf of the value-form school.