[OPE-L:3453] Re: Re: measurement of value

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 08:42:29 EDT

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Dear Rakesh, and all,

A brief response to the crucial issue you raised below. Thanks alot
for the question - it made me think!

On 31 May 2000, at 14:48, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> So Andrew, please excuse me for asking this question once again: are you
> saying that value is an intrinsic quantitative aspect or property the
> commodity possesses before it is measured in price terms. It is common
> sense to us that we can say something is long in such a qualitative
> formula before we replace it with a quantitative formula, say the length
> of x in cm equals y. But in the case of value, Marx does suggest that the
> qualitative formula can only follow or coincide with the quantitative one.
> That is, only after (or as) we determine the value of x in prices is $a.bc
> can we say that x had (or has) become a value.

I think that, once again, this issue has a hidden complexity.

I would stress that there is a big difference between measurement
by price, on the one hand, and actual sale of a commodity
(exchange of the commodity for money) on the other. Before being
sold, the commodity has a price. It is an 'ideal' price, existing in
the mind of its owner and in the mind of anyone familiar with the
particular good and its market (e.g. someone who, looking at a
particular apple, knows that its normal price is 50 pence i.e. can
say 'it is worth 50 pence'). It is communicated by the owner to any
prospective buyer (before sale), or onlooker.

Here the term 'ideal' refers to the fact that the price is a sum of
money, but that money is not objectively present: I can say the
apple is 50 pence without holding fifty pence in front of me (I
*imagine* the 50 pence). However, this ('ideal') price *is* an
intrinsic aspect of the commodity prior to its sale. The commodity
is recognised *as* a commodity, as something with a price (the
adequate form of exchange value), prior to sale.

Now, I think that whenever a society reaches the point where some
products are considered to be commodities - ie. to have exchange
value (whose adequate form is price) as distinct from, and as well
as, use value - then it is indeed the case that the commodity has
(or, it can also be said, *is*) a value prior to its sale. However, this
is not prior to measurement by price, because the commodity, qua
commodity, is recognised to have a price - its 'ideal' price.

But note:

The price, and so the value, is not yet 'realised' before sale. Here
the term 'realised' must be taken carefully. The commodity does
have a(n) (imaginary) price but, as far as the owner is concerned,
she wants to turn the image into reality, and hold 50 pence instead
of one apple, through exchange of the apple for money. Likewise,
the value of the commodity does not have 'reality' until its
appearance form (money) is objectively present, in the hands of the
owner. Only then can the owner 'realise' the universal
exchangeability that is the power of value; only then is the value of
the commodity socially validated.

So, the commodity *is* a value before sale. This is an intrinsic (but
purely social) aspect of the commodity prior to sale. But it is not
*socially validated* as such prior to sale, and it is only through sale
that the commodity's value gains an objectively present money
form (sale is the metamorphosis of a commodity into money) so
that it's value, in reality, becomes a thing with the power of
universal exchangeability. Prior to sale, then, its value exists but in
a very curious way, such that it must be exchanged for money to
be 'realised' (ie. be made real in the form of money).

In short, on my account, the value of a commodity *exists* prior to
its sale. *But* it is not *real* prior to its sale! This is a
contradiction, but one that is quite real, as I hope to have explained
above. Btw the distinction, as I have put it, is between 'existence'
and 'reality' but this terminology may be due a mis-translation in
my copy of Capital - I don't know. The important point is that there
are strange 'metaphysical' peculiarities of the commodity
('theological niceties', etc.), whatever language one uses to
describe them. This is one reason for Murray's (and other's) turn to
Hegel - for the peculiarities can be expressed in terms of Hegel's
differentiation between a Logic of Being and a Logic of Essence.
(But I am not sure exactly how my account above ties in with

I have ignored issues such as non-produced commodities, the
(possible) divergence of ideal from real price and the (usual)
divergence of price from value above. Also, I have not carefully gone
through from elementary to expanded to money form of value -
rather I have jumped in at the money form. Finally, I have not
related the above to R&Ws (and other author's) discussion of 'ideal'
prices - to do that I would have to disentangle the above from
R&Ws rejection of the notion of substance of value. This is best
done through a reply to Michael Williams' long post on value made
ages ago, and to which I promise to return, when I get the time -
once again my apologies, Michael.

Thanks again,


PS Sorry not to have replied to your (Rakesh's) stimulating
questions regarding national accounts and value - the above issue
of value existing prior to sale is even more important, imo, and one
I am better able to respond to quickly.

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