[OPE-L:7486] Re: Fwd: Jurriaan Bendien on law of value

From: paul bullock (paulbullock@ebms-ltd.co.uk)
Date: Wed Jul 31 2002 - 10:59:28 EDT

To Jurriaan Bendien  and Rakesh,

just to my tuppence worth in....... I would go further than Jurriaan and have argued similar privately  with eg Fred. 

Clearly a full social system of simple commodity producers did not exist,  nevertheless within various sorts of  previous natural economies, exchanges, often extensive, took place over which tough bargaining took place between the direct producers, corresponding to the estimated local socially necessary labour time contained in them. This valuation was relative,  itself changing with social and natural conditions. Engels is quite right to refer to the drawn out negotiations typical in such circumstances. 

The idea that the social value of  a product is a reflection of the usually required expenditure of labour and not another arbitrary rule is simple enough. All marx was doing was to show how this was true in  a mature capitalist society, ie a class society which had of course developed precisely because a systematic process of accumulation had been made possible. ie by one class fighting to entirely appropriate every thing  bar the immediate life of the other class. This last process is an historical issue. The 15th century and later 'enclosure' process simply accelerated the existence of  free labour which was already developing in 13th century England.  One cannot separate the social categories Marx identified from their own development. Marxism is not a static 'formalism'. This the remaining wilderness continues to be increasingly subject to capitalist regulation, peasants continued to be converted into one or other of the two main classes, commodification continues to extend itself through experimentation every day...to an extent that still seems even absurd - (thus the regret with which financial advisors have noted that the 'frosby flop.'   was not patented! )

This process will continue until it is stopped, or brings so many of us towards hell that enough say no to stop it. Marx showed how this would happen as a necessary result  of the particular organisation (by capital ) of the 'law of value', a law that works itself out by finally limiting, choking, that sort of 'organisation'.

As far as Juriaan's latter remark on the Soviet type society, what about reflecting on Stalin's ''Law of Value under Socialism''? Or is this even more touchy a topic than the evasiveness with which Lenin is commonly treated  ?


paul bl.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rakesh Bhandari <rakeshb@stanford.edu>
To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Date: Sunday, July 28, 2002 02:18
Subject: [OPE-L:7474] Fwd: Jurriaan Bendien on law of value

>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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