A review of The Value of radical theory, by Wayne Price

This is an interesting presentation of Marx’s analysis of capitalism.

However it falls short of the mark on a few accounts, on small things, like when he links revolutionary movements linked to non-class forms of oppression to the Chartists and therefore to movement to gain rights of representation (a bit grating); but also on big things, mainly when he loses focus on capitalism as a commodity-producing society to slolely talk of capitalism as a society based on exploitation: exploitation is based and is how, as workers we first experience why capitalism is bad, but that said, when Price writes about his “libertarian-democratic communism” (ouch!) something like:

The automatic laws of the market (the law of value) will only be overcome through workers’ democracy, which means making conscious choices. This requires an understanding of how capitalism works (which Marx’s economic theory mostly provides) but also requires a vision of an alternate society of freely associated, self-managed producers.

O dear. “producers” of use-values, or of commodities? The libertarian-democratic communism which Price presents here seems to be nothing else than more libertarian, more democratic capitalism. As much as we love freely-associated, self-managed producers, such as AK Press, their generalization does not lead to communism.

This is very sad, as the main point to read Marx, imho, is to develop a critique of the commodity, of labour and of the category of capitalism that is work (and the worker). This introduction does not provide this, which I think risk leaving anarchists quite unphased by the whole thing.


4 thoughts on “A review of The Value of radical theory, by Wayne Price

  1. I am pleased that you found my book to be, at least, “an interesting presentation of Marx’s analysis of capitalism.” The subtitle, btw, is “An Anarchist Introduction to Marx’s Critique of Political Economy.” But, as far as I can tell, you seem to object to my anarchist responses to Marx’s views. You say “ouch” about my citing the goal of “libertarian-democratic communism.” It is not quite clear, but you seem to object to the paragraph you quote, which argues that the democratic self-management of the producers is necessarily a part of ending the law of value and the commodification of the economy. You do not quite say whether you disagree with this view–which is important in rejecting the authoritarian side of Marxism.

    However, to answer your question–” ‘producers’ of use values or of commodities” ? (I use the term “producers” because post-capitalist society should evolve into a classless society which no longer has specialized classes of workers and nonworkers). I mean producers of use values. Why would you think anything else?

    Thus the book states, “In a truly socialist economy, there would be no more law of value, because goods would not be bought and sold on the market. There would be no commodities. Workers would distribute their labor among various industries according to need, as determined by whatever plan they had created” (p. 136).

    Also see my agreement with Marx’s view of a communist society as “transforming the means of production, land, and capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labor, into mere instruments of free and associated labor” (p. 149-150).

    • O wow! Thank you for the comment. This was written very quickly (and so is this comment), sorry for any mistake. As an anarchist reader of Marx, I was very pleased to receive your book, and the intention behind it is wonderful. Obviously, there are also a few things that I was disappointed with, especially the putting aside of Wertkritik, which I think is useful in a way to bridge the gap between anarchism and marxism. I thought the use of producer meant that people were seen as capitalist subjects, that is, that it is because they produce use values that they are given use values in return, thus perpetuating the rule of value and commodity although in a moneyless society. As a French anarchist, I have serious issues with the term libertarian communism and its historical development. Also with the word democracy.

      I am honored from your reply and will try to put time aside to form more questions to you in the future if you don’t mind.

  2. Korynmallus, I would be delighted to answer any questions, now or in the future. Since I don’t know the policy of this site, you can contact me here or at drwdprice@aol.com. Incidently, I do not know what is Wertkritik (aside from knowing that it translates as criticism of value).

    I do not know why you object to “libertarian communism.” “Libertarian” has been used as a synonym for anarchism and near-anarchist politics for about a century.

    “Democracy” has a long history and has been used to mean many things. Right now it is used in two ways, to mean the existing bourgeois-representational liberal state and, althernately, the self-management of the population, which would contradict the existing state.

    Finally, I have no idea why you think that a society in which people produce use values and get use values (food, clothing, etc.) recreates the law of value and commodity production, or how how the law of value could work without money in a complex society.

    • O we’ve had a few misunderstandings here.

      I know what libertarian means, but I object to G. Fontenis little adventure which kinda started with renaming the French Anarchist Federation the Libertarian Communist Liberation.

      No, I meant if people consume use values because they are producers of use values (ie some kind of exchange between their production and their access to things) then what you have is not communism.

      Wertkritik is interesting, check it out when you have time.

      I am not sure where you get the money thing from, but I guess commodity exchange and non-communist societies can exist without money in theory, through exchange of coupons, work-notebooks registering how much people have worked, and different alternative systems. They are a lot less efficient then money and obviously money would probably reappear and replace them pretty quickly though.

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