Form-Analytical and Value-Theoretical Readings of Marx (from the mid-1960s)

This branch of the "re-engagement with Marx" has emerged, in Germany, from a period known as the "reconstruction of the critique of political economy," which began in the mid-1960s. This period of reconstruction is a general characteristic of the "re-engagement with Marx" in the Federal Republic of Germany and, to some extent, in the GDR. The form-analytical and value-theoretical current that emerged from it is often described, in a generalising way, as "value-critical," in spite of the fact that engagement with the theory and critique of value is undertaken by various persons and at various places, with results that are sometimes quite diverse. The key current is now termed the "new reading of Marx." It can be traced back to Alfred Schmidt, via two students of Adorno, Hans-Georg Backhaus and Helmut Reichelt; one contemporary exponent is Michael Heinrich. A debate whose protagonists explicitly consider themselves "value-critical" is that conducted in the milieu of the journals Krisis und Exit; persons associated with this debate include Norbert Trenkle, Ernst Lohoff, Roswitha Scholz and Robert Kurz.

What is common to these variants of the re-engagement with Marx is the focus on the value-theoretical development of the fundamental categories of Capital (value, commodity, money, abstract labour and capital), and in particular on the analysis of the value form. While questions concerning the theory and critique of value are debated internationally, they have informed re-engagement with Marx in Germany particularly strongly, often in connection with Critical Theory and the findings of the second MEGA edition. Introductory remarks on these matters can be found in Ingo Elbe's book Marx im Westen ("Marx in the West").

In other countries too, theoretical discussions around value began in the 1960s and 1970s, for example in the Anglo-Saxon region and in Japan. They can be distinguished between more economic discussions, such as Marx's theory of value and money and the so-called transformation problem, and more methodologically and philosophically oriented discussions, such as the importance of dialectics in Marx's concept of value and money.