[OPE-L:2346] Re: Carpe diem!

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Thu Feb 10 2000 - 11:56:54 EST

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1) Re Nicky's suggestion in [OPE-L:2342]:

As I recall, in the previous discussion we came to the conclusion that
Marx never said that he had a "labor theory of value" -- but neither did
Ricardo or Smith. I.e. "LTV", just like "value theory of labor", are
designations given to a theory not by Marx (or Ricardo, etc.) but by
historians of economic thought -- both Marxist and non-Marxist. Thus, the
question isn't whether Marx said that he advanced a LTV (he didn't).
Rather, the question is how *we* can best interpret the meaning of Marx's
conception of value. Thus, when you say "labor theory of value" what do
you and others mean by that expression? And when you and others use the
expression "value theory of labor" (following Elson), what is meant by
that term that is different from LTV?

I agree that part of this question concerns how we view Marx's perspective
on value vis-a-vis classical political economy. Equally, though, it
concerns how Marx's perspective on value was influenced not only by CPE
but by Hegelianism, his task of critique, and his revolutionary

2) In [OPE-L:2343] Ernesto wrote the first of what promises to be many
exciting contributions to our list:
> I would like to discuss the following:
> "The employment contract as the fundamental institution of capitalism". I
> am working on this subject since some years. The basic idea is that the
> basic institutional condition for capitalist exploitation in production is
> not the private property of the means of production but a contract whereby
> the workers take an obbligation to obbey the capitalist in the labour process.
> I consider this thesis a deepening and a correction of Marx's theory of
> capitalism.
> If somebody likes this proposal, I could send a chapter of my book (in
> porogress) in which I focus on the employment contract.

Well, I like the proposal. By all means, send us the chapter (but please
send it not as an attachment but in text-readable, unencoded form).

On the substance of what you say above, it seems to me that private
ownership (and non-ownership) of the means of production and the contract
agreed to by workers in the market for labour-power (the "labor market")
are *necessarily* inter-related under capitalism. E.g. the compulsion to
work for capital in exchange for a wage is necessarily linked to one
aspect of "free labor" -- freedom from ownership of the means of
production and therefore the "freedom" to be employed by capital and be
exploited. This is reinforced by another "freedom" that makes itself
known to workers both within the market for labour-power and the labour
process -- the "freedom" to join the industrial reserve army and all that
entails. This aspect of the "contract", i.e. that it can be voided at the
discretion of capital, is essential to maintaining discipline in the
labour process and compelling workers to work to a certain "standard" [of
productivity] within the labour process.

Where do we disagree?

In solidarity, Jerry

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