[OPE-L:4295] Re: Re: Re: Steve on the worthlessness of labor as the source of surplus value

From: Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 03:39:18 EDT

"You simply don't understand how Marx defines value." Sweezy said much the
same thing to me when he responded to my criticism that he had misquoted
Marx by omitting, without attribution, the use-value/exchange-value
expressions from alleged quotes from Marx.

Sweezy also began with the position that the production of surplus-value is
by definition possible from labour alone, because of how value was defined
by Marx. But he was also adamant that use-value played no role in Marx's
logic. Thus the statement that:

"`Every commodity,' Marx wrote, `has a twofold aspect, that of
use-value and exchange-value.' Use-value is an expression of a
certain relation between the consumer and the object consumed.
Political economy, on the other hand, is a social science of the
relations between people. It follows that `use-value as such
lies outside the sphere of investigation of political economy.'"
(Sweezy's TOCD., p. 26, citing the Contribution, p. 28)

To back this up, as he showed how labour produced surplus-value, he made
the following so-called quote from Marx:

"`Every condition of the problem is satisfied, while the laws
that regulate the exchange of commodities, have been in no way
violated. For the capitalist as buyer paid for each commodity,
for the spindle, and the labor power, its full value. He sells
his yarn  at its exact value. Yet for all that he withdraws 
more from circulation than he originally threw into it.'"
(ibid., p. 61)

In fact, the actual citation is:

 "Every condition of the problem is satisfied, while the laws
that regulate the exchange of commodities, have been in no way
violated. Equivalent has been exchanged for equivalent. For the
capitalist as buyer paid for each commodity, for the cotton, the
spindle and the labor power, its full value. He then did what is
done by every purchaser of commodities; he consumed their
use-value. The consumption of the labor power, which was also
the process of producing commodities, resulted in 20lbs of yarn,
having a value of 30 shillings. The capitalist, formerly a
buyer, now returns to market as a seller, of commodities. He
sells his yarn at eighteenpence, which is its exact value. Yet
for all that he withdraws 3 shillings more from circulation than
he originally threw into it." (Marx 1867, p. 189)

You will note that the substantive words omitted are those pertaining to
the use-value/exchange-value argument as to the origins of surplus-value.

My point in all this is that there's no problem with the definitional
approach you take to labour being the only source of value, in the absence
of the use-value/exchange-value logic which I emphasise. Sweezy made his
problem easier here by alleging that there was no such logic.

Once you admit that this is wrong--that Marx did use this analysis, as well
as arguing the "unique aspects of the commodity labour-power"
approach--then you have a problem. You have to find a definition of
use-value which lets you conclude that labour alone has the use-value
needed to produce surplus-value. These inevitably end up making the
use-value of machine qualitative--something like they assist labour-value
produce value--rather than the quantitative definition Marx used for the
use-value of labour.

In other words Rakesh, I argue that yes, Marx did define value as "social
labor time", but his new logic pointed out that that definition may be
overblown: that social labor time may be the measure of value, but not its


At 22:34 25/10/00 -0700, you wrote:
>In 4289 Steve asked
>>  how would you
>>interpret the following statements by Marx?:
>>"On the other hand, the obscurantist has overlooked that my analysis of the
>>commodity does not stop at the dual mode in which the commodity is
>>presented, [but] presses forward [so] that in the dual nature of the
>>commodity there is presented the twofold *character* of *labour*, whose
>>product it is: *useful* labour, i.e., the concrete modes of labour, which
>>create use values, and abstract *labour, labour as the expenditure of
>>labour-power*,... that *surplus value* itself is derived from a `specific'
>>*use-value of labour-power* which belongs to it exclusively etc etc., that
>>hence with me use value plays an important role completely different than
>>[it did]] in previous [political] economy" (comment on Wagner)
>>Does not the statement "that *surplus value* itself is derived from a
>>`specific' *use-value of labour-power*" imply that Marx was using a form of
>>logic--as well as a historical argument--to assert that labour is the
>>source of surplus value?
>  value is defined as social labor time (the value of a commodity is 
>the labor time it contains but the labor that it contains is socially 
>determined); hence, surplus value is defined as surplus social labor 
>time. The question then becomes  how surplus labor time originates in 
>the market where everyone presumably exchanges equal labor time for 
>equal labor time.   There would have to be a commodity whose use 
>value is more labor time than is represented by the labor time for 
>which it exchanges.
>The so called dialectic of exchange value/use value thus allows Marx 
>to specify what it is exactly that the proletariat sells on the 
>market (labor power), and thus conceptually clarifies the 
>exploitation underneath the free market.
>Instead you have it
>1. there is a dialectic of use value and exchange value.
>2. Marx only looked at the use value of one commodity labor power and 
>determinned its use could be productive of value
>3. He then commited the non sequitur that since the use  of labor 
>power was productive of value , the use value of no other commodity 
>was also value producing.
>You simply don't understand how Marx defines value. 3 is not a non 
>sequitur, ok simply because the use value of dead labor cannot be 
>productive of new, surplus labor time. But do note that Marx does 
>argue that the use of a new machine can allow an entrepreneur to 
>claim more of the total social surplus labor time than is produced in 
>his own firm or even branch...So the use value of dead labor 
>certainly *appears* productive of surplus value to the businessmann 
>and those who systematize his thinking. There is good reason why your 
>Marx critique has the ring of common sense to it.
>All the best, Rakesh
>ps my computer crashed when I tried to print out your chapter. So my 
>response will be delayed.
>pps wouldn't a massive reflation of the Japanese economy threaten to 
>overcome crisis on the backs of pensioners, not simply the debt 
>owning class? Does radical Keynesianism really have working class 
Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
University of Western Sydney Macarthur
Building 11 Room 30,
Goldsmith Avenue, Campbelltown
PO Box 555 Campbelltown NSW 2560
s.keen@uws.edu.au 61 2 4620-3016 Fax 61 2 4626-6683
Home 02 9558-8018 Mobile 0409 716 088
Home Page: http://bus.macarthur.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/

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