Review of Social Value: A study in Economic Theory. (Critical and Constructive) by B.M. Anderson, Jr.
Dr. Anderson has approached the disputed field of economic value from the point of view of the social psychologist, seeking to identify value as a conscious phase in experience before it becomes the subject of treatment by the economist. His first undertaking is to refute the doctrine of both the English and the Austrian schools, which make value a matter of relations either in exchange or in marginal utilities, i. e., in the relation of subjective desires. Against the English school, Dr. Anderson maintains that the ratios of exchange imply a quantity of which the units of exchange are a measure. In the definitions of value by the Austrians the author finds the very idea of value which is to be defined. Even Professor Clark's definition of value as 'social and subjective' proves unsatisfactory because its author merely sums up the individual costs and individual satisfactions connected with economic goods. The economic goods being abstracted from the social organism which gives them their power,
(433) can be estimated only in psychical costs and satisfactions and these being abstracted from the rest of the individual's interests and desires can be estimated only in the economic goods, and again this seeming absolute value revolves in a circle of values each chasing the other.
From this relativity the author appeals to the social organism within which
are found the 'funded meanings' which lie back of all values and to the
emotional-volitional attitude of the individual which 'motivates' economic
action. For Dr. Anderson the theory of value in economics, so far as it is real,
is a theory of price, i.e., a measurement of values that themselves cannot be
stated in mere numerical ratios. Not even when the Austrian school carries the
ratios into the subjective field and finds in the marginal utility of the object
an attempted expression of the demand of the individual, does value appear as
the relation of desires.
"Why has the good, A, value? Because men desire it?
No, that is not enough: the men who desire it must have other economic goods,
i.e., wealth, with which to buy it. And why will these goods buy it? Because
they have value!" (46-47). For this school the ratio of desires is not an
estimate of the emotional-volitional attitude of the buyer, but of the goods
with which he purchases what he desires, which again have value through other
desires, etc., etc.
Dr. Anderson makes evident the agreement of much current economic writing with his own position that many social forces beside those economic processes which can be stated in numerical terms, go to change values; that value cannot be spoken of as unchanged while values change. Value as well as values is constantly increased and diminished by legal, ethical and customary changes. But while economic writers are admitting the real influence which social conditions and organization have upon economic goods, their theories and methods hark back to the individualistic period with its contract theory of society and its Humean psychology.
Dr. Anderson would change all this by frankly admitting that these social influences not only modify values, but that values can be conceived to exist only as social phenomena. They arise not through the addition of the pleasures and pains of men, but through organized social activity which is supra-individual. No one individual can express in his wants the value of wheat as it appears in the market and the addition of all men's wants lacks just that social organization by which these wants become articulate to each other and to the men themselves, by which as values they appear in consciousness. The author founds his sociological position on the doctrine
(434) of Professor Cooley's books Human Nature and the Social Order and Social Organization. Consciousness is social as fundamentally and immediately as it is individual. From this position it follows that conduct is motivated by social forces which cannot be expressed in individualistic states of consciousness, and in this social organization of human conduct, in its enormous implications of meanings which never fully appear in the minds of individuals, can be found the values which get partial measurement in economic terms.
From the sociological statement the author turns to psychology, and after following the structural account of value give by Professor Urban in his Valuation leaves this to accept Professor Dewey's functional statement, as more fundamental and more germane to the economic problem.
If social organization gives the funded meanings which back up and enforce values, they lie in individual consciousness as forces, motivations which the author terms emotional-volitional attitudes. Values lead to economic action, they are not relations. Brought into conflict with each other the common quality of value in the objects that calls out the emotional-volitional attitudes is measured. But the measurement is not the quality. Here again not the mere feelings of pleasure and pain, nor the bare desires represent the whole attitude. This involves not only these phases but also a feeling of reality. But what goes beyond all of these elements of structure is the function of the attitude — that of enforcing action, and not merely the act of measurement but the entire conduct of the individual.
Thus in the social and psychological backgrounds of economic measurement and action is placed the value and the values which the economic process partially estimates in the entire conduct of the individual.
The first great service which social philosophy and psychology seems likely to perform for economics, if we follow Dr. Anderson, is to lift from the shoulders of the economists the task of finding and defining value, leaving them only the task of evaluating in terms of price objects and processes in production and distribution. But because the economists will accept value from the hand of the social psychologist and the sociologist, he will be the more ready to recognize the sources out of which the values arise which he is called upon to measure. He will find in his own theory an analysis of existing conditions which abstracts from the full content of experience, and must therefore constantly test its judgments by the changing experience which in its full life it cannot follow.
Dr. Anderson's thesis is most forcibly and clearly written. His acquaintance
with the literature of sociology and psychology bearing upon his theme is as
full and adequate as it is with that of the economic doctrine of value. It is
perhaps too much to ask that he should fill in the gap which still lies between
the social sciences and social psychology, but it is worth our while to view
this gap afresh in this attempt to use social psychology to interpret economic
theory. One of the most striking impressions which the present writer has
received from Dr. Anderson's treatise is that his chapters upon the sociology of
value and the psychology of value have no functional relationship with each
other. Either might have been omitted without seriously affecting the other.
Each stands upon its own feet. Following Professor Cooley Dr. Anderson shows
that value is a phenomenon of social organization. Following Professor Urban and
Dewey he shows that it is an emotional-volitional attitude. What is the
functional relation of these two positions? It is impossible to get a definite
answer to this in Dr. Anderson's book. While he has affirmed that consciousness
is both social and individual, he does not actually place the social
organization as the objective world which answers in consciousness to the
subjective emotional-volitional attitude. Nor does he ask what are the
conditions under which value takes the form of 'funded meaning' in the social
organization, nor under what conditions it appears as emotional-volitional
attitudes. We are left with the impression that value is a social,
supra-individual, reality which can exist in no one consciousness — and yet it
does in some sense exist there as emotional-volitional attitude. The final
"Ends, aims, purposes, desires, of many men, mutually
interacting and mutually determining each other, modifying, stimulating,
creating each other, take tangible, determinate shape, as economic values and
the technique of the social economic organization responds and carries them
out." This implies that the values arise out of the individual desire
through their mutual interactions. But is not the actual situation in
consciousness that the social organization that stands over against the self has
a different logical character from the 'ends, aims, purposes and desires' of the
individual? And is not the process of consciousness, and especially the process
of evaluation, a functional interaction between the world as social object and
the self as subject. What was funded meaning becomes emotional-volitional
attitude, and what is emotional-volitional attitude becomes meaning.
It is in the process of stating the attitude in terms of funded
(436) meaning that we must evaluate it — measure it against
other attitudes and determine what is its economic sum as compared with that of
other emotional-volitional attitudes thyat arise demanding their expression. This
interaction which Professor Stuart has indicated as the logic of the process of
evaluation is left out of Dr. Anderson's treatment of value. That our social
psychology is not yet fully adequate to this task is one of the important
conclusions that may be drawn from this brilliant volume.