[OPE-L:3285] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: starting points

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Mon May 22 2000 - 13:30:19 EDT

[ show plain text ]

>The point is that there's an ambiguity in Marx's notion of
>"socially necessary" labour time. Does this mean, the time
>required to /produce/ a given item, given the prevailing
>technology and labour practices, or does it have reference to
>the the "socially required" quantity of the item (so that the
>labour time devoted to producing a quantity of the item that
>exceeds social demand is somehow "not necessary")?
>Individualism and fetishism are quite irrelevant to assessing
>this issue. Both of the competing definitions depend on social
>factors; the question is how broadly the set of relevant social
>factors should be drawn.

Hi Allin,

The former goes to the determination of the magnitude of the value produced
(inefficient labor does not produce more value than efficient labor); the
latter to the question of whether a commodity is a value at all. But this
does not mean that the utilities enjoyed in consumption determines relative
values. My old trumphet did not cost 50x more than a silk hanky because
blowing into one over the other yielded 50x more pleasure.

 An unsold commodity is not "somehow 'not necessary'"; it is simply not a
value at all. Something only becomes a value, some magnitude of socially
necessary labor time, upon being sold for money--neither trumphet nor hanky
would have been a value otherwise.

>I agree with (what I take to be) Paul and Ajit's view, namely
>that it is a bad theoretical choice to incorporate demand into
>the very definition of socially necessary labour time. This
>undermines and confuses the idea that the price of a given
>commodity can fall below its value if that commodity is produced
>in excess (an idea which Marx seems to express in various
>places). (The undermining consists in the alternative notion
>that the /value/ of a commodity itself falls when it is produced
>in excess, since the labour time devoted to its production fails
>to be "socially necessary". One can't have it both ways.)

Both are true. Price falls because commodity was produced in excess of what
was socially necessary which may then jeopardize production altogether in
the next cycle just as recession in Asia led to overproduction of oil which
then threatened collapse of all future production (as well as Russian

Value falls when due to technical change productive capacity is wiped out
which is likely to happen to South Korea as Taiwan's superior productive
capacity in DRAMS hits the market in the next couple years (especially if
the depreciation of the won cannot be sustained).

Price-value discrepancy is aggravated in the one case because of a collapse
in demand and in the other because of a revolution in value.

Yours, Rakesh

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed May 31 2000 - 00:00:10 EDT