[OPE-L:7732] Fwd: Jurriaan Bendien on law of value

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Mon Sep 30 2002 - 17:43:02 EDT

From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <J.Bendien@wolmail.nl>
To: <rakeshb@Stanford.EDU>
Subject: Re: law of value
Date: Mon, 30 Sep 2002 16:14:35 +0200
X-Priority: 3


While I thought of it... as you have seen, I defined the law of value as the
determination of the value of commodities offered in exchange by the
labourtime normally required to produce them (real production costs), other
things being equal (leaving aside unequal exchange, specific profit margins
etc.), arguing that Marx tries to work out how this determinism works out in
practice, under conditions of a universal market, where commodities are
produced by means of commodities.

Suppose, following Weeks, that you argue the law of value exists only within
the capitalist mode of production. Then you have to explain what determined
commodity values in precapitalist society, where you also had markets, be it
not a universal market. Since it cannot be normal production costs
measurable in labour time, then what determines these market values ?
Scarcity ? Marginal utility ? Accidents of supply and demand ? If so, it
seems to me you are commited to saying that historical materialism applies
to the capitalist epoch, but not to precapitalist epochs (never mind
postcapitalist epochs, for now).

As a matter of fact, Weeks argues that commodity production only occurs
under capitalism. He writes, "Without analysing what commodity production
is, equating it with the law of value is purely a tautology. Once commodity
production is itself analysed, it is discovered that it involves the
ingredients of production being commodities, so it occurs only under
capitalism" (Capital and exploitation, p. 91-92). In other words, Weeks
argues that commodity production means exclusively "production of
commodities BY MEANS of commodities", in other words generalised commodity
production. But this seems to me hardly credible, since goods were produced
for exchange in precapitalist society as well (partial commodity
production) - this way you turn the very origins of capitalism into a
mystery, as well as how the withering away of commodity production might
occur. That is to say, the idea that "commodity production" requires all the
inputs of production to be commodities is just false.



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