Speech upon Receiving the Marxian Economics Award (I)

By Itoh, Makoto | World Review of Political Economy, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Speech upon Receiving the Marxian Economics Award (I)


Itoh, Makoto, World Review of Political Economy


May 26, 2012

My main academic achievements in Japanese are in The Collected Works of Makoto Itoh, six volumes (Tokyo: Shakaihyoron-sha, 2009-12), and in English listed in a bibliographical note at the end of this article. All of them derived from original contributions to Marxian political economy by Kozo Uno (1897- 1977).

There are three characteristics in Uno theory. First, political economy based upon Marx's Capital (1867: 85, 94) should not be confused with ideological arguments, but should be studied and developed as an objective social science on the grounds of historical facts and logic. The scientific foundation of Marxian socialism is given in such objective social science as a scientific ideology.

Second, all the research work in Marxian political economy needs to be divided systematically in three distinct levels. Marx's Capital presents us with the principles of political economy at the basic level. Utilizing these basic principles as a frame of reference, Marxian political economy can construct a theory of the stages of capitalist development at the second level. The historical changes in state economic policies in the world history, from mercantilism via liberalism to imperialism, are to be treated, by following the changes in the dominant forms of capital accumulation, leading industries and the various roles of the state. Lenin's Imperialism; the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917) should be located at this second level. More concrete analyses of contemporary world economy and individual economy can be investigated at the third level, by using not just the basic principles, but also the intermediary stage of the theory of capitalist development as frames of reference.

Third, at the level of basic principles, Marx's Capital should be made more rigorous and complete insofar as it leftus ambiguous theoretical treatments. Indeed Uno's attempt to complete Capital as the principles of political economy contained many original insights in the theories of value and crisis among others.

While I followed his guide in my own work on political economy from the basic principles, I encountered the so-called Renaissance of Western Marxian economics when I first visited the UK and the US in 1974-75. While I attempted to bridge Western and the Japanese political economics thereafter, my contributions were broadened and resulted mainly in the following four areas. My own theoretical positions have been extended, and have deviated in some issues from Uno's own in the process of such trials.

1. On value theory

Although Uno did not deal fully with the recent debates on how to understand more consistently Marx's theory of transforming values into prices of production, including Marx's propositions on the equality between total values and total prices, as well as between total surplus values and total profits, the issue formed a battle field among Marxists, Sraffians and neo-classicalists. On the basis of the theoretical distinction between the forms and the substance of value in Uno's theory, I reformulated the traditional two tables approach to this controversial problem into "Itoh's three tables approach" to show a more satisfactory solution as presented in my books (1980, 1988). The second table of prices of production as forms of value, say in dollars, can be deduced from the first table of the substance of value in labor-time (hours) embodied in commodity products. Then it determines the third table of the substance of value in labor-time (hours) acquired by capitalists and workers in different industries. Marx's intention of two propositions on the equality of aggregate values and prices, as well as of surplus-values and profits must be understood in the social relations between the first and the third table, not between the first and second table.

Another important problem leftby Marx is how to think of complex labor. Marx did not theoretically clarify how to reduce complex labor-time to simple unskilled labor-time. …

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