[OPE-L:2363] Re: Chimps, owls and value-form theories

From: clyder (wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Mon Feb 14 2000 - 05:07:56 EST

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Niccola wrote:
> I don't think that Marx, himself, was very far off a formulation of the
> sort made by Michael (and Geert); but, I confess, it is very difficult for
> me to appreciate Paul C's point of view. Because I don't really see the
> point of it.

The point of it is to come up with a response to the objection by Von Mises
and Hayek that rational economic calculation was impossible under a
socialist economy.

We have put forward a number of arguments against this, one being that
modern computer technology makes handling large sparse I/of matrices
comparatively tractable, another being that labour content provides an
alternative unit of account to money, by which the costs of alternatives
may be compared. We have thus been concerned to establish both
the viability of calculation in terms of labour time, and also incidentally
to argue against the Samuelson and Weizsacker proposition that socialist
economies should use some modified form of prices of production.

The arguments are developed in full form in our book Towards A New
Socialism (on the web at :
and a summary of the argument is available in a paper `Socialist Planning
After the Collapse of the Soviet Union' (Revue europeene des sciences
sociales, 1993) in PDF format:

In the course of debates at a conference at which this paper was presented
we were accused of falling into the naturalistic fallacy when we sought to
value in labour time, with the argument that one could as well have an
oil or bread theory of value. In response to these criticisms we have
tried to demonstrate that within capitalist economies it is the labour
of value that actually determines prices rather than alternative possible
metrics based on oil, energy, etc (Cambridge Journal of economics, July
and that it was questionable even under capitalism whether prices of
production serve as better estimators of market prices than simple labour
values: 'Does Marx Need to Transform' in Marxian Economics a Reappraisal,
Vol 2.
Thus, although this was not our original intention, we became involved in
value theory for capitalist economies as well as socialist ones.

It is however my opinion that in Capital, Marx himself repeatedly explained
of capitalist economy with reference to the future socialist economy, using
his principle that 'the key to the anatomy of the ape is the anatomy of
man'. This
may be bad Darwinism, but it is a sensible precept for the understanding of
of production. You can only really understand capitalism if you look back on
it from the standpoint of socialism, the Owl of Minerva flying at dusk etc.

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