Theories of Value and Price in Contemporary Chinese Marxism

By Lichtenstein, Peter M. | Atlantic Economic Journal, December 1989 | Go to article overview

Theories of Value and Price in Contemporary Chinese Marxism


Lichtenstein, Peter M., Atlantic Economic Journal


I. Introduction

The last decade has witnessed a liberalization of academic debate in China. I As a result, Chinese economists have begun to question the foundations of socialist theories of value and price. It is the purpose of this paper to critically examine certain aspects of these debates.

Section II looks at the Chinese definition of socialist commodity production," which is the organizing principle of contemporary Chinese Marxist theories of value and price. Section III explores the "equal labor exchange" theories of value, which assert that planned prices ought to be proportional to the socially necessary labor time embodied in a commodity. Section IV examines the more recent "prices of production" theory of value, which asserts that prices must deviate from these labor determined values. Section V makes some critical observations about Chinese theories of value and price.

II. Socialist Commodity Production and Chinese Marxism

To Chinese economists, commodity production is a generic system in which products are generally produced for exchange and not for use. Commodity production is, therefore, a general social formation that can be sub-classified into feudalism, capitalism, and socialism, each of which [ Fan, 1980] "share [s] the same general character." Neither the motivations for the exchange of commodities nor the institutional arrangements in which such exchanges take place is relevant to the definition of commodity production.

Additionally, Chinese economists share the view that [Fan, 1980, p. 213] commodity production is characterized by the property of value, which all commodities possess." Thus, Marx's labor theory of value is thought to be generally applicable to all commodity production formations.

Labor in socialist commodity production is said to be no longer alienated and exploited. According to Fan [ 1980, p. 221]:

"Socialist commodity production reflects the

exchange of labor between workers who no

longer are subject to an exploiting class and who

can now for the first time in history possess the

products of their own labor. This is the first de - alienation of human labor..."

Labor no longer has the theoretical status of a commodity. One of Marx's conditions for worker alienation, as described in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 [ Marx, 1978], is therefore eliminated because workers possess the products of their own labor. Moreover, the state enterprise sector is "owned by the whole people." This is consistent with Marx's definition of socialist property relations, which to him are an advance over both capitalist property relations and the individual property relations which precede it.

Socialist commodity production in China also means the end of egalitarianism and the pursuit of individual goals. It is based on profit seeking, which is also now officially encouraged, and competition between workers and between enterprises. Socialist commodity production today even accommodates private ownership, reserving for the state the ownership of the more "important" means of production. Socialist commodity production is, therefore, a mixed economy in terms of allowable ownership forms.

In socialist commodity production, exchange is not spontaneous and directionless. Instead, it is directed by a plan. In most contemporary Chinese interpretations, however, socialist commodity production is directed by both planning and market mechanisms. The exact mix of these two allocative mechanisms is ambiguous, in both theory and practice. The application of market mechanisms implies the decentralization of decision making power, while the application of planning mechanisms requires centralization.

The reform policies now being discussed or implemented in China reflect a tension between the desire to decentralize decision making based on competitive markets and the need to retain central control over economic development. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Theories of Value and Price in Contemporary Chinese Marxism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.