[OPE-L:7047] Re: the value[s] of labour power, nationally and internationally

From: Diego (diego.guerrero@cps.ucm.es)
Date: Tue Apr 23 2002 - 04:22:13 EDT

Re Jerry's [7045] and Nicky's [7046]

Re Jerry's [7045]

<<Why must that "also be true"?  And what level of aggregation are we talking about?  
Since the VLP  "contains a historical and moral element" and therefore differs not only historically but for each society,  the aggregate that you refer to above can not be the world capitalist economy but only an individual capitalist social formation.   If that is the case, then how can different kinds of labor in different social formations be reduced to simple labor since "how much society needs" varies by country? 
In other words, you (re-stating Brody) begin by assuming that, at any moment in time,  there is one VLP which can then be disaggregated. What happens, though, when there are many V[s]LP [values of labour power]  in the world economy? >>

I think that the "historical and moral element" of the VLP refers to the regional (national) definition of this commodity. All commodities are historically defined: we don't want the same cars that thirty years ago or the same computers that three years ago, thus the commodities's components vary in time too (productivity improvements make it possible). Therefore we need to define different national levels of the VLP at each moment in historical time, i.e. I think Marx meant that all others commodities (in the general case of the LTV) would tend to have the same price throughout the world, but this would not be the case for the labor power.

<<On a related note,  I find Brody's general claim regarding  models -- following Leontief --  about   "how similar static and dynamic, open and closed models are"  (Andras Brody _Proportions,  prices and planning_, North-Holland, 970, p. l59) to be highly problematic.  Even more problematic, though, is assuming that the VLP  (and V[s]LP) can be  expressed in a very similar way in static vs. dynamic and open vs. closed models  (I  suspect that some concepts of  equilibrium and  linearity, a la Leontief and  von Neumann,  have to be smuggled in to bring  about such results.)  Yet is  it legitimate to conceive of value (and the V[s]LP specifically)  in  the contemporary  world capitalist economy  as some sort of linear equilibrium process?  In solidarity, Jerry>>

I think that some elements in Leontief and von Neumann models are pure mathematical elements, and may and should be detached from their material components. For instance, one can dettach the instrumental way in which Alfred Marshall or Joan Robinson drew some curves and use them for different purposes without any need for sharing Marshall's or Robinson's ideas about the capitalist society.

Re Nicky's [7046]:

<<Even in a single social formation, how do you arrive at the 'value' of the
consumption bundle (means of consumption) in labour hours?:
1) how do you compare the different kinds of skills that go into producing
different commodities, and reducing them to simple labour hours?  Marx
himself aimed to save the trouble of making this reduction, by considering
labour time to be only an 'immanent measure' (i.e. not computable).  
2) The actual measure is money; has to be.  For one thing, money wages are
paid before production but the real wage is known only after production.
So the value of labour power is also only known after production in terms
of what the real wage can buy (i.e. the consumption bundle, also priced in
money terms).  
3) Since we have money to measure value, why do you want to measure it in
labour hours? (i.e. what's the point of doing so).  To prove that labour
power is the source of value what is needed is not an actual measure in
time units but an argument that capital (in aggregate) makes a purchase
external to itself (in the payment of wages) and that this is the source of
an increase in money, M-C-M', once capital makes use of labour in
production to produce commodities which have (potentially) a money price
greater than the original advance.  The transfer of means of production and
natural resources (given universal property rights) cannot contribute to
this increase since it is internal to the capitalist class (i.e. one
capitalist's purchase is another's sale).  The only advance at M, then,
*is* the advance to labour.   
Nicky >>

In [6848] I mentioned my conception of the relationship between value and price. In the theoretical model, we know that what is needed to reproduce any commodity (including the LP) can be reduced to labor. What is needed to reproduce the entire class of wage producers is also a given quantity of labor. There is a one relationship between the total amount of hours spent in this national society and the total amount of money spent to pay wages in this national society. What I meant in [7044] was that beginning with these totals we can disaggregate them as minutely as we want.

But for practical purposes of measuring VLP (=PLP) in concrete social formations we can start with labor quantities (more difficult to know; in fact, unknown in principle) or with money quantities or other commodities quantities (which both express labor quantities, either measured as monetary or real wages). At the theoretical level what we need to compare in order to figure out the VLP of different types of labor power is the labor society needs to reproduce each of them. But all we can know in principle is the quantities of money actually paid to each type of LP, which means: we don't know their "direct" or "production" values (both equally theoretical) but just their "effective" values (the only practical or real prices in the sense that they are the ones used in business). It is my contention that:

1) Marx believed that taking effective values of all inputs (including fresh labor spent in the production process) would be a sufficiently accurate measure of the real values of outputs, as he was interested in the processes of value formation of every output, which are (socially and technically) unique at each point of time. His aim was a dynamical one, of course.

2) We can do so, but we can also use the mathematical methods which are usual in theoretical analyses and which allow us to replace the effective values of the inputs by the same "theoretical" values we are interested in, as theorists, to figure out for each moment in time, since our purpose is to understand the operation of actual prices in real time. (By the way, building the balance sheet of a firm does not amount to abandon the dynamical view offered by its revenue and expense accounts; the balance sheet, a static instrument, can be used dynamically).


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