Law of Value 8: Subject/Object
One of the more common objections raised to Marx’s theory of value, at least here in the theoretical void of cyberspace, is the objection posed by subjective value theory. Though these modern objections often take quite a crude, simplistic tone, they are echoes of a rather old debate, one that dates back to debates between Marxists and Austrian economists that took place in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. Austrian thinkers like Bohn-Bawerk and Mises were staunch defenders of free markets and private property, seeing capitalism as the ultimate expression of human freedom. In response to the revolutionary challenge of Marx’s economic ideas they advanced an alternative view of economics in which economic value was not determined by human labor but by the subjective valuations of individuals.
The Austrians called their theory Subjective Value Theory (STV), also known as marginal utility theory, and they called Marx’s theory an Objective value theory. Marx himself never used this sort of language to describe his theory because such a simplistic dichotomy would have robbed his theory of much of its nuance and depth. Nevertheless, Marx’s defenders often accepted this dichotomy, advancing a staunch defense of Marx’s supposed “objective” theory of value. If we really want to understand Marx’s theory of value we need to dig a little deeper than this.
At first it may seem that this debate over value theory is purely an academic one, not so urgent an issue in these times of crisis and political upheaval. But value theory actually sits at the center of any theory of capitalism and is therefore extremely relevant if we are to understand this crisis of capitalism. The Subjective-objective debate is more than just an academic feud about how to theorize prices. It is a debate about two rival visions of the world, one deeply apologetic of capitalism and one radically critiquing it.
Though mainstream neo-classical econ has sought to distance itself from the the particularly extreme capitalist apologetics of the Austrian school, both share a common origin in the theory of Marginal Utility. (1) This economic crisis has brought to light the utter bankruptcy of mainstream economics as its ideologues stutter and stumble in the face of an economic depression that doesn’t fit into their models, bringing into question its most foundational theories, like the theory of marginal utility. In this crisis it is important to understand the failures of the dominant ideology so that we know what we are fighting and how not to replicate those mistakes in our own movements. Therefore we will need to spend some time in this video laying out some of the fundamental failures of the subjective, or marginalist approach to economics.
The mantra of all ideologies is the phrase “that’s just the way things are.” Econ professors and right-wing pundits love to use this phrase. When factories close they tell us “that’s just the way things are”. When people are poor and live in degradation we are told that this is the way of the market and that nobody is to blame but the poor themselves. They can make this argument because their theory of the market is based on a theory of subjective value. If economic value is subjective, as the theory of Marginal Utility argues, then the marketplace is just a clearinghouse for our desires. It serves as a vast, unconscious, democratic network, adjusting needs and production with scarcity to provide the best possible organization of our competing subjectivities. The outcome of this market process can’t be critiqued because it is just the spontaneous result of our desires. There is nobody to blame if something goes wrong. Responsibility is dispersed between millions of individuals. The only thing we can critique, from the Austrian perspective, is those who try to interfere with this market process, like unions, social movements or the government.
If value is entirely subjective then we also can have no theory of exploitation. The division of the social product into wages of workers, profit of capitalists and rent to landlords is not explained by the power of these social classes. Instead it is seen as the result of purely technical factors, like the scarcity of inputs relative to the subjective decisions made by workers and capitalists as they enter into free contracts. Rather than a theory of classes, we have a theory of pure individuals, all seen as equals in the market. And since individuals have always had subjective values the subjectivists can argue that capitalism is the expression of universal human characteristics and not a particular historical form subject to change.
It certainly is true that when we go to the grocery store to spend our meagre wages we get to choose between Coke and Pepsi. But if this sort of choice is the ultimate horizon of human freedom then we really haven’t achieved much as a species. While subjectivists busy themselves with complex models of consumer behaviour as we choose between Coke and Pepsi, they miss the fact that these choices happen within the context of larger institutional arrangements which we have no choice over at all. It is these larger structures that Marx is interested in: private property, wage-labor, commodity exchange, and the law of value. For Marx the market is a place where blind economic laws dominate over us, where subjects are powerless and where objects like money and commodities are imbued with social powers. We are all hyper-aware of this fact today as we watch the most powerful people and states in the world flounder helplessly in the face of this economic crisis. The Law of Value commands, people obey.
a point of clarification:
Great confusion comes from the fact that the word “value” is used to mean different things. Some people think that because you and I make personal value judgements when we go shopping that these judgements must be the source of the value of commodities. But the personal value judgements we make in our heads are not the same as the exchange values of commodities. Commodities have exchange values, the quantitative ratios in which they exchange with other commodities. People make value judgements, judgements which are not measurable or quantitative. Just because we use the same word, value, for both phenomenon doesn’t mean that they are the same thing or that there is any relation between the two at all. This relation has to be proven. Many logical mistakes are made by people who don’t distinguish between these two uses of the same word. Don’t be one of those people!
STV argues that we can understand exchange-ratios solely through a theory of the subjective, psychological motives of consumers. It’s attempt to do so is fatally flawed, shot through with unwarranted assumptions, shoddy abstractions and circular logic. Let’s take a look at some of these problems
The Subjectivist Vacuum, or, Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain
Welcome to Subjectivist Island. Here lives Eugene, our happy island barbarian. Everyday Eugene makes choices. He decides to spend his time building his teepee, catching fish, or practicing his backstroke. He likes the backstroke most of all, but after so many laps around the island he gets tired of it and starts to prefer catching fish or teepee building. Intent on maximizing his utility, Eugene gets out some paper and a pencil and makes himself a preference scale so that he can figure out the exact proportions to devote to all 3 activities each day. He cherishes this preference scale because it is the source of his freedom. It’s just like the preference scale you carry around in your pocket everyday….. you carry one don’t you? (2)
Ok, now setting aside the fact that most of us don’t carry around a preference scale in our pockets, there is a bigger problem: Subjectivists want you to believe that this little story about Eugene and Subjectivist Island is all that you need to know in order to understand the functioning of modern capitalist society. Funny then, that we had to abstract away all of capitalism, all society in fact, in order to arrive at our theory of preferences. Were we to think critically we might begin to suspect that there is something fishy going on with this abstraction. That fishy something is the stink of an ideological abstraction. We discussed such ideological abstractions in the last video, Law of Value 7, but let’s review a few points here.
The point of a dominant ideology is to make it seem like the present order of things is a universal order; that the status quo is the natural expression of things, unchangeable. How convenient then, for our bourgeois theorists, that our natural, universal man, Eugene, happens to contain the seed of modern capitalist society in all of his preferenc-ing and acting. It’s as if every choice made by every human since the dawn of time was just an expression of innate capitalist instincts, waiting to come into being in our modern society.
But it’s not enough just to point out the obvious ideological basis of subjectivist theory. We must also prove that this ideological abstraction is illegitimate. Let’s do that. It should only take a few minutes.
The parable of Subjectivist Island leads one to think that human desires are formed privately, independent of society. But this has never been the case. Desires are taught, socially constructed, and can’t be understood independently of society. How do subjectivists respond? They say “Yes desires may be constructed but this is out of the scope of economics so we don’t have to consider it.” In fact, this is how modern economics deals with all criticism- it ignores it and says it’s the topic of another discipline. How convenient! It’s like saying that we don’t have to consider the fact that the earth is round because that’s beyond the scope of flat-earth theory.
We can’t understand desire without also understanding the ways in which we go about attaining our desires. Here’s where the abstraction of Subjectivist Island breaks down. On the island Eugene attains his desires by directly acting to get the things he wants. But these are not the sort of choices we make in a capitalist society. In capitalism we have to sell our labor to someone else so we can make a wage that we can then spend on the things we want, but only after we’ve given most of our wage to the landlord, the mortgage company and the state. Subjective value theory has to prove that it can move this abstract model of choice from Subjectivist Island to a full-scale capitalist economy. It does this through the fantasy of barter.
Let’s say Eugene, while back-stroking one day, discovers another island called Barter Island. Here lives Ludwig who cracks coconut all day. They decide to trade fish and coconuts, each one carefully measuring their utilities for fish and coconuts on their preference scales, calculating the precise exchange ratios to maximize their utilities, resulting in an exchange ratio between coconuts and fish. “Now,” says the subjectivist, “we have shown that our abstraction was legit and that we can explain exchange ratios purely through the science of preference scales.” If only it were that simple.
The first thing we might notice is that the exchanges on Barter Island can only take place because Eugene and Ludwig have different resource endowments. If they both had access to coconut and fish then there would be no reason to trade. In order for trade to continue in a sustained way, trade must reproduce these differences.
This means that in order for a capitalist market to work there must be the constant reproduction of a certain type of property relations in which people have to enter the market in order to get what they need to live. Specifically people must be deprived of their own means of production, forced to enter the market to sell their labor in order to buy the things they need. This property relation must be continually reproduced through exchange so that there is always scarcity and people are always dependent on the market.
Thus, we can see that something very sneaky has been done. Hmmm… what is it? We were trying to form a theory of barter based solely on subjective preferences when all the sudden we realized we needed to assume a certain type of property relation in order to make any sense of it. Thus, abstracting away property relations and forming a theory of exchange without them is impossible and illegitimate.
Even more damning is the fact that capitalist societies don’t have anything to do with barter. People don’t produce to directly exchange products for other products. We produce in order to exchange things for money. Money is an intermediary in all economic activity. So it makes no sense to say we measure our subjective utility for coconuts against fish when exchanging. We measure everything against money. When you are in the supermarket calculating your preference scales with the Preference App on your iPhone you aren’t just considering your preferences for fish and coconuts in the abstract, as if on a desert island. You are also considering the market prices of these commodities. This market price already exists before you make your subjective value judgements.
But this is problematic. Subjective valuations were supposed to explain price, but now we have to assume the prior existence of prices in order to explain subjective value judgements. It seems we are stuck in a big messy circle.
And if we are exchanging everything for money then we must have a utility for money right? But money has no direct utility. It’s not even good for blowing your nose on. The value of money is what it will buy. And this is not set by our preferences but instead reflects the relation of money to all other commodities, reflecting the vast interpenetration of millions of markets all over the world. There is no such thing as a personal utility for money because money’s value is already established by forces beyond our control. (3)
And there are more difficulties presented to subjective value theory by the presence of money. On Barter Island Eugene and Ludwig had direct knowledge of what they were getting from each exchange. But in our world we don’t know exactly how much everything is going to exchange for ahead of time. When we sell a product in the market we don’t know exactly what products we will be able to buy with that income. There is a high degree of uncertainty. But with so much uncertainty how are we ever to form those nice, rational preference scales where we’ve perfectly calculated the exact utility relations of all commodities to each other? Well, we can’t! (4)
It seems that every time we try to abstract away property relations and production relations they end up sneaking back into the picture. This is because it is absolutely illegitimate to try to explain capitalism without a theory of the social relations between people as they actively produce the world they live in. Luckily we have a better theory, that of Karl Marx.
In the Real World….
In the real world, outside of the fantasies of bourgeois economics, subjects and objects have no meaning apart from their relations to each other. There is no such thing as a subjective individual floating in a vacuum. We develop our subjectivity through our relation to the objective world we inhabit. And the objective world can’t be understood apart from the actions of societies of individuals who transform this world, bending it to their will, giving it meaning. Subjects and objects always exist in a relation, deriving their meaning from this relation.
On Subjectivist Island it seems like subjects form their value judgements through passive contemplation before they act on them; judging happens first and then action. In the real world we can only understand our subjective preferences once we understand the active process by which people relate to and transform the world. People work on nature. We chop trees and make houses. We build cars and dig up oil to power them. In transforming the objective world we also transform ourselves. The modes by which we work upon the world determine our views of the world, the sort of values, needs and desires we have in this world and the manner in which we pursue those desires. These different modes of producing have changed throughout history, each mode producing very different sorts of societies with very different value systems. These different modes of relating to and transforming the world Marx calls “modes of production”. (5)
Capitalism is not the first mode of production characterized by extreme inequality, war, exploitation and instability. These qualities are part of all class societies. What is unique about capitalism is the way this domination of one class over another takes the form of relations between commodities. This is due to a particularly unique subject-object relation in capitalism, something Marx refers to as “subject/object inversion”. We will return to this in a moment.
Subjects, Objects and their Prices
Objections to Marx’s theory of value often have to do with the way his theory of value relates to market prices. If value comes from the amount of labor that goes into producing things, then how do we explain the fact that a rise or fall in demand changes market prices? The fact that demand influences price makes it seem like subjective decisions influence value as much as labor time.
The value-price relation is not an easy one to enclose in neat, tidy definitions. The more we look at it the more complex the network of social relations that go into the formation of prices. I will deal with the value-price topic in more detail in a future video (Law of Value 11: Price), but a few remarks are in order here. We’ve actually covered this ground briefly before in Law of Value 3 where we talked about the way private labor becomes social labor. (6)
Private labor is the amount of labor an individual worker devotes to the production of a commodity. The goal of the worker is for her private labor to become social labor, that is, that her commodity be sold in the market and thus be equated with all the other commodities in the market, making her labor part of the total social labor of society. But this isn’t so easy. Because production is only coordinated through the fluctuation of market signals, it is always uncertain whether commodities will be sold, and whether private labor will become social labor.
As we’ve seen in previous videos, in order for private labor to become social it must produce at the socially necessary labor time. SNLT is a way in which the social level of productivity acts back upon the private labor of the individual, disciplining the individual to work at the social average. Individuals or firms that can’t work at the SNLT go out of business, like when American auto-workers lose their jobs due to competition with plants in other countries. Their labor is then reallocated to other areas where they can be more profitable, or they don’t work at all. As many of us know, losing a job and having to find new work is a long, hard, painful process. But these discomforts don’t matter to the market. The market treats all labor like digits in a calculator, anonymous units to be moved around in the search of profit. The gap between private labor and social labor is the mechanism by which labor is moved around and reapportioned through the blind forces of the market, in the absence of a social plan. (7)
Now all this should sound familiar. But what does this have to do with the relation between demand changes and price? The same process of reapportioning labor happens with changes in demand. Just like the need to produce at the SNLT, society must also apportion the right amount of labor to produce the right amount of things so that markets don’t become over-saturated or under-stocked. If the supply of elevator music exceeds demand then some of this music will remain unsold and some of this private labor will not become social. Producers will be forced to move their labor elsewhere. This apportioning of labor happens through the fluctuation of price. [insert image of person thinking, though bubble creating a commodity, or a price sign or something] This does not mean that demand creates value. Demand hasn’t created anything. It has merely indicated, through price signals, that labor needs to be reallocated. This is how demand effects the distribution of social labor in a society coordinated through the fluctuations of prices. This distribution is only possible because there is a relation between prices and labor time.
A further examination of demand
So we can show that demand, rather than creating value, is part of the reallocation of labor that is implied in the gap between private and social labor. But we can also take the analysis further and show how demand itself is produced in capitalism. From the perspective of subjectivist island it seems like demand is the product of free, independent minds, viewing reality from some distant, objective standpoint. But in reality our subjectivity is a part of a mode of production. This is nowhere more apparent than in the capitalist mode of production. In capitalism the only type of demand that counts is “effective demand”, that is demand backed up by purchasing power. Consumer demand comes from wages paid to workers. That means we can’t understand demand without first understanding wage labor and exploitation.
The products which consumers buy with this money are not just the random result of psychological preferences. In fact, most of our money goes to the purchase of very basic things we need in order to keep us alive as workers so that we can produce more value for capitalism each day: rent, food, clothes. (8) These are needs and desires dictated to us by capitalism, for the purpose of perpetuating capitalism, not the abstract psychological preferences of isolated individuals. (9)
But the bulk of the demand in society comes not from consumers but from capitalists. You and I buy toothbrushes and pay rent. Capitalists buy factories, assembly lines, natural resources, and private armies. This demand has nothing to do with the personal preferences of capitalists. (10) It has to do with the technical requirements of production, the amount of inputs it takes to make a widget at the SNLT. Some people think that capitalists enter production only in order to meet the demands of consumers. This is a myth. The advertising industry is the best refutation of this myth. Capitalists produce in order to make a profit. Then they go looking for markets. Most of the time they have to create the market by convincing people there is a need for their product. But capitalist firms also sell to each other, totally bypassing the need to find consumer markets. (11.)
This all gives us a very different picture of the subject-object relation than we get in bourgeois economics. Rather than a free society of empowered individuals who are free to act upon their abstract desires and take full-responsibility for their lot in life, Marx’s critique of the capitalist mode of production reveals a world in which individuals are at the mercy of the coercive laws of the market. The sorts of superficial freedoms they have to choose between coke and pepsi pale in comparison to the disciplining of our lives to SNLT and the pursuit of profit.
[Mitt Romney quote about corporations being people]
There is a lot of talk in the Occupy Wall Street movement about ending “corporate personhood”. The problem with this demand is that the legal status of corporate personhood is just the icing on the cake. In a capitalist society corporations are much more like people than people are. Capital is the active subject and people its object. This is what Marx means by “subject/object inversion.” Rather than people being the active agents of the social order it is the “objective” logic of the market that dominates subjects. Blind economic laws rule and people obey. Money becomes more powerful than life. Corporations become people and exert more power in society than individuals or even social movements. While people run around in the street with signs begging the system to take notice of them, the cold-logic of capital becomes the active agent in society, using the body of the worker like a passive expendable commodity, subordinating societies, governments and even nature itself to the impersonal motives of profit.
The crazy thing is that this “objective” world is still just the product of our own creation. We actively reproduce it everyday. This is what makes Marx’s critique of capitalism so powerful: The world we live in, despite the incredibly disempowering structure of our current situation, is always only the result of our own actions and we do have the ability to collectively change it. But in order to exercise such collective power we must break with the capitalist mode of production.
In case you were wondering Subjectivist Island and Barter Island don’t exist. They are abstractions. Now every theory needs abstractions- we must sift through a world of data and identify the broad contours and important categories that define reality. Subjectivist and Barter Islands are “ideal abstractions”, that is, abstractions that exist only in the minds of philosophers. Marx makes a different kind of abstraction, a “real abstraction”. A real abstraction is not made by philosophers arbitrarily leaving out parts of social reality. A real abstractions is made by reality itself.
In a capitalist society human labor becomes abstract. In the caste system of feudalism where people were born into certain types of work and there were strict divisions between castes there was no such thing as labor in general, or a worker in general. But in a capitalist society labor loses all of these specific features. Capital treats us like anonymous digits in a profit-calculator, moving us from place to place in the search for profit. Our labor becomes abstract labor. We become, not peasants, knights, or artisans, but workers in general. Marx’s theory of value is based on this real abstraction that is made by the mode of production itself, not the minds of philosophers.
This doesn’t mean that the perspective of marginalism comes from nowhere. Marginalism comes from a real existing standpoint within capitalism, the standpoint of the atomized individual contemplating commodities. This standpoint is real. We experience it everyday at the grocery store. But it is an incomplete perspective because it leaves out the entire world of social production that puts commodities on the shelves and money in our pockets. This perspective is the perspective of commodity fetishism, in which the social power of our own labor takes the form of inherent properties of objects. (12)
But in times of economic crisis we see cracks in the walls of this reality. Old ways of thinking lose their relevance. Crises are a time when the economic laws of capitalism are exposed not as eternal, universal laws as the bourgeois economists would want us to think, but as the particular laws of this time, laws that we might be able to overthrow. As the law of value breaks down, as people start to question the order of things, the capitalist state must enter the picture, replacing the failing law of value with the brutal law of the state. The charming, freedom-loving world of the market apologists is revealed for what it really is, an exploitative order based on violence. Like a schoolyard bully, a system is always the most violent when its weakness is exposed. When the law of value breaks down the politics begin. Subjects must become active. This can be the politics of the ruling class as it scrambles to reassert the status quo or it can be the politics of radical movements that posit the possibility for new social orders.
1. Undoubtedly I will raise the ire of both neoclassicals and Austrians by treating the two camps as one for much of this video. Both schools of thought have their historic origin in the theory of marginal utility, though the way this theory has been treated and evolved in the two camps has diverged over time. This video deals with marginal utility on a very basic level, analyzing the types of abstractions needed to sustain a theory of marginal utility (namely extracting away production relations) and thus should serve as an appropriate starting point for a critique of either school of thought. There are many more critiques to be made of both camps.
2. Prior to his preference scale Eugene used utils to measure all the objects of his desire. These were basically little bits of his subjectivity that he kept in his pocket like gold coins. He exchanged them with himself every time he made a decision. At some point in the 20th century bourgeois economists decided that utils didn’t exist and replaced them with graded preference scales. These look sort of like a combination of a bar graph and an abacus and all of us carry them with us at all times and consult them before we engage in any human action. They are the primary instrument of our freedom but the government wants to take them away from us and make us slaves.
3. Austrians will be quick to point out that the ‘great’ Ludwig Von Mises provided a solution to this problem of the subjective value of money. He argued that since money was originally a commodity like gold that originally, in barter, people did have a subjective value for the particular uses of gold. Thus the original exchange value of gold was a result of these subjective valuations. Once gold became money, of course, its exchange value was altered by its role in the circulation of commodities. It became worth “what it could buy”. People formed their subjective estimations of gold based on this objective “what it could buy” measure. Yet the fact that we can trace a historic path from the original subjective valuations of the use of gold, to the subsequent layers/sequences of valuations that eventually arrived at the objective value of money seemed, to Mises, a solution to the problem. In Bukharin’s “Economic Theory of the Leisure Class”, in a footnote, he points out that this “solution” by Mises merely replaces an idiographic, historical description for a theory. It doesn’t matter if we can describe some historic process whereby a commodity becomes money. The value of money is not created or altered by subjective preferences for money.
4. The neo-Austrian response to this problem is to distance themselves from the neo-classical idea of the rational consumer and to stress the imperfect information of the consumer. Rather than consumers being super-rational beings that can calculate the relations between the objects of desire, the fallibility of human understanding is stressed and the market is seen as the ultimate informational clearing house which adjusts the imperfect desires of the multitude, smoothing them out, allocating resources in the most efficient and democratic way. Their language often takes on religious overtones here, stressing the inherent insufficiency of human judgement against the omnipotent, mysterious power of the market. The problem is that these magic moves of the hidden hand of the market are just asserted and never proven. Rather than actually proving that the market can do this Austrians prefer to stress that the only alternative is the State-Communist BogeyMan.
5. For Marx the subject-object relation is not just a matter of personal psychology, of people thinking about objects in the abstract. Instead it is based in the real, concrete working activity of people actively transforming the world. This is what is by “materialism.” Often people think that “materialism” means that individuals are unimportant, or history is predestined, but this is not what Marx means. He wants us to understand the specific ways in which subjects and objects relate through the real activity of social groups in their day-to-day activity, in their mode of production.
6. The first thing to note is that, just as the commodity passes through many different hands and fulfills different functions as it moves through the vast network of capitalist social relations, so too value takes many different forms. Different aspects of the value relation come in and out of focus depending on where we turn our gaze. Value can take the form of private labor, social labor, and market price. These three forms of value all act back upon each other, co-determining each other, just as all the various moments of production and exchange influence each other. Market prices can fluctuate from day to day due the seemingly chaotic way information about prices is transmitted through markets. But through these fluctuations we can observe law-like regularities. etc.
7. And this is why the dream of running your own business and “being your own boss” is only possible in the cracks and interstices of capitalism, in those few paltry industries that it is not profitable for big firms to enter. The amount of resources a large firm has at its disposal make it quite difficult for the self-employed to work at a competitive socially necessary labor time.
8. A timely tangent: The consumption habits of the unemployed and underemployed are also largely dictated by capital. Being unemployed is expensive and time-consuming. One must drive to interviews, have a clean suit to look good for those interviews, send out tons of resumes, etc.
9. This is why we need a theory of distribution before a theory of price. The theory of marginal utility tries to explain price first, and then explain the distribution of the social product between classes afterwards. The most extreme version of this would be the price theory of Mises who argues that not even the cost of production enters into the formation of prices. For Mises, consumers determine prices through their valuations, then the revenue from the sale of the commodity is distributed amongst the factors of production according to the competitive bidding of capitalists. On the contrary, the classical economists before Marx formed their theory of price only after the distribution of the social product between classes… Thus the price of the commodity would be the wages paid to workers plus the profit of the capitalists plus the price of inputs (which go to other capitalists) plus any interest or rent owed to other parts of the capitalist class. Obviously a class analysis of society is only possible with the classical approach.
10. Nor does the capitalist production have anything to do with “corporate greed”. Please, Occupy Wall Street, stop using this ridiculous term. It doesn’t mean anything. There is no such thing as corporate greed. Corporations don’t have personalities. They aren’t greedy. Capitalism is the problem, not the subjectivities of capitalists.
11. Underconsumption theory, one of the more prominent radical theories of the current crisis, is based on idea that production is for consumption. Underconsumption theory argues that since all production is eventually for consumer consumption that a shortage of demand or purchasing power from consumers can cause an economic crisis. This neglects the role of capitalists in creating their own demand for products, not for the personal leisure of capitalists, but for productive consumption, as inputs in the production process.
12. See my video on commodity fetishism: Law of Value 2
From Political Economy to Economics by Fine and Milonakis. This is a great history of economic thought with a focus on methodology. It discusses the way economics has been narrowed from the broad social questions of classical economics to the narrow, mathematical abstractions of the modern neo-classical method.
Human Action- Ludwig von Mises. This book is ridiculous. Good for a bathroom read. And if you run out of toilet paper…
Economic Theory of the Leisure Class by Nikolai Bukharin. I have written about this book here.
Dialectical Phenomenology by Roslyn Bologh. This book was quite influential on my thinking about the subject-object relation and the concept of mode of production. It runs cheap on Amazon. It is a discussion of Marx’s method through a reading of the Grundrisse. I highly recommend it.
Disassembling Capital by Nicole Pepperel. This is available here. Pepperel’s blog Uncomfortable Science (formerly Rough Theory) is a fascinating read. She has a really fresh and deeply knowledgeable take on Marx.