Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Cold Reading

So Nate has tagged me for a meme on a day when I am feeling flat and uninspired – and, amusingly, the meme sends me to an article I’ve been meaning to re-read for the longest time – it’s like the universe is conspiring against my procrastination. Next to me on the desk is Diane Elson’s “The Value Theory of Labour”, from Value: The Representation of Labour in Capitalism (1979, CSE Books, ed. Elson). The meme commands:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

There is some slight ambiguity over what constitutes the fifth sentence – do I count the fragment spilling over from the previous page? I’ll start with the first whole sentence… The three sentences (in some ways less interesting than the previous ones) are:

This does not mean that Marx was not concerned with price, nor its relation to the magnitude of value, but that the phenomena of exchange are not the object of the theory. (Again this is not a completely new thought, see Hussain, this volume, p. 84.) My argument is that the object of Marx’s theory of value was labour.

I really should take this opportunity to discuss what Elson means here, and the relationship between my position and hers. But I haven’t had coffee yet – and have a pile of Badiou to read today (note that, in spite of this, somehow Being and Event didn’t manage to be the book closest to me when I read Nate’s request… ;-P). So Badiou is coming with me for coffee, and I’ll have to write on Elson some other time…

But now I’m meant to tag people… My least favourite part of all memes… ;-P How about I pick on Tom, Ryan/Aless (by the way R/A, I’ve been meaning for ages to reply to your post on Ideology, and still intend to do so – I’ve just been caught up in other obligations), Alexei, L Magee (from whom I’m really wanting a promised post on the concept of sublation, but maybe this will get things started… ;-P), and Praxis.

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11 responses to “Cold Reading

  1. Mike Beggs February 20, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Will be interesting to read what you make of Elson – I really like her essay.

  2. Nate February 21, 2008 at 2:53 am

    What a funny coincidence. I just now glanced at an interview w/ Michael Hardt that I was part of in 2005, he cites Elson. Then a second later I click here and you and Mike are citing her as well. I’ll have to read the essay, I suspect there’s a secret message there just for me. ;)

  3. Alexei February 21, 2008 at 4:43 am

    Oh dear, NP, you’ve forced me to write something back home, just as I was getting used to being non-verbal!

    I’ll have something up soon; I just need to translate….

  4. N Pepperell February 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Mike had actually recommended Elson to me some time back (and I think I had read her some time ago) – I picked up the book when he mentioned it. I’ll try to write something on it tonight or tomorrow night, as it’s an interesting piece, with some similarities to what I do, and some complex divergences as well.

    And while I’m talking about things I need to write: Alexei, I’m hoping to get back to Hegel very very very soon – I’ve just been exhausted with this local Hegel event… And now I also have a paper to write for the reification conference, on Lukacs and the difference between his concept of reification, and what I take Marx to be doing with his argument about the fetish (I proposed to write on this because people locally seem to keep confusing my argument with Lukacs’ – I don’t see enormous similarities myself, but I figured a conference on reification is as good an excuse as any to write some of why I don’t see the arguments as similar… ;-P). It’s still not absolutely certain that I can attend – there’s a lot of local stuff I need to sort out – but I’ll write the paper anyway, and hope for the best ;-P

  5. Alexei February 21, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    Congratulations N, on having your paper accepted! That’s great news — even if it adds yet another task to your already busy schedule! I wasn’t so lucky though :-( Can’t say as I disagree with their decision though, my paper was a little off topic, and perhaps not as clearly focused on reification as it could have been.

    But anyway, I look forward to picking up the Logic with you again. I’m just so short on time at the moment (more German courses, more applications, plus stuff of my own to write, which for some reason I’ve been hesitant to post back home). Hopefully, I can clear some space/time to get back into the groove.

    Cheers for now, and a big congratulations! Going to Rome would be loads of fun!

  6. N Pepperell February 22, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Ack! To be honest, although my paper proposal was on the conference theme (it’s basically an exploration – however much I can cram into 30 minutes ;-P – of the difference between Lukacs’ argument about reification, and the argument I’ve been developing here about the fetish – the draft will go up here at some point), I thought your proposal was more consonant with, if this makes sense, the tone and the history of the event. Looking at past conferences, I had thought my piece would be too sociological, but I would have expected yours to have been accepted. It may be worth seeing if everyone who has a paper accepted actually agrees to present – I’ve been asked to confirm, for example (and… er… should do that soon, I suppose…) – the implication was that they would invite others if people declined…

    I had been looking forward to perhaps being able to meet up at the conference – great disappointment. :-( I’m of course still not completely sure I’ll be going, either: the conference is inconveniently scheduled for two weeks prior to the end of our term, and I’d rather not just go for the conference and then whisk back to Australia – it would be nice to see if something else is happening that would be worth exploring as long as I’ve made the trip. But of course that makes it harder to get away… I also want something damned close to a full draft of the thesis before I go… Lots of things to juggle…

    Although I feel like I’ve been writing endlessly on the Logic, that’s all been for the thesis or the conference, so I haven’t put anything substantive up here in some time. I’m also hoping to get back to it soon.

    Take care…

  7. Ryan/Aless February 22, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Hey NP,

    Thanks for the tag. I’m doing some traveling in France and Spain right now, so I’ a little out of the loop. But before the trip, I was reading David Harvey’s account of the labor theory of value in his book Limits to Capital, which he criticizes. It was complicated and difficult to understand, though. I’ll get back to it when I get the chance. And yeah, some comments on the reading of ideology would be nice.

  8. Pingback: Page 123 « Now-Times

  9. Alexei February 24, 2008 at 5:57 am

    I too had been looking forward to the prospect of meeting you N, but I guess it will have to wait for some other time. Anyway, I want to look at your abstract and see if I can’t offer my two cents. Cheers!

  10. Pingback: Roughtheory.org » Reflections on Elson’s “Value Theory of Labour”, part 1

  11. Pingback: Wittgenstein at War « Praxis

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