[OPE-L:3218] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: re:starting points

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 21:08:41 EDT

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>So, as far as Marx is concerned, he does not dance around these concepts. He is
>pretty clear that his value is a quantitative concept and its unit of measure
>is labour-time. The labor-time that needs to be measured is working of the
>prevalent technology with average skill and intensity. Abstract labor is
>nothing but expenditure of human energy in such given circumstances. ajit

Ajit, you asked me how I would measure value; I then replied that the
question should be how value is measured in bourgeois society, so then I
underlined the the need to explore the 3 peculiarities of the value form
to answer the question you put to me. However, I do not understand how by
quoting Marx passages you here have answered my question of why Marx
thought it necessary to clarify that only abstract labor produced value.
Moreover, what is abstract labor? Why does Marx himself refer to it as a
phantom objectivity?

And how do you square your answer of abstract labor as energy expended (and
thus congealed in the commodity) with Marx's later observation that
commodity value cannot be understood as a physical property of commodities
at all? This famous contradiction, noted by II Rubin, does not seem to be
answered in any of your systematic works.

Do note that in your above formulation of socially necessary labor
time--"the labor-time that needs to be measured is working of the prevalent
technology with average skill and intensity"--you fail to mention in
bourgeois society it is socially necessary for the value of the commodity
output of any given capital to be great enough to enable tendential
realization of the average rate of profit.

Now I will happily grant that you I am woefully undereducated about the
problems in value theory (the admission would have forthcoming if you
hadn't been blunt or rude)--really do not much whether we are talking about
the problem of aggregation; the relation between income distribution and
relative prices; the paradox of higher relative prices for labor intensive
goods followng upon wage increases; the reconstitution of Aristotlean
"utility" theory through Cournot's mathematization of the demand function;
the possibility of negative prices, violent instability,infinite rates of
profit and other absurdities on the basis of reasonable changes in the
parameters of the Sraffian model (I have read Meek, Roncaglia,
Lichenstein, II Rubin and some others, so I have a superficial sense of the

>From an exchange long ago, I remember that you suggested that value theory
had basically three functions--determination of exchange value, income
distribution and resource allocation in terms of social reproduction (this
would be the Physiocratic legacy, I imagine). But the concept variety was
turned upside down by Darwin. From inter to intra specific and with that
change went Platonism. So with value. With Marx value becomes the
cornerstone of a theory of the specific fetishism of a historically
determinate society, a specific form of exploitation, the social power of a
uniquely integrated exploiting class and disequilibrium and crisis.
Economics is turned upside down.

Of course this is an assertion. But based on my reading of Marx, this is
what I understand Marx to be attempting.

And Ajit, I am painfully aware that I am the least smart person on this
list because it did not ever occur to me to become either an economist or a
Hegelian philosopher. Being the only person who is neither on this list, I
ask you not to beat up on the minority.

Yours, Rakesh

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