Commodity Exchange and Abstraction

In my An Introduction To Marx’s “Law of Value”, I briefly talked about "abstract labour" as the substance of value. I wrote: "What exactly abstract labour “is” has been the subject of much debate. However, I believe the answer is relatively simple. At any given moment, society has a finite amount of useful labour it can perform. A … Continue reading Commodity Exchange and Abstraction

Real abstraction: On the use and abuse of an idea

The Charnel-House

The Marxian notion of “real abstraction” has garnered a great deal of attention in leftist theoretical circles of late, with somewhat mixed results. It was first formulated and treated systematically by Alfred Sohn-Rethel, an economist associated with the Frankfurt School of social theory. Helmut Reichelt has pointed out, however, that the term was used prior in a couple instances by the German sociologist Georg Simmel (Reichelt, “Marx’s Critique of Economic Categories,” pg. 4). Notably, Simmel’s usage occurs in connection with the “abstract value” represented and measured by money, as that which converts qualitatively incommensurable items into quantitatively commensurable commodities. He writes that “not only the study of the economy [economics] but the economy itself is constituted by a real abstraction from the comprehensive reality of valuations” (Simmel, The Philosophy of Money, pg. 78).

With Sohn-Rethel, the exposition of the concept is much more thoroughgoing. According to the definition…

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The Last Soviet Marxist – (translation of an article by Alexei Tsvetkov on Evald Ilyenkov)

Afoniya's Blog

The original Russian article can be found here :
In an article for The Prime Russian Magazine (in its issue based on the theme of Marxism), the poet Alexei Tsvetkov wrote this portrait of Evald Ilyenkov, the last Soviet Marxist and one of the greatest and most original thinkers to work in the Soviet Union. Tsvetkov gives us a portrait of a truly unique figure whose works deserve to be re-read and translated as well as an unusual portrait of the atmosphere and times he lived in.

At the start of the armed conflict between China and Vietnam he howled at the radio refusing to talk with anybody. Sartre could well have written a novel about this man and Godard shot a film about him. Alexei Tsvetkov writes about the last Soviet Marxist, Evald Ilyenkov.
1940s: Dialectics of the Artillery

The son of a…

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Karl Marx Would be a Race Realist: In Defence of my Comrades in the “Alt-left”

There are a lot of calls to form a "new left". The meaning of this statement changes depending on context. For the Stalinist, this means a strong Marxist-Leninist party. While for Zizekians, it calls for a fundamental reformulation of "communism". I can't help but feel that most of the time, those calling for a "new … Continue reading Karl Marx Would be a Race Realist: In Defence of my Comrades in the “Alt-left”

Keynes, civilisation and the long run

Michael Roberts Blog

Keynesian economics dominates on the left in the labour movement.  Keynes is the economic hero of those wanting to change the world; to end poverty, inequality and continual losses of incomes and jobs in recurrent crises.  And yet anybody who has read the posts on my blog knows that Keynesian economic analysis is faulty, empirically doubtful and its policy prescriptions to right the wrongs of capitalism have proved to be failures.

In the US, the great gurus of opposition to the neoliberal theories of Chicago school of economics and the policies of Republican politicians are Keynesians Paul Krugman, Larry Summers and Joseph Stiglitz or slightly more radical Dean Baker or James Galbraith. In the UK, the leftish leaders of the Labour party around Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, self-proclaimed socialists, look to Keynesian economists like Martin Wolf, Ann Pettifor or Simon Wren Lewis for their policy ideas and analysis. …

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Some Thoughts on Fiat Money and Marxian Economics

In my "Introduction to Marx's Law of Value" I talked about the concept of abstract labour as the universal substance of all social wealth. I then went on to discuss the "money commodity" along with the different expressions of exchange value. But nowadays we no longer use commodity money. If this is the case then … Continue reading Some Thoughts on Fiat Money and Marxian Economics