[OPE-L:5668] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Reduction

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Fri May 25 2001 - 20:52:33 EDT

re Gil's 5667

>The "reduction/infinite regress" thread has concerned the question of
>whether "value," understood as the "essence of [capitalist] commodities"
>can legitimately be "reduced" to labor alone.  I confess that to me the
>whole discussion has a metaphysical,
>"how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin" ring to it that would be
>dispelled if someone could offer a concise statement of the ontological or
>explanatory significance of the concept "value" that is
>a) concrete, i.e that provides a complete and unambiguous test for
>distinguishing valid and invalid grounds for defining commodity value, 
>b) non-tautological, i.e. that is not just a corollary of defining a
>commodity's "value" in terms of labor time.

Value is not simply labor time; value is labor time contained in a 
commodity. Marx makes two points here: because men stand in relation 
to one  another as members of society, only indirectly (paul b), only 
through the relationships of their commodities, through exchange 
relations; the social character of labor can only be expressed  by 
means of commodity exchange.

Second point. Marx further argues that the quantity of labor 
contained in the commodity cannot be expressed as a quantity of labor 
itself, in labor time. If men are only related through commodities, 
through things, the social labor must also be expressed in things, 
and therefore social labor contained in a commodity is expressed not 
in labor hours but by means of another commodity.
That labor time cannot be directly known and measured suggests that 
the whole transformation problem has been based on decidedly non 
Marxian foundations--in a fetishistic economy the knowns cannot be 
the value transferred, the rate of surplus value and total value 
while the unknowns are relative prices, prices of production and the 
rate of profit. Value can only be expressed by way of another 
commodity; the inputs in Marx's transformation tables cannot be in 
the form of directly observable values (as Mattick Jr, Fred, 
Alejandro have rightly argued), for labor cannot be directly 
expressed;  it can only be expressed in a roundabout way in other 
commodities--such is the phenomenal form called exchange value.

Yours, Rakesh

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