[OPE-L:4414] what is Volume 1 about?

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Fri Nov 03 2000 - 00:24:34 EST

I would like to raise again the issue of what Volume 1 is about - whether
labor-values only or money-quantities determined by labor-values - in
response to some very interesting comments by Andrew K. in recent posts
(thanks, Andrew).  

Andrew has mentioned twice that even Bortkiewitz interpreted Volume 1 to
be about money and prices, not about labor-values only, with no relation
to money and prices.  I was surprised by this, so I looked it up, and
Andrew is right.  Bortkiewitz states clearly on the first page of his
famous article that 

"... value can have no other meaning that of a magnitude which indicates
how many units of the good serving as the measure of value are obtained in
exchange for a commodity or for a unit of this commodity.  In this sense,
value is merely an *index of an exchange relationship* and must not be
confused with the so-called "absolute value" of a commodity, which is
identical with the quantity of labor employed in its
production."  (emphasis in the original)

And on the second page:

"This much needed to be said in order to avoid misunderstandings due to
will always be taken to mean the index of an exchange relationship, unless
the contrary is explicitly stated."  (emphasis added)

i.e. is not taken to mean quantities of labor-time, unrelated to exchange.  

Sweezy in not very clear about the precise definitions and units of the
Volume 1 variables, but he essentially follows Bortkiewitz, so he must
have also interpreted Volume 1 in the same way

Therefore, the "two system" interpretation of Marx's theory - meaning that
Volume 1 is about labor-values only and Volume 3 is about money and prices
- appears to be of more recent origin.  Andrew mentions Abraham-Frois and
Berrebi in a late 1970s book as the first authors to present the "two
system" interpretation.  Actually, I think before these guys (whom I had
never heard of before), there were Medio (1972) and Morishima (1973) and
Steedman (1977, and before in articles).  And even before that Seton
(1957) also presented a "two-system" interpretation.  Was Seton the first,
or was there someone before him?

Medio's presentation is perhaps the clearest expression of this
interpretation that "Volume 1 is about labor-values only".  He explicitly
calls his system of equations (2) the "value system".  The variables
determined in his "value system" are the labor-values of individual
commodities and the rate of surplus-value (as a ratio of
labor-values).  Money and prices do not appear in the "value
system" equations at all.  (Medio's article appears in Hunt and Schwartz
(eds.), A Critique of Economic Theory.)

Paul Z., Paul C., Allin, and other proponents of the "two system" 
interpretation:  is Medio's interpretation more or less what you
have in mind by "Volume 1 is about labor-values only"?  If not, how does
your interpretation differ from Medio's?  In either case, I ask again,
what is the textual evidence to support this interpretation?  

I look forward to further discussion.  Thanks again to Andrew for the very
interesting and important comments on Bortkiewitz.  


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