[OPE-L:5254] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: [Mike W] Re: use-value as quantitative

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Sat Mar 24 2001 - 12:34:15 EST

re 5247

>Hi Rakesh.
>You remind us of some good points Marx made about Ricardo's world 
>view, but I was talking more narrowly about the concept of the 
>"use-value" of a machine.

Dear Duncan,
Marx's dynamics centers on the contradictory use value of the machine 
(and you would surely put the point much better than I do here).

  On the one hand, the machine is useful to the capitalist because it 
allows him to reduce unit values by substituting a lesser sum of 
indirect labor for a greater sum of paid direct labor on a per unit 
basis (of course if capitalists had to pay for the total labor 
performed, instead of simply labor power, the use value of the 
machine would even have a greater scope). On the other hand, the 
machine is useful in that it allows for the absorption of surplus 
labor or production of newly added value. However, the less direct 
labor employed relative to total capital--that is, the more unit 
values are reduced--the more difficult it becomes for the capitalist 
to absorb surplus labor.

However, Marx does not only consider the use of machines from the 
perspective of value or net revenue. On the one hand, Marx emphasizes 
the use of machines on gross revenue, i.e., in terms of the use 
values available for working class consumption. On the other hand, 
Marx emphasizes that even from the narrow perspective of valorization 
or absorption of surplus labor, what matters is not only the value of 
machinery but its quantity in use value terms. So as I said in my 
last post with an expanded  mass of the elements of production, even 
if their value is the same, more workers can be introduced into the 
productive process and in the next cycle of production these workers 
will be producing more value.

That is,  it does seem to me that qualitative improvements in the 
machine producing sector are quite important for Marx. This is where 
I seem to be disagreeing with you.  That is,  use value (in the sense 
of the quantity of machines as use values) plays a different role in 
Marx's theory than in political economy and Ricardo's theory in 

It seems to me that the question we are trying to answer is why Marx 
emphasized in his notes on A Wagner that use value is not only not 
ignored in his theory, it plays a novel role.

Sweezy's denial of the importance of use value is one approach; 
Steve's answer is another .  Grossman's interpretation of Marx is 
yet another. It's strange to me that Steve would laud several people 
but Grossman for emphasizing the centrality of use value to Marx 
though Rosdolsky whom Steve praises to the sky is only summarizing 
Grossman's argument. I am hoping that Steve is not ignoring Grossman 
because I have associated myself with him.

Yours, Rakesh

>>re 5231
>>>  So they try to find measures of the "qualitative improvement" of 
>>>capital. (The new machine, which costs the same as the old one, 
>>>can shape twice as many pieces of metal or execute twice as many 
>>>instructions.) This is completely foreign to the Marxian/Classical 
>>>(and even /Sraffian) way of looking at capital, and, as far as I 
>>>can tell, just adds confusing noise to the macroeconomic data. If, 
>>>as Marx argues, the use-value of a machine to the capitalist is 
>>>the amount of wage cost it saves, changes in the concrete 
>>>performance of the machine are irrelevant.
>>Hi Duncan,
>>It seems to me that Marx is not so exclusively interested in the 
>>value surplus at the expense of use value. For example,   Marx 
>>criticizes Ricardo for only being concerned with net revenue (pure 
>>profit), the value surplus of price over costs, and not gross 
>>revenue, i.e., the mass of use values necessary for the subsistence 
>>of the working population.  Marx criticizes Ricardo precisely for 
>>only figuring these use values as costs which are to be pushed down 
>>as low as possible. So for an employer who makes $2000 profit on a 
>>capital of
>>$20,000--10%--it is utterly irrelevant whether his capital sets 100 
>>or 1000 people into motion...as long as in all instances profit 
>>does not fall below $2,000. Since as you say above anything other 
>>than this value surplus is, as you say above, noise to the 
>>macroeconomic data, Marx writes: "By denying the importance of 
>>gross revenue, i.e, the volume of production and consumption--apart 
>>from the value surplus--and hence denying the importance of life 
>>itself, political economy's abstraction reaches the peak of infamy."
>>Moreover, as I suggested in my last post, the expansion in the mass 
>>of use values in which a given sum of value is represented is 
>>indeed of great INDIRECT significance for the valorization process. 
>>For example,
>>There is indeed for Marx a dialectic of use value and value in more 
>>than just the consumption of labor power. Steve credits Rosdolsky 
>>for rescuing this key element of Marx's theory. But if Steve were 
>>to study the footnotes of Rosdolsky, he will find that he is 
>>drawing from Grossmann's work. In both HG's magnum opus and 
>>dynamics book there is attention to said dialectic.
>>Yours, Rakesh
>Duncan K. Foley
>Leo Model Professor
>Department of Economics
>Graduate Faculty
>New School University
>65 Fifth Avenue
>New York, NY 10003
>messages: (212)-229-5717
>fax: (212)-229-5724
>e-mail: foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu
>alternate: foleyd@newschool.edu
>alternate: dkf@ultinet.net
>webpage: http://cepa.newschool.edu/~foleyd

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