[OPE-L:4059] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: m in Marx's theory

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Thu Oct 12 2000 - 10:59:48 EDT

This is a reply to Rakesh's (3990).  Rakesh, thanks a lot.  I still owe
you some other replies, that I hope to get to soon.

On Fri, 6 Oct 2000, Rakesh Narpat Bhandari wrote:

> Re 3970
> Fred wrote:
> >
> >I have argued that the variable m in Marx's theory (the money-value
> >produced per hour of abstract labor) is such an unobservable
> >given.
> So in Duncan's example (i think) $15 dollar produced per hour is the 
> m while one dollar  being worth 4 minutes is the value of money, 
> right? You have noted where Marx defines m as .5 shillings per hour 
> with the value of a shilling being 2 hours, no?
> Now it seems to me that you are contradicting yourself: one the hand, 
> you are saying that in Marx's theory (not reality) m is an 
> unobservable given (Duncan seems to be saying that *in reality* it is 
> an unobservable given at which we may guess through analysis of GDP 
> data) ; on the other hand, you have said earlier that *in his theory* 
> Marx FIXES m as .5 shilling/hr and thus the value of shilling as 2 
> hours.

There is no contradiction here.  It is not necessary to assume that m is
observable in order to assume that m remains fixed.  These are two
separate assumptions.  I argue that m is unobservable, that this
unobservable m is taken as given in Marx's theory, AND that m is assumed
to REMAIN CONSTANT.  m does not have to be "visibly fixed", as you put
it; m can be invisibly fixed.  

> The latter is both *given* and *observable*; after all, it a 
> theoretical reference point which Marx *constructs* solely for the 
> purposes of academic analysis. So in Marx's theory the money value 
> produced per hour of abstract labor, along with the value of money, 
> is an OBSERVABLE given--indeed it is a theoretical construct, a 
> powerful abstraction that must take the place of controlled 
> experiments.

I disagree with this.  Abstract labor is not observable (thus not only m,
but also L, are unobservable in Marx's theory).  The quantity of abstract
labor required to produce an oz. of gold, including the gold-digging
machines, etc., is NOT observable.  All that is observable is quantities
of concrete labor, actual labor, without adjustments for unequal skills
and unequal intensities and unequal conditions of production.  One could
perhaps get a rough idea of the abstract labor from the concrete labor
(which is what I think Duncan is doing), but the quantity taken as given
in Marx's theory is the quantity of abstract labor, which is not
observable, not the quantity of concrete labor, which is observable.  

As I understand the Grossman passage quoted below (which I found
interesting), it does NOT say that the value of gold is UNOBSERVABLE.  It
only says that Marx assumed the value of gold REMAINS CONSTANT (since a
change in the value of gold does not affect any of the main conclusions of
the theory, as I have argued in recent posts).  I agree with this
completely.  Even though m is unobservable, Marx took m as given AND
assumed it to remain constant.  Again, there is no contradiction here.  

I look forward to further discussion.


P.S.  Rakesh, did Grossman discuss the determination of the value of gold
with prices of production?

> I shall include again the Grossmann passage, hoping that you will 
> comment on it.
> In his magnum opus Grossmann writes in what should be a well known passage:
> "Through prices the fluctuations of a given capital in the course of its
> circuit become expressed in money, which serves as measure of value
> required for accounting. And with respect to this measure of value marx
> proceeds from teh assumption, which is purely fictitious and which forms
> the basis of his analysis, that hte value of money is contant. At first
> sight this appears to be all teh more suprising in the sense that, in his
> polemic with Ricardo's 'invariable measure of value,' Marx emphasizes that
> gold can only serve as a measure of value becuse its own value is variable.
> But science needs invariable measures: 'the interest in comparing the value
> of commodities in different historical periods is, indeed, not an
> *economic* interest as such, but an academic interest.' (Marx)
> "From the historical surveys of the development of thermometry we know that
> a reliable measure of heat variations was established through the
> fundamental work of Amonton, with the discovery of two fundamental points
> (boiling point and the absolute null point of water) for liquid used as the
> measure of heat variations. This alone could establish the constant
> reference points with which it became possible to compare the variable
> states of heat (Mach)
> "There are no such constant reference points for gold as the measure of
> value. So an exact measure of the value fluctuations of commodities would
> be impossible. On the one hand changes in teh value of the money commodity
> may differ from the changes in the value of individual commodity types. In
> this case we hav eno exact measure to ascertain how far, say, the rising
> prices of a given commodity have been caused through changes in its own
> value and how far through changes in the value of the money commodity. In
> this case, suppose we were studying variations in the magnitude of surplus
> value; ten, with a variable value of money, it would be difficult to tell
> whether a given increment in value (or price) was not something merely
> apparent and caused purely by changes in the
> value of money.
> "'In all these examples there would however have been no actual change in
> the magnitude of capital value, and only in th emoney expression of the
> same value and the same surplus value...there is, therefore, but the
> appearance of change in the magnitude of employed capital.' (Marx)
> "Alternatively the value of money varies in the same proportion as the
> values of other commodities, for instance due to general changes in the
> productivity--a limiting case that is scarcely possible in reality. In that
> case there would have been enormous absolute changes in the real relations
> of production and wealth, but these actual changes would be invisible on
> the surface, because the relative proportions of individual commodity
> values would remain the same. The price index wold not register the actual
> changes in productivity.
> "Thus it was entirely valid for Marx to substitute the 'power of
> abstraction' for the missing constant reference points, so falling into
> line with Galileo's principle: "measure whatever is measurable, and make
> the nonemeasurable measurable.' For instance to ascertain the impact of
> changes in productivity on the formation of value and surplus value, Marx
> is forced to introduce the assumption that the value of money is contant.
> This assumption is therefore a methodological postulate that equips max
> with an exact measure for ascertaining values of industrial capital during
> its circuit. It is an assumption underlying all three volumes of Capital."
> All the best, Rakesh

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