[OPE-L:7474] Fwd: Jurriaan Bendien on law of value

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sat Jul 27 2002 - 20:24:13 EDT

Hi Rakesh,

Thanks for your interesting post on OPE-L on the law of value and 
Weeks. I think though that Weeks, who argues the law of value can 
only exist in the capitalist mode of production, not before, doesn't 
explain how the law of value comes into being in the first place, and 
doesn't allow for the possibility that the law of value may assert 
itself in more primitive forms where exchange is regulated by labour 
expenditures (cf. e.g. Thomas Sekine's essay "The necessity of the 
law of value"  in Science and Society).

Weeks' main point seems to be, that the law of value can only operate 
under generalised commodity production, i.e. capitalism, i.e. through 
competitive pressures, the mobility of capital and the tendential 
equalisation of the profit rate. Weeks wants to reduce the law of 
value to an objective impersonal force asserted through a universal 
market. But might it not be argued that in precapitalist society, 
where you have simple commodity production as a "sector", the law of 
value also asserts itself, be it in a more undeveloped form, as the 
determination of market values by socially necessary labour time, 
where adjustments to the market occur through the mobility of the 
labour force and of instruments of production (similar to Morishima 
and Catephores) and through some "imperfect competition" (Meek) ?

I am not saying that Engels's historical argument is necessarily 
correct (he places a lot of weight on the ever increasing 
sophistication of commodity trade, and less emphasis on 
extra-economic factors such as expropriation), nor am I arguing for 
the historical existence of a society of simple commodity producers - 
but Engels does have the merit of trying to describe better the 
process of how it comes about that the law of value can come to 
dominate the whole economy of a society, i.e. the law of value 
doesn't just fall out of the air.

I think this debate is important, because presumably a socialist 
society would wish to reduce the operation of the law of value more 
and more, and institute other principles of economic regulation more 
consistent with basic human and socialist values (as Weeks himself 
argues). So, simply put, we need to understand how the law of value 
comes into being, in order to know how to get rid of it. Seems to me 
the law of value still operated in Soviet-type societies (since they 
still had a commodity producing sector and were under the pressure of 
the world market to an extent) but it was no longer dominant there 
(it no longer "ruled" or was the dominant regulative mechanism).



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