[OPE-L:2328] RE: value form and m-c-m'

From: Michael Williams (michael@williamsmj.screaming.net)
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 06:24:26 EST

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----- Original Message -----
From: clyder <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>
To: <mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk>
Sent: Monday, February 07, 2000 10:24 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:2263] value form and m-c-m'

> Paul now replies
> But what does it mean to say that labour is the source of value if, at the
> same
> time, you hold that the exchange values of commodities are independent
> of their labour content.
1. A Bunsen burner is the source of heat, but it is neither the 'substance'
nor the 'measure' of it.
2. I don't hold that exchange values are independent of the labour required
for commodity reproduction. I just question the ontology of labour
'content', independent of the value-form system grounded on universal
markets and Money.
> If you are dealing with micro-economics the postulate of labour being the
> source of value, is in these circumstances, vacuous.
I disagree. It is a postulate that seeks grounding in its conditions of
existence. An attempt at this is the systematic presentation of the R & W
(anyway) value-form approach.

> If you are dealing with macro-economics, then the existence of the
> profit, then the existence of profits can be quite adequately dealt with
> by a purely monetary examination of the national accounts a-la Kalecki,
> in which case the mention of labour is again redundant.
Beyond an unexceptionable plea for tidy thinking, this kind of claim for
redundancy seems to rest on some tacit prejudice in favour of ontological
parsimony. But whilst our concepts should be as simple as possible, they
should be no simpler (Einstein? Or was it Russell?). If we have good reason
to believe that labour is the source of all new value, it behoves us to
incorporate that in our conceptualisations.

> Paul now replies again
> Yes but the feasibility of defining the ratio of unpaid to paid labour
> depends
> upon the assumption of a proportionality between prices and labour values.
> what you have in money terms is the ratio
> w/p
> where w is money wages
> p is money profit
> To convert this into the ratio of unpaid to paid labour you need the
> contents
> of the goods upon which wages and profits are spent.
I disagree. We have independent arguments that if the capitalist market
system is reproducing itself, and if labour is the only source of new value,
it must tendentially be the case that there is an excess of unpaid over paid

Dr Michael Williams
Economics and Social Sciences
De Montfort University
Milton Keynes
fax: 0870 133 1147
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