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Value in Marx

The Persistence of Value in a More-Than-Capitalist World

2013
Author:

George Henderson

Value in Marx

Why Marx’s multiple explorations of the theory of value continue to provide powerful ways of thinking about capitalism—and beyond

Long prone to dogmatic disagreement, the question of value in Marx’s thought requires renewal if Marx’s work is to remain vibrant. Value in Marx offers a rereading of Marx that strips value of its turgid theoretical reduction and reframes it as an investigation into the tensions between social relations and forms as they are rather than as what they could become.

Marx’s writings have inspired an extraordinary corpus of writing designed to understand and change capitalism. However, while many have tried to wear his boots, few have journeyed in genuinely new directions while holding Marx’s compass. Henderson here finds contemporary value in Marx’s writings in ways both faithful and surprising.

Noel Castree, Manchester University

Long prone to dogmatic disagreement, the question of value in Marx’s thought—what value is, the purpose it serves, its application to real-world capitalism—requires renewal if Marx’s work is to remain vibrant. In Value in Marx, George Henderson offers a lucid rereading of Marx that strips value of its turgid theoretical reduction and reframes it as an investigation into the tensions between social relations and forms as they are rather than as what they could otherwise become.

Drawing on Marx’s Capital and Grundrisse, Henderson shows how these volumes do not harbor a single theory of value that equates value to capital. Instead, these books experimentally compose and recompose value for a world that is more than capitalist. At stake is how Marx conceives of human freedom, of balanced social arrangements, and of control over the things people produce. Henderson finds that the limits on social becoming, including the tendency toward alienated existence, haunt Marx even as he looks beyond the critique of capital to an emancipated society to come.

Can these limits be confronted in a creative, even joyful, way? Can they become aspects of what we desire, rather than being silenced and denied? As long as we persist in interpreting value broadly, following it as an active and not a shut-down, predetermined feature of Marx’s texts, Henderson ultimately views Marx as responding positively to these challenges and employing value as a powerful tool of the political imaginary.

Value in Marx

George Henderson is associate professor of geography at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of California and the Fictions of Capital and coeditor of Geographic Thought: A Praxis Perspective.

Value in Marx

Marx’s writings have inspired an extraordinary corpus of writing designed to understand and change capitalism. However, while many have tried to wear his boots, few have journeyed in genuinely new directions while holding Marx’s compass. Henderson here finds contemporary value in Marx’s writings in ways both faithful and surprising.

Noel Castree, Manchester University

Value in Marx offers a truly original reading—itself a rare thing—backed by virtuosic textual analysis of Marx and a near-impeccable awareness of the wider literature. One cannot ask for much more.

David B. Clarke, Swansea University

George Henderson’s Value in Marx is touted as a work on Marx’s value theory that not only elucidates its contents, but goes beyond traditional readings of Marx to forge new ways of thinking about value and social relations. While showing an awareness of the considerable literature on applications of value theory to real world historical and political phenomena, it develops theoretical insights which have hitherto remained underappreciated or ignored within Marx’s conception of value itself.

Marx and Philosophy

George Henderson’s book Value in Marx is an object of beauty both inside and out. The lucidity of the prose, the arresting and often very playful address the author pitches us, and the sheer boldness to attempt a re-reading of well-thumbed texts to squeeze out more meaning all add up to a shining example of what close textual analysis and a creative spirit can achieve.

Progress in Human Geography

Value in Marx

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Did Marx Have a Theory of Value?

Part I
1. The Value-Capital Couplet and How to Break It
2. The Politics of Capitalist “Totality” in a More-Than-Capitalist World

Part II
3. The End of Value (As We Know It)
4. From Necessity to Freedom and Back Again: Abjected Labor and the Taint of Value

Part III
5. The Value Hypothesis: Three Scenes for a Political Imaginary of Value

Notes
Bibliography
Index