[OPE-L:4301] Re: machines and quantity

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 08:35:01 EDT

Steve wrote:

> Why is it "utterly absurd" to describe the use-value of machines as "purely
> quantitative", when it is not "absolutely absurd" to describe the use-value
> of workers as quantitative?:
> "Exchange-value and use-value [are] intrinsically incommensurable
> magnitudes" (Capital I, p. 506 [Progress Press Edition])
> ---------


Machines are not *purely* quantitative, nor are they *purely* 
qualitative. Rather, they have various qualities and powers, and 
various corresponding quantitative aspects (eg weight, volume, and 
most importantly the socially accepted unit of measurement of  
each specific type of machine). It is absurd to deny either aspect, 
ie. a machine without qualities is an absurdity, it is nothing, not a 
machine at all; and where there is quality there is quantity, the 
most relevant one here being the number of machines at hand.  

So it is the word 'pure' that give us the absurdity.

I'm not sure about your interesting citation from Marx (and I forget 
the context) but I guess Marx means that use values cannot be 
measured in units of abstract labour time, which, however, is the 
internal or immanent measure of value (exchange value being the 
external measure). 

> I also re-read our exchanges on this, as he suggested. These again relate
> to the distinction between labour-power and labour being the explanation as
> to why labour is the source of surplus-value. I know this is the standard
> position--and of course, it's not mine. I instead argue that this
> distinction is why Marx sees the value of labour power as being the minimum
> wage. Marx did continue to use this as a basis for his explanation of the
> source of surplus-value, coextensive with the use-value/exchange-value
> argument, but I argue that on this he was logically wrong.

I have a feeling that a rather large gulf between our perspectives is 
lurking, such that we may be talking at cross-purposes. My main 
purpose in these exchanges is / was simply to argue that Marx is 
not led to the absurd view that the use value of machines is 
*purely* qualitative (a repeated assertion of yours) - SV is readily 
explained by Marx without such absurdity. 



> Of course, I don't expect to convince anyone on this list of that.
> Still, I would appreciate people's "take" on the cite from Marx above.
> Steve
> At 11:41 26/10/00 +0100, you wrote:
> >I should have written 'purely qualitative' of course.
> >
> >sorry.
> >
> >andy
> >
> >
> 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
> Australia
> 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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