[OPE-L:5487] Re: Re: Counteracting factors

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Wed May 02 2001 - 22:07:44 EDT

At 03:41  2/05/01 -0700, you wrote:
>How does the labor theory of value sort out issues of oligopoly
>pricing power? Jerry wrote:
>Suppose that an oligopoly, as a result of advertising and
>marketing, is able to charge working-class consumers a market
>price three times greater than the value of those commodities.
>Yes, this can happen, and there should be no controversy about
>recognizing that it happens.
>Jerry then asks:
>...who pays the higher prices?  It is, in this instance, working-
>class consumers, of course.
>Yes. Price, however, is exchange value, not value. The working-
>class consumers have no more value (received as money wages) to
>give back to the capitalist class than they did prior to the
>success of the marketing campaign.
>Has the exchange value of money changed? Has the money wage
>changed? Have the hours of labor performed by the working class
>changed? If not, then the rate of exploitation and the mass of
>surplus value have not changed.

Is the conceptual problem with Jerry's reformulation, or is it with a
labour embodied value theory?  Suppose that money is not a commodity but
pure form (having no labour-value substance); i.e. money is a more concrete
determination of value, and price as it's complete and finished expression.
 Then price *is* value, at a different level of determination.  Now suppose
that labour-power is not a commodity (since it is produced *outside* of
capitalist relations of production, in the household); then it makes no
sense to think about the wage as a 'value' or a monetary equivalent to the
subsistence bundle of reproducing labour-power as a commodity.  Rather the
wage is determined by supply and demand, by workers struggles, and by state
intervention.  Now, if labour-power and money are not commodities in the
sense described by Marx (Marx's own condition being that commodities are
produced within capitalist relations of production), then the triple prices
represent a fall in the purchasing power of the wage (yes, in the
neoclassical sense), therefore, a redistribution from the working consumer
to the capitalist class.    

A theory that affords ontological primacy to what goes on in production
does not, imo, provide an adequate understanding of oligopolistic behaviour
or the changes in contemporary capitalism (if Jerry is saying something
similar, then I agree with him).  In my own view, the reason for this is
that money is not given any ontological significance in the orthodox
abstract-labour theory of value, but is opposed to value as merely
phenomenal form.  So the redistribution from worker to capitalist can only
be theorised as a redistribution of use-values.  This is wrong.  The
capitalist economy is clearly 'form-determined' - at very least in the
sense that capitalists make an 'ideal precommensuration' in *money terms*,
before purchasing labour-power for *money wages*, and allocating it to
particular industries.  What is needed to understand the complex
interrelation of production and consumption in the reproduction of the
system, then, is a systematic dialectical reconstruction of Marx's core
categories, answering to the question of *how* value and abstract labour
are determined not as substance, but as historically specific capitalist


Nicola Mostyn (Taylor)
Faculty of Economics
Murdoch University
Telephone: 61-8-9385 1130

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