[OPE-L:3260] Re: Re: starting points

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Thu May 18 2000 - 13:08:34 EDT

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>This sentence makes no sense.

OK, I'll stick to this question: how can value be the energy expended
either directly or as per technical norms in making a commodity and value
not be a physical property of the commodity?

Once I get clear on what you mean by technical conditions and the social
nature of value, do note the implication of the contradictions which you
mention: it is quite clear that if the divergence between socially
necessary labor time and technical conditions is to have practical meaning,
labor must be free to move out of and into industries. It thus follows that
in a developed capitalism abstract labor has to be mobile free wage labor
or simply commodified labor power, though the mobility is not the feature
that in itself explains why this labor produces value and surplus value.

>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.

Missing the absurdity, you seem to have demonstrated the truth of
Colletti's argument that one cannot understand Marx's Capital without
having understood Marx's critique of Hegel's Logic (Robert Paul Wolff makes
the same argument); this gives the lie to any attempt to divide Marx into
two. Have you read Marxism and Hegel? If I say that Roman law or German law
are both forms of law, this is obvious. However if I say that *the* law,
this abstraction, *translates itself itself into reality* in Roman law and
Germany--these concrete forms of law--then what emerges is a mystical
connection. Have you not noticed the total reversal and overturning of
concrete sensates as phenomenal forms of the abstract universal in the
exchange process?

Here is Marx's real transformation problem, the one he tried to solve.
Colletti is correct that marxist economists don't even seem to have noticed
it, much less followed Marx's treatment.

Moreover, I think you are missing Marx's point in Part I, Capital I. Far
from being determinable simply by the adding up of energy expenditures or
concrete labor times, abstract labor can only be undefined except in
relation to the system of prices just as as (to make a bad analogy) light
is undefined except after it has been passed through a Stern Gerlach

Think of it this way. Abstract labor produces a commodity only as a social
mediation (remember note on Physiocrats); that is, products are not meant
directly or in their concrete form for subsistence or capitalist
consumption but only as social mediations,i.e., as abstract
parts(embodiments) and abstract claims (commands) on social labor.

So concrete labors are transformed into (pass over into) quantities of
homogeneous, abstract labor only through market exchange. The goal of
abstract labor is only to congeal itself in concrete form to effect this
alchemical kind of transformation; it has no existence or only potential
existence outside of this, the real transformation problem. Otherwise
abstract labor has no place in (and no claim on) social labor.

This is why in beginning with values we have to take as our givens sums of
money instead of technical conditions of production or a physical
input-output system in which the real wage is given (which is what I think
you mean by the former). Once we dispense with the latter, there is nothing
blocking Fred's critique of the use of linear production theory to
demonstrate a transformation problem.

>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.
No, the "grammar" of the English language allows them to have the *same*
book. The grammar of exchange allows two different quantities of two
different commodities *to be* the same value. This is rather too obvious to
dwell on.

>> 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?
Because the mystery is that value is precisely not a physical property of
the commodity, though in exchange it is understood be such.

>Can anybody out there make sense of this? Because I can't. As far as I'm
>I'm not looking for any "value producing labor".

Yet labor has not always produced the mysteries of exchange value; labor
does not do so merely as an expenditure energy, as abstract labor in this
sense. A determinate kind of labor--commodity producing labor, labor
producing supra sensate social mediations (Postone) or abstract universals
in sensate form --must thus produce value and the mysteries thereof. Yet to
determine this labor only as abstract or energy expneding seems not to
determine it all.

 Value as a theoretical category is
>defined as the labor time needed to (re)produce the commodity.

Value is the property attributed to commodities when it only through their
own market movements (hence the theory of commodity fetishism) that the
social labor needed in respective branches is distributed. As Engels
underlines, we will be able to do without value after capitalism.

>Value is not something out there, but just a theoretical concept. There is
>trickier about it.
Of course this is what Sombart said. But of course I cannot accept that,
for how could a shortage of a theoretical concept choke capitalist
>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?

I am beginning to have serious doubts that we have read the same works by
Marx and Engels (especially after your comment on Marx's relationship to
the Physiocrats). Commodities have value as a result of our social labor
being distributed through the properties of things. There will be no need
to "measure" value and products of labor will no longer bear super sensate
properties in their sensate form once our social labor is consciously
planned or organized ex ante. Why will I need to send commodities out to
the market to determine whether they are values? Products of labor won't
be values. Products of labor only have to be values due to class
relations--private organization of production almost always by means of
wage labor. Without that, the nonsensical property attributed to products
of labor vanishes.

>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.

First, Marx is saying that the language of commodities is gibberish.

Second, the energy expended either directly or only as per technical norms
(already partially social) is not the value which is social through and
through; that is, value is the socially necessary labor time if production
had been carried out in perfect proportion with other branches. But the
very thing that moves capital--that is, attempt to maximize profit--to
achieve the proportion of equalized profit rate also induces it to
unsettle it by the search for extra surplus value. The basis of any
hypothetical equilibrium is thus always already destroyed.

>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
>more than what we all know is the concept of gravitational point in classical
>economics and equilibrium in neoclassical economics.

Yes he is, see above.

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.

Production price is only a further determination of value as the socially
necessary labor time in a specifically bourgeois society needed for the
reproduction of commodities. We know that Marx's difference with Ricardo is
exactly about how the average or general rate of profit is determined.

 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
>one way avenue.

But in capitalism, this general biosocial relation is incidental to the
making of profits. The reason you are having trouble here seeing the
difference is that
money only serves as a medium of exchange in the Sraffian model, you have
forgotten about money as capital, that is self expanding value. Mattick Jr
is not obliged to make the same mistake.

> They produce crude version of neoclassical economics

Mattick Jr is saying the exact opposite of the stupid dogma that production
is for consumption. He is quite ready to violate the sanctum sanctorum of
the neoclassical citadel--consumer sovereignty.

>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?

Yes, there is no way of knowing whether a commodity is a value (or how
much) except in and through the exchange process. Even after that, we don't
know how much socially labor time is (or will be) needed to reproduce the
commodity. The system is always out of equilibrium, though most often the
relations between surplus and necessary labor nonetheless allow for the
accumulation of capital. But does this mean that value relations have no
way of making themselves known? Of course not. They make themselves known
with all the force of a collapsing house.

>Marx's price theory is nothing but Sraffa's. It is the theory of
>exploitation that
>is at stake here.
Well, of course your assertin will have to withstand the criticism of Paolo
Giusanni who contests all this again in the latest issue of International
Journal of Political Economy.

>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?

How can the same total social labor produce more value except through
faster turnover? Of course less value can be produced if total social labor
is not in equilbrium, i.e., if there is unemployment. I think you are
forgetting that an increase in productivity in itself does not increase the
value produced; in fact it may decrease it if reduced unit values are not
spread out over more use values. Again your confusion stems from inability
to understand the dual nature of labor, the specification of which you
don't even think Marx is attempting in Part I of Capital I>
>> Energy congealed is a physical property of the commodity.
>Not really.

Yes really.

Yours, Rakesh

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