[OPE-L:4242] Re: Steve on the worthlessness of labor at the source of surplus value

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@MAIL.WESLEYAN.EDU)
Date: Mon Oct 23 2000 - 15:45:17 EDT

In response to this comment by Steve K., 

>> ... leads me to reject the premise that labor is the only source of
surplus value, the
>> whole transformation problem debate--from T-B on to TSS--is an
irrelevance for me.

Paul Z. writes:

>Steve, may I ask why you bother with this list, which has Marx's theory of
>the capitalist mode of production as its foundation?  If you don't see
>labor as the source of value, I think you are really talking to another
>crowd (social class?).

I'd like to take a swing at this.  It may not be Steve's answer--and I
don't assume it is--but it does suggest one logically coherent way of
looking at Paul's question.  Let's proceed via a series of hypotheticals.

1)  Suppose you had a "theory of the capitalist mode of production"  that
defines a social condition of "exploitation," as Marx does, in labor flow
magnitudes, but entirely sidesteps the question of whether there were any
systematic connection between commodity labor values (however defined) and
commodity prices, and thus entirely avoids issues dealing with the
"transformation" of values into prices or vice versa; with the possibility
that aggregate commodity prices equal aggregate commodity values or not;
with the definition of values in "simultaneist," "temporalist,"
"classical," "new,"  or other terms; with the question of whether
price-value proportionality constitutes the "pure" case of commodity
exchange or not; and the like.

Suppose further that given the real historical class conditions posited by
Marx in Volume I of Capital, this hypothetical theory yields the
implication that the working class is exploited if the capitalist class
accrued positive profits through (but perhaps not solely due to)
relationships of exchange, in the sense posited by Marx near the end of Ch.
5 of Volume I.  

Would you say that embracing this hypothetical theory is tantamount to
rejecting "Marx's theory of the capitalist mode of production"?  If so,
why?  If the theory affirms Marx's central claim that capitalist profit is
based on systematic exploitation of the working class (including the
dynamic aspects of Marx's argument, let's say) without needing to introduce
an additional theoretical entity--commodity labor values--and analyze its
possible connection to another entity--commodity prices---couldn't this be
viewed as an advance in, rather than a rejection of, Marx's theoretical
project, in something like the same way that Copernican cosmology
represented an advance over its predecessor, in part because it dispensed
with the cumbersome apparatus of Ptolemaic epicycles?   

2)  Now let's tweak the scenario in (1) a little.  Suppose our hypothetical
alternative theory

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Oct 31 2000 - 00:00:11 EST