[OPE-L:3244] starting points

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Wed May 17 2000 - 11:38:15 EDT

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Re: Ajit's 3224.

>Marx's quotations that I chose to present demystifies the concept of value. He
>clearly states that value is a quantitative concept. Its unit of measurement is
>labor-time. The labor-time that needs to be measured is the work done on
>technology with average skills and intensity.

Right that means technical norms but not technical conditions of production
in themselves determine (though not exhausatively) socially necessary labor

 And that in measuring value we add
>different kinds of concrete labor, but this does not amount to adding
>apples and
>oranges because value measures abstracts from the forms of concrete labor
>and only
>takes into account the expenditure of human energy irrespective of the
>kind of work
>it is expended on.

1. This misses the absurdity Marx is trying to expose--that in the exchange
relation, it's as if oranges and apples only count as modes of expression
of Abstract Fruit. Commodities as modes of expression of Abstract Labor, to
coquette with Hegel's terminology.

If Peter and Paul check out two copies of War and Peace from the library,
do we say that they have different (concrete) books or the same (abstract)
book? Even more puzzling with commodities. Two different quantities of two
different use values can be the same (abstract) value which does not derive
from any physical property of either commodity--and this would include,
contrary to what you think, the energy expended in making and thus
congealed in the commodity.

2. If we say that value producing labor is only abstract labor, this is
just like the determination of being which passes over into nothingness (or
a phantom objectivity). If we have determined value producing labor as
abstract labor,like simple being, it seems that we have determined no kind
of labor that produces a value at all.

So the substance of value as derived from abstract labor is much trickier
than you are letting on here.

>As I have explained many times. I have problem with the problematic of value in
>chapter one, when it is juxtaposed to the rest of *Capital*'s problematic. In
>chapter one Marx's theoretical problematic is essentially of allocation of
>labor through market mechanism.

It's obviously also about the absurdity of the only way value can be
measured in commodity society (having to pass over into its opposite of a
physical quantity of a use value), which is really the foundation of a
theory of the necessity of money as Fred has put it.

>One is the dual definition of 'socially necessary labor'. Allong with the above

I don't accept that your technical defition is what Marx has in mind.

So from this point of view, any
>misallocation of labor (i.e. market being out of equilibrium) will affect the
>socially necessary labor content of a given commodity.

This is really a tautology. Of course for Marx socially necessary labor
time is in his own words "equal to the proportionate labor time which would
have been used had the total product betwen in proportion to production and
in other spheres".

But there is more to it than this. As Mattick, Jr points out:

"The general relatins of S to D is the specific capitaist form of the
general biosocial relations of production to consumption: it is the
relation as organized through a market and regulated by 'competition,'
i.e., by capitalists' search for profit. The production of goods that
cannot be sold at a satsifactory rate of profit will be discontinued.
Supply demand equilibrium therefore must be understood as a result of
profit maximization: capital stops migrating between spheres of industry
when no capital can increase its rate of profit by moving. 'Value' thus,
refers to the allocation of labor that would would if all capitals were to
receive profit at the same rate."

 The very notion of total
>social labor requires us to be able to measure labor. Now, the technical
>of socially necessary labor gives us a way to do so.

In bourgeois society, there is no way to operationalize socially necessary
labor time but as it is represented, and necssarily misrepresented, in a
physical quantity of the use value which serves as the universal equivalent
(assuming gold standard). I believe this is the point of the monetary-macro
interpretation of Fred's. We can't start with technical conditions,however

 Now, apart from the neoclassical general
>equilibrium analysis, I don't know if there is any economic theory that
>gives you a
>solution to the problem of equilibrium allocation of resources.

But I thought no uniqueness, validity, stability even here.

 Neither the theory
>in *Capital*

Are you saying Marx's price theory fails due to transformation problem?

>Rubin is the best example of this.

I agree. Grossmann agreed (in his wert-preis piece), so did Mattick (see
Marxism: last refuge of the bourgeoisie). Rubin misunderstood value as
equilibrium mechanism.

 I have
>argued that for the rest of *Capital* it simply cannot be maintained that
>the total
>social labor is given, thus allocation of something *given* cannot be its

Total social labor can be given. This means value of output does not change
assuming constant turnover.

>I don't think I ever said that abstract labor has anything to do with the
>property of the commodity". I specifically said that abstract labor is
>of human energy irrespective of the form in which it is expended. Thus it has
>nothing to do with the physical property or use-value of the commodity.

Energy congealed is a physical property of the commodity.

>The technical definition of the socially necessary labor is independent of
>or equilibrium etc.

Don't accept that there is a technical definition as you have it.

I am sure all revolutionary theories seem like circus animals.

Yours, Rakesh

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