# [OPE-L:2329] Fw: RE: value form and m-c-m'

From: clyder (wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Feb 09 2000 - 08:10:20 EST

----- Original Message -----
From: clyder <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>
To: <mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk>
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2000 12:27 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:2328] RE: 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.
>
> This is a misleading analogy, when talking about the value form we are
> talking
> about a mathematical function that maps from the set of unique commodity
> identifiers onto some set that is homomorphic with the natural numbers.
>
> Thus all value forms are functions of the type
>
> eval( commodity -> scalar)
>
> We have an observed function, the price function of any given economy
> at a particular time instant that has the form
>
> Price(Commodity - > units of money)
>
> The labour theory of value seeks to explain this observed function
> in terms of another function:
>
> LabourContent(Commodity -> seconds of labour)
>
> and states that the Price function can be modeled by function of
> the form:
> Price(x) = K G(sigma)LabourContent(x)
>
> Where K is some scalar dependent upon the price level and
> G is a Guassian random variable with mean 1 and standard
> deviation sigma.
>
> It further asserts that sigma is small relative to 1.
>
> Your example of the bunsen burner is irrelevant because it has
> a different mathematical structure, you only have one burner
> and one temperature. To construct a meaningful analogy you
> would need to have a set of retorts each of which has a multiplicity
> of burners under it, at which point you could try to construct a theory
> about the extent to which the number of burners correlated
> with temperatures.
>
>
> The question of whether it has a 'substance' is just childish philosophica
l
> point scoring which mistakes a metaphor in which a theory is expressed
> for the serious logical content of the theory.
>
> > 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.
>
>
> Labour can be timed whether its product is sold as a commodity or not.
>
> > > 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.
>
> What I mean is that unless you have a postulate of proportionality between
> prices and labour values, then the statement that labour is a source
> of exchange value has no real meaning.
>
> >
> > > If you are dealing with macro-economics, then the existence of the
> > category
> > > 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.
>
>
> What are these 'good reasons'?
>
> >
> > > 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
> > labour
> > > 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
> > labour.
>
> This still strikes me as a very weak theory since it depends upon the
> hypothesis that labour is the only source of new value. All you are saying
> is that if you have some defined quantity of labour L and if you have
> some national income Y, and you map the national income onto the
> labour by some function of the form
>
> L = kY
>
> then if profits form a portion of Y then a portion of L must correspond
> to the profits and you then call this unpaid labour.
>
> Well, you could make L stand for Land instead of labour, then there
> will be some 'unpaid land' corresponding to k(Y-r) where r is the
> amount of rent in the national income.
>
>
>

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