[OPE-L:7840] SNLT: was Re: Chris Arthur's "Alfredo on VFT"

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Thu Oct 17 2002 - 11:58:15 EDT

This question is interesting, Allin. When I first read Marx I automatically
thought  SNLT meant best practice and this would then drag the others up
tho' of course it need not if there is some element of secrecy or other
reason why the others cannot replicate.
Then I saw everyone took it to be average LT and that this has warrant in
Marx's refs to "normal or average". One possible reason for this definition
is that it is the basis of predictive price (tho I think modal lt is better
- see below). One very bad reason for it is that it is assumed all L is
productive of value and that there is via a social value a redistribution
of value.
In my opinion now snlt should be understood to reflect modal lt. The
difference may not be great empirically but is huge conceptually.
 The average notion fits embodied LT theory like a glove. Every commodity
sold has an individual value for which all LT counts and then social snlt
is the average, and there is a transfer of value from the less efficient to
the more efficient (see Carchedi for a typical reading). This means that
the idea of unnecessary time really becomes trivial since the only case is
unsold commodities. The time in all the sold ones counts for value en bloc.
I am sure Marx originally thought of something stronger.
If snlt is determined by modal lt, there are two cases. In old-established
industries with a big tail of inefficient firms modal lt will be lower than
average. This means that those less efficient firms that have sold
commodities have unnecessary labour in them, so this is much stronger then
the trivial case of unsold commodities. The other case, of new industries,
or industries undergoing rapid change, the modal lt will be higher than the
average. This means the leading edge get a sort of technological rent; but
it will be inherent to the value-category instead of being the difference
between price (putatively a function of modal lt) and value (=average lt)
as with the standard account. All this is easy to see if you draw the
curves of number of firms against LTs. IN first case put the 'tail' at the
right, in the other case at the left.
Notice also it is intuitively plausible that social value, and hence the
average rate of profit, shuld be lower (than in the standard average lt
notion) for stagnant industries and higher for advancing ones.

>On Sat, 12 Oct 2002, Christopher Arthur wrote:
>> It seems to me that talk of individual value simply collapses value
>> into concrete labour time. Value represents abstract labour time
>> measured according to that time socially necessary i.e. value is
>> identical in all commodities of a particular sort...
>But doesn't this skirt the issue of how "socially necessary" is
>defined when technology is changing?  E.g. is the socially necessary
>labour time some sort of average, or is it the minimum according
>to best practice (even if only one or a few producers are using the
>best practice at a given point in time)?
>Allin Cottrell.

17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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