[OPE-L:3923] Re: Re: m in Marx's theory

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Sun Oct 01 2000 - 09:35:04 EDT

On Fri, 29 Sep 2000, Gil Skillman wrote:

> Subject: [OPE-L:3904] Re: m in Marx's theory
> I'm writing in response to a much earlier post from Fred on this topic.
> Fred writes:
> >
> >..... Marx's labor theory of value, as I
> >understand it, assumes that, in a given period of time in the real
> >capitalist economy, each hour of average social labor produces a certain
> >amount (say, m) of money new-value (or money value added).  Even though we
> >don't know what m is (i.e. we can't observe m), and even though we cannot
> >explain what determines m, the theory assumes nonetheless there is an
> >actual, unique m in the real capitalist economy.  And it is this actual,
> >unique m that is taken as given in the determination of the total
> >new-value produced in this period. 
> The measure m is real enough, but its existence does not in any way depend
> on the assertion of a labor theory of value.  
> For example, in the NI understanding of m discussed below, m is equivalent
> to what neoclassicists would immediately recognize as the average product
> of labor--in this case, the average *net* product of "socially necessary"
> labor.  But since Marx defines "socially necessary" labor in terms of
> averages in any case, the latter condition doesn't add any bite.  

I agree that one could define m as NV / L without the labor theory of
value   However, this ratio would be equal to Marx's m only if different
labors with unequal skills and unequal intensities were converted to
abstract labor (i.e. unskilled labor of average intensity).  Is that would
you had in mine?

In any case, however that may be, even though "the existence of m does not
depend in the labor theory of value", this does not affect my main point
in recent posts (that the unique actual m is taken as given in Marx's
theory.  Marx's labor theory of value still assumes that an actual unique
m exists, and this actual unique m is what is taken as given in Marx's
theory of new-value and surplus-value.  The fact that m can be defined
independently of Marx's theory does not change the logic of Marx's theory.  

> >>As Duncan has argued in (3761) (and elsewhere), the unique value of m in a
> >given period must be equal to NV / L, i.e. to the ratio of the money
> >new-value produced in this period to the average social labor performed
> >during this period.
> Rather, m is *defined* as NV/L.  The labor theory of value itself doesn't
> demand that this ratio be defined at all; we could instead follow Marx's
> explicit lead in defining commodity values in terms of embodied labor time.
> Then we could determine directly the average labor value of aggregate net
> product, and not bring in prices at all. 

This brings us back to the issue of what is Volume 1 about, which I am
always happy to discuss.  Gil seems to accept the standard interpretation,
according to which Volume 1 is only about labor-times, without any
theoretical connection to money and prices.  Money and prices come into
the theory only in Volume 3.  Volume 1 could have been written without
mentioning money at all.

I have argued, to the contrary, and with lots of textual evidence, that
the main question of Volume 1, introduced in Chapter 4, is M - C -
M'; i.e. how does a given M become (M+dM)?

Gil, I thought you said in a post this summer that you mostly agreed (or
was inclined to accept, or something like that) my interpretation that
Volume 1 is mainly about money.  Am I misremembering or have you changed
your mind?

> >  This does not mean that m is determined by NV / L.  
> >It only means that m has this unique value.  We don't know what
> >determines m.  
> Rather, m is "determined" by NV/L, but we don't know by this what
> determines NV and L.  

You may want to say that m is "determined" by NV / L.  But this is not the
only way that m can be determined.  I argue that Marx's theory assumes
that m is determined independently of NV and then used (along with L) to
determine NV.  This is certainly a valid logical procedure, right?  The
fact that m can calculated differently does not mean that m cannot be
assumed to be determined in this way.

> >Now, let's take a quick look at how Marx determined m in Capital.  
> >Throughout Capital, Marx assumed that m is equal to the inverse
> >of the labor-time required to produce a unit of gold, or the amount of
> >gold produced per hour of average social labor, which he took as
> >given.  In Chapter 3 of Volume 1, Marx said:  "Henceforth we shall assume
> >the value of gold as a GIVEN factor, as in fact we take it at the moment
> >when we estimate the price of a commodity."  (p. 314)  In Chapter 7, Marx
> >derived his numerical example of m (0.5 shillings per hour) from gold
> >production.  On the assumption that it takes two hours of labor to produce
> >an amount of gold equal to one shilling, each hour of gold labor produces
> >0.5 shillings worth of gold, so that m in all industries (e.g. cotton
> >yarn) is equal to  0.5 shillings per hour.  And so on.
> But clearly this *is not* Marx's determination of "m", as defined above,
> and the quote from Volume I Ch. 3 does not suggest otherwise.  Rather this
> is Marx's determination of the value of a unit of the money commodity
> (gold).  This has no proven relation to the ratio of aggregates NV/L; in
> general, m as defined above and the value of a unit of gold won't be equal.
>  It is up to Fred, or Marx, or somebody, to explicitly demonstrate the
> conditions under which this equality holds.  It can't be assumed.

Gil, you have not responded here to my point about Chapter 7, the key
chapter in which Marx presented his basic theory of surplus-value.  It is
clear that Marx assumed in Chapter 7 that m is equal to 0.5 shillings per
hour.  At this rate, a working day of 6 hours produces 3 shillings of
new-value and 0 surplus-value; and a working day of 12 hours produces 6
shillings of new-value and 3 shillings of surplus-value.  This m is
assumed to be equal to the inverse of the labor-value of money.  It is
true that the passage in Chapter 3 discusses only the value of money; but
Chapter 7 assumes its inverse (i.e. m) in the determination of prices and

I look forward to further discussion.


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