Long prone to dogmatic disagreement, the question of value in Marx’s thoughtwhat value is, the purpose it serves, its application to real-world capitalismrequires 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.