[OPE-L:5225] Re: RE: RE: Re: [Mike W] Re: use-value as quantitative

From: Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Date: Wed Mar 21 2001 - 17:33:24 EST

Dear Michael,

Perhaps I had better first apologise for my tone in the previous email; I 
have I think even more experience (in discussions with marxists) of being 
in the intellectual minority [I count Arun Bose as the only other scholar 
who has explicitly argued "<I>Theorem 6<D>: In a capitalist economy with 
positive capital accumulation, labour is not, <I>immediately<D> or 
<I>ultimately<D>, the <I>only<D> or the <I>main<D> source of price, surplus 
produce, or profit." (Marx on exploitation and inequality, Delhi Uni Press 
1980). This experience sometimes leads to frustration, which I acknowledge 
others with non-standard interpretations of Marx also feel.

Michael poses two questions:

>1. What do you think about my alternative interpretation of the original

I think you make a 3/4 interpretation. You acknowledge that exchange-value 
and use-value play a role in Marx's logic (1/2), you readily accept the 
identification of exchange-value value with the means of subsistence (1/4): 
"The past labor that is embodied in the labor power ...determines the 
exchange-value of the labor power", but you refuse to contemplate the final 
1/4: something I argue that any linguist approaching this paragraph without 
prior conceptions would contemplate, that the output attributable to the 
worker is (quantitative and measured in the same units as the 
exchange-value: "the living labor that it can call into action ... 
determines its use-value."

So from my perspective, you hold back from a quite straightforward reading 
of this passage, not because the reading is manifestly a distortion of 
Marx's words, but because the reading is in conflict with the value-form 
interpretation of Marx which is the perspective you bring to your reading 
of that passage. In my linguist analogy, I was asking you to try to leave 
that reading behind you, and simply interpret the words as they stand.

(As an aside, this was how I first approached this passage. I developed my 
approach to Marx on my first reading of Capital, the first work by Marx I 
had ever read, in a Capital reading group at Sydney University in 1973/74. 
So though it is now distinctly the source of the preconceptions I bring 
when I read Marx, when I first read it, I approached it as that figurative 

>2. Please draw my attention to whatever it is in the above passages that
>asserts, or even implies, that value and use-value can be expressed in the
>same (viz. value) units.

OK. How about the expression with which I began this debate: "two entirely 
different magnitudes". After the sentences in which he identified use-value 
and exchange-value as above, Marx then says "Therefore, the value of 
and the value which that labour-power creates in the labour process, are 
two entirely different magnitudes". The "therefore" asserts that the fact 
that these two magnitudes are different is derived from the concepts 
discussed previously, of use-value as "the living labor that it can call 
into action" and exchange-value as "The past labor that is embodied in the 
labor power". So they are both magnitudes.

As for whether they can be expressed in the same units, I take it we agree 
that exchange-value is measured in value units; then what I have to show is 
the possibility that Marx used the same units for measuring the 
quantitative use-value.  How about the next statement (after the 
"Therefore" sentence):

"and this difference of the two values was what the capitalist had in view, 
when he was purchasing the labour-power"

"this difference of the two values". Am I being obtuse in reading 
"difference" and "two values" as meaning that exchange-value and use-value 
are both measured in units of value? I think not.

There is also:

"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."

The use-value of labor-power is that it is a source of more value than it 
has itself? That "value it has itself" is the labor embodied in its 
maintenance, which you accept is its exchange-value; "more value than it 
has itself" is its use-value. Surely these are the same units?

How about:

"The use-value of labour-power, or in other words, labour"????

Am I being obtuse to regard this as an saying that "the use-value of 
labour-power is labour"? Remember here that Marx is talking about abstract 
socially necessary labour here.

So Michael, I find plenty in that paragraph which both implies and asserts 
that use-value and exchange-value are being measured in the same units. And 
I can find a lot more to back it up. I focus on this paragraph because, as 
you will see if you check, it is the first point in Capital at which Marx 
reveals the source of surplus value.

At 04:20 PM 3/21/01 +0000, you wrote:

>My conversation with Steve is becoming a bit 'second order' (tending to be
>about external motivations rather than the substance. But anyway, here we go
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Steve Keen [mailto:s.keen@uws.edu.au]
>Sent: 21 March 2001 13:49
>To: mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk
>Subject: Re: [OPE-L:5221] RE: Re: [Mike W] Re: use-value as quantitative
>Steve writes:
> >I posed it because your interpretation is, from my point of view, entirely
> >directed at emasculating my interpretation of the view of the role of
> > use-value in Marx's analysis.
>It is not directed at emasculating Steve's view, but at getting at the
>'truth' of the matter. Of course the background to Steve's arguments is
>provided by, as well as being partially constitutive of, his views on
>value-theory. In the same way the background to my view is the (evolving)
>value-form approach to value-theory.
>So when Steve then writes:
> >This conventional perspective of Marxian
> >economists bemuses me, because--again, from my point of view, it enables
> >'Marxists' to dismiss what I see as the foundations of Marx's main
> >contributions to political economy.
>It is my turn to be bemused, since the value-form approach is not a
>conventional Marxian Economist perspective, and it attempts to rescue - if
>necessary by re-constructing - some of the fundamental contributions of Marx
>to political economy. In particular, my Value-form approach problematises
>any simple embodied-labour reading of Marx's (and more pointedly, Marxist)
>value theory.
>Steve continues:
> >From that point of view, use-value plays a role in the
> >qualitative-quantitative dialectic in Marx, but has not particulraly more
> >significance than it is given by Ricardo--in fact, most Marxists could
> >elaborate the fundamental of their theories without especial reference to
>Who dat 'most Marxists'? It is certainly not my value-form approach, which
>was developed at least partially in response to Ricardian interpretations
>especially as they came to a head in Steedman's 'Marx after Sraffa'. What is
>more, it also takes seriously the qualitative-quantitative dialectic in
>Marx, along with the interplay of universal and specific and the dialectic
>of value and use-value. It just disagrees with Steve about interpreting this
>latter in a way that hinges on making value and use-value commensurable by
>reducing them to the same units (labour time or Money).
>Steve then vents his exasperation with 'committed Marxists' (whoever they
> >I have completely abandoned any expectation that I can convince committed
> >Marxists that this is a misrepresentation of Marx (though I have not been
> >as unsuccessful with historians of economic thought). But it still bemuses
> >me.
>But this has nothing to do with me, who as a non-conventional (viz.
>value-form) value-theorist, committed to scientific progress via argument
>and evidence (as opposed to an a-rational 'commitment') has also had his
>fair share of dismissals. More to the point, Steve has not yet made any
>response to the point of my entering this exchange - which was to offer an
>alternative interpretation of the putatively killer passage that he has
>drawn our attention to. Whilst it would be foolish to pretend that I carry
>no intellectual baggage in proffering my alternative that should not be an
>excuse for Steve not to deal with the specific argument I have adduced.
>Steve's bemusement then continues:
> >I wonder how Marxists can read passages like the following and still
> >refuse to make use-value an integral part of their interpretation of Marx:
> >"Secondly, only an obscurantist, who has not understood a
> >word of Capital, can conclude: Because Marx, in a note to
> >the first edition of Capital, overthrows all the German
> >professorial twaddle on `use-value' in general, and refers
> >readers who want to know something about actual use-value to
> >`commercial guides',--therefore, use-value does not play
> >any role in his work.( Wagner p. 198-99.)
> >"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, but
> >that, nota bene, it only comes into the picture where such
> >consideration [of value, use value, etc.] springs from the
> >analysis of given economic forms, not from helter-skelter
> >quibbling over the concepts or words `use-value' and
> >`value'. (Ibid, p. 200)
>But again - it ain't me babe. I accept whole-heartedly that use-value plays
>a crucial role in Marx's dialectic. My alternative interpretation of the
>original passage was to question the *next step* in the argument - that this
>dialectic involves, even necessitates, that Marx is able to reduce value and
>use-value to the same (viz. value) units. These two passages also, whilst
>making clear Marx's claim for the significance of use-value to his work, do
>*not* contain anything that supports this final crucial step. They contain
>no reference whatsoever to the commensurability of value and use-value. Come
>on Steve, exasperation with interlocutors who seem to wilfully ignore one's
>arguments, is a two-way street!
>So lets get away from second order conversations apparently attempting to
>impugn interlocutors' intellectual good faith, and get back to the
>1. What do you think about my alternative interpretation of the original
>2. Please draw my attention to whatever it is in the above passages that
>asserts, or even implies, that value and use-value can be expressed in the
>same (viz. value) units.
>Comradely greetings,
>At 09:04 AM 3/21/01 +0000, you wrote:
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> >[mailto:owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu]On Behalf Of Steve Keen
> >Sent: 20 March 2001 20:04
> >To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> >Subject: [OPE-L:5218] Re: [Mike W] Re: use-value as quantitative
> >
> >Steve asks,
> >
> > > Imagine that we could find a professor of linguistics who had not read
> > > Marx, and we gave her this paragraph to read. Do you think she would
> > > categorically dismiss my construction, and say that yours was the only
> > > justified interpretation?
> >
> >Indeed I do think that she would be more inclined to accept my
> >interpretation, or at the very least to say that purely on the grounds of
> >linguisitics and the text taken in isolation she couldn't adjudicate
> >them. Why does Steve ask - it is fairly clear what I am arguing, and I am
> >not sure what role this hypothetical linguistician is playing here? As a
> >matter of emphasis I did not 'categorically dismiss' Steve's
> >Rather I provided a counter interprpetation, and opined that in my few the
> >relevant text could not support Steve's view.
> >
> >
> >
> >For reference, the paragraph is:
> >
> >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.* (capital I, p. 188.)
> >
> >
> >michael
> >_______________________
> >Dr Michael Williams
> >Business & Management Studies
> >De Montfort University
> >Polhill
> >Bedford
> >MK41 9EA
> >01234 793036
> ><mailto:mjwilliams@dmu.ac.uk>
>Dr. Steve Keen
>Senior Lecturer
>Economics & Finance
>Campbelltown, Building 11 Room 30,
>School of Economics and Finance
>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.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/

Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
Campbelltown, Building 11 Room 30,
School of Economics and Finance
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.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/

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