[OPE-L:4138] Re: Re: Re: use value and value

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Oct 17 2000 - 08:43:01 EDT

Annotated reply:

On 17 Oct 2000, at 22:38, Steve Keen wrote:

> Hi Andy,
> This is the standard argument of course, which focuses on the aspects of
> labour-power which make it unique vis-a-vis other commodities--which of
> course, it is.

I'm not sure what the 'standard argument' is. Clearly, from your 
account of it, everything rests upon how one comprehends the 
'uniqueness' of 'labour'. 

> How then do you explain that Marx finished his proof that labour is the
> source of surplus value with the statement that:
> "The seller of labor power, like the seller of any other commodity,
> realizes its exchange-value, and parts with its use-value."(Capital I p. 188.)
> This emphasises that Marx derived the source of surplus-value by an
> analysis of the factors which labour-power has in common with all other
> commodities.

And here we get to the nitty gritty of just what this 'standard' 
interpretation is. Whatever it is, it clearly cannot cope with the 
above quoted statement, as you interpret it. My view accords 
precisely with the statement, however. The uniqueness of labour 
power lies in the *nature* of its use (specifically, labour is 
universally and creatively transformative, unlike other means of 
production), not in the fact that, like other commodities, it has both 
use value and exchange value. So the above quote from Marx is 
quite correct but it does not, on my interpretation, indicate what 
you think it does. Rather, it indicates that Marx derived the source 
SV from consideration of the unique character of labour power, 
*alongside* recognition that LP is a commodity with use-value and 
exchange value, like any other. Both sides are necessary: if labour 
power wasn't unique it wouldn't create SV and if labour power 
wasn't a commodity it wouldn't create SV.

> If you read the following section of Capital where Marx tries to prove that
> machines don't add value, you may notice that it is a tortuous attempt to
> apply the same use-value/exchange-value logic to machinery.

Well, we read this section rather differently!

Many thanks,


> Cheers,
> Steve
> At 12:11 17/10/00 +0100, you wrote:
> >Steve,
> >
> >The argument of Marx that you summarise does not rest on the 
> >fact that labour is 'quantitative'. For, of course use-values other than 
> >labour also have a quantitative dimension, as you point out. Rather, 
> >Marx's argument is that actual labour performed is something 
> >entirely different from labour-power. Hence the price of labour-power 
> >is not linked to its contribution to production, hence surplus value 
> >is possible. In this labour is unique, for other means of production 
> >are not separate from their contribution to production, hence the 
> >(discounted) present value of their contribution is contained in their 
> >price - they cannot create surplus value.
> >
> >(That summarises the key thesis of the final third of my PhD 
> >anyway!)
> >
> >Andy 
> >
> >
> >On 17 Oct 2000, at 14:24, Steve Keen wrote:
> >
> >> Marx's argument with respect to labor is that its use-value to the
> >> capitalist is quantitative: "its daily expenditure in work ... is its
> >> use-value":
> >> 
> >> The past labor that is embodied in the labor power, and the
> >> living labor that it can call into action; the daily cost of
> >> maintaining it, and *its daily expenditure in work*, are two
> >> totally different things. The former determines the
> >> exchange-value of the labor power, the latter *is its use-value*.
> >> The fact that half a [working] day's labor is necessary to keep
> >> the laborer alive during 24 hours, does not in any way prevent
> >> him from working a whole day. Therefore, the value of labor
> >> power, and the value which that labor power creates in the labor
> >> process, are two entirely different magnitudes; and this
> >> difference of the two values was what the capitalist had in
> >> view, when he was purchasing the labor power... What really
> >> influenced him was the specific use-value which this commodity
> >> possesses of being a source not only of value, but of more value
> >> than it has itself. This is the special service that the
> >> capitalist expects from labor power, and in this transaction he
> >> acts in accordance with the 'eternal laws' of the exchange of
> >> commodities. The seller of labor power, like the seller of any
> >> other commodity, realizes its exchange-value, and parts with its
> >> use-value. (Ibid, p. 188.)
> >> 
> >> Why should the same not apply to machinery?--should not its use-value to a
> >> capitalist also be quantitative?
> >> 
> >> Steve

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