[OPE-L:3253] Re: starting points

From: Ajit Sinha (ajitsinha@lbsnaa.ernet.in)
Date: Thu May 18 2000 - 07:48:04 EDT

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Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> Re: Ajit's 3224.
> >_________________________________
> >Ajit:
> >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
> >prevalent
> >technology with average skills and intensity.
> Rakesh:
> Right that means technical norms but not technical conditions of production
> in themselves determine (though not exhausatively) socially necessary labor
> time.

This sentence makes no sense.

> 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.
> Rakesh:
> 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.

You are free to coquette with whoever you feel like. It is by no means absurd to add
expenditure of human energy without regard to the form in which it is spent.
Commodites could be modes of expression of whatever you want it to be. That is not a
question I'm dealing with. The question is how do we come to a quantitative measure
of value in Marx's economics.

> 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.


This is poor philosophising. Peter and Paul are taking out different copies of the
same book. The grammer of the book in English language lets you have several copies
of the same book. There is no abstract book in your example.

> 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.


> Two different quantities of two
> different use values can be the same [weight] which does not derive
> from any physical property of either commodity. So what is the big deal about it?


> 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.


Can anybody out there make sense of this? Because I can't. As far as I'm concerned,
I'm not looking for any "value producing labor". Value as a theoretical category is
defined as the labor time needed to (re)produce the commodity. There is no such
animal called value out there whose essence or cause I'm looking for. The most one
could say is that there is something called "price" out there. But for Marx value is
distinct from price.

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


Value is not something out there, but just a theoretical concept. There is nothing
trickier about it.

> >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
> >social
> >labor through market mechanism.
> Rakesh:
> 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.


I don't know how Fred puts it. But if it is about "the absurdity of the only way
value can be
measured in commodity society", then in what kind of society value measure will not
be absurd?

> >One is the dual definition of 'socially necessary labor'. Allong with the above
> >definition,
> Rakesh:
> I don't accept that your technical defition is what Marx has in mind.


But then you didn't present any critique of the quotation i presented from Marx.

> 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.
> Rakesh:
> 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".


You are making Marx speak gebrish. Why can't you be a bit careful while quoting him?
What I have said is by no means tautology. It points out to the contradiction
between the two definitions of socially necessary labor in Marx's writing.

> 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."


May be it would be easier for me to argue with Mattick Jr. But thank you for giving
me such easy target to shoot at. First of all Mattick Jr. is here saying nothing
more than what we all know is the concept of gravitational point in classical
economics and equilibrium in neoclassical economics. All he is saying is that he
does not understand the distinction between the concept of value and prices of
production in Marx's writings. His so-called "value" refers to what Marx called
prices of production. He also confuses Marx's surplus problematic with the
neoclassical idea when he says "The general relatins of S to D is the specific
capitaist form of the
general biosocial relations of production to consumption", this is the neoclassical
one way avenue. Marx's system is circular. The very idea of reproduction keeps you
reminding of that. Such quotations only reinforce my point. Hegelian Marxists don't
know political economy well. They produce crude version of neoclassical economics
lased with Hegelian terminology and call it the profound version of Marxian
economics. Unfortunately many get smitten by the heavy sounding terminology.

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


As it is necessarily represented and misrepresented at the same time, then there is
no way of knowing it. So why waste time with it? In science if you come to a
question which cannot have an answer, then you discard that question as
nonscientific. You don't bother with such questions anymore. Your position seems to
suggest that the problem of value is a nonsense. But at the same time you sound like
suggesting that it is a very profound question. This attitude tells me that you are
simply profoundly confused. And you know why? Because you are following a confused

> I believe this is the point of the monetary-macro
> interpretation of Fred's. We can't start with technical conditions,however
> operationalized.


I will let Fred speak for himself. He has not answered many of my response to him

> 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.


I don't understand what you mean by "no uniqueness, validity, stability even here."
If you are trying to suggest that GE has theoretical problems too, then you won't
get an argument from me. But it is you who needs to be worried because this is the
most advanced form of the theory for the way you are trying to interpret Marx's
problematic of value.

> Neither the theory
> >in *Capital*
> Rakesh:
> Are you saying Marx's price theory fails due to transformation problem?


Marx's price theory is nothing but Sraffa's. It is the theory of exploitation that
is at stake here.

> >Rubin is the best example of this.
> Rakesh:
> 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.


How is Mattick Jr.'s quotation above different from 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
> >central
> >problematic.
> Rakesh:
> Total social labor can be given.

Given from where? How do you calculate it?

> This means value of output does not change
> assuming constant turnover.


What turnover got to do with it? You don't know how to calculate value. All you know
is the absurdity of the value calculation. So what meaning we can attach to your
above statements?

Anyway, my point was about ex-ante. But even ex-post, from your definition of
socially necessary labor, you cannot determine the total social labor. Remember,
solution to equilibrium prices does not necessarily give you a solution to
equilibrium allocation of resources. As along as you don't have all your resources
in equilibrium, you will not be able to count your total labor from your
definitional point of view.

> >I don't think I ever said that abstract labor has anything to do with the
> >"physical
> >property of the commodity". I specifically said that abstract labor is
> >expenditure
> >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.


Not really. But for your information, "labor embodied" or "congealed" are just short
hand expression for labor time needed to reproduce the commodity. Since most of the
time in the discussion on this issue no change in the prevalent technology or
efficiency of labor is assumed, that's why such terminology pass by as short hand.

> >The technical definition of the socially necessary labor is independent of
> >profits
> >or equilibrium etc.
> >___________
> Rakesh:
> Don't accept that there is a technical definition as you have it.


It is there. All you need to do is to look for it.

> I am sure all revolutionary theories seem like circus animals.


This is a sign of real weakness. When all arguments fail, then call your theory
"revolutionary" and others' "counter-revolutionary". Cheers, ajit sinha

> Yours, Rakesh

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