[OPE-L:8170] Re: Re: Marx and labour theory of value

From: clyder@gn.apc.org
Date: Fri Dec 13 2002 - 19:21:30 EST

Quoting Michael Eldred <artefact@t-online.de>:

> Cologne 12-Dec-2002
> > ME:
> > > Then the conceptual distinction between the purported differences in
> > > value-generating potentials of simple vs. skilled labour falls through
> > > the mesh of such an empirical-experimental set-up?
> >
> > I think there is a conceptual confusion in this question. You speak
> > of the 'differences in value generating potentials of simple vs
> > skilled labour'.
> If there is any confusion here, it is your own, since, without correcting
> you, I merely adopted your mode of expression when you wrote: "differential
> value creating powers of different labours" (sic) and claimed the effect is
> "quite modest". 

I agree that I am to blame for expressing myself loosely. Conceptually I think
that one should not really speak of the value creating powers of different
labours. What I should have written was that the two techniques for
computing the labour coefficients place an upper bound on the effect 
of using wages as a surrogate for labour time. The use of wages as such
a surrogate is usually justified by saying that the higher wage rates
correspond to higher value creating powers, for my part I consider this
argument rather confused for the reasons I set out in my last letter,
but I just used the conventional terminology used to discuss the issue
in my previous letter - I should not really have done that.

> The question stills holds substituting 'labour-power' for
> 'labour'. According to Marx's formulation, complicated labour-power creates
> more value than simple labour-power in equal periods of time. So we agree
> that there is this difference is value-creating potentials between
> different, concrete kinds of labour-power (but see further below, where you
> apparently deny this).

No this is where I disagree, both because of the reservation about
value creating potential, and because I consider that the difference
between simple and compound labour applies only within the context
of a given concrete task. I dont think that qua value, different kinds
of labour count differently.

> The question is how to gain any empirical access to
> this difference _without_ proceeding through the value-form, since the
> labour that forms the purported substance of value must be independent of
> the value-form if it is to be its causal determinant.

My view is that because it is only labours of the same concrete sort
that can be compared for productivity, then it is only in this
context that one can speak of simple and compound labour.

> > Labour, in Marx's scheme, does not have value
> > generating potential.
> I presumed that we both know that.
> > On the contrary labour is value. What has value generating
> > potential is labour power.
> Yes, and labour-power is always concrete -- except when it confronts the
> wage-form, whereby it assumes an abstract pallor.
> > Labour time is value, but the actual labour
> > time of one individual only counts as value to the extent that that
> > individual spends the social average amount of time on a task.
> That is the claim made by the LTV. You are now obviously understanding
> "socially necessary" as "socially average". What is the justification for
> this? Why not "socially minimum" or "socially median", e.g.? How is the
> qualification "socially" to be empirically or even theoretically specified?

It is justified within the general problematic of classical political
economy from Smith to Marx, which is that society has a certain quantity
of labour that has to be distributed between different activities. In
the absence of special conditions relating to agriculture - dealt with
under the theory of differential rent - a 10% increase in the output
of a given industry will require a 10% increase in labour allocated.
In computing this increase in labour one is automatically performing
an averaging operation over the labour of all the workers currently
employed. If 100,000 are currently employed, we know that a 10% increase
in output will require 10,000 new workers of average ability.

The value of a commodity is just the change in the division of labour
required to increase its production, and here the norm is to assume
an average. The assumption of constant returns here consists of the
minimal assumption. If one has explicit reason to think that constant
returns will not apply then one does not take average labour to 
be regulating - hence Ricardos rent theory.

> You are apparently understanding "social" here as a simple aggregate, as a
> set of factual data. Such a mass-aggregation of the social dimension to a
> set of data represents a crude ontology of the social dimension.

It may strike you as crude, but it does not strike me that way.
It is an approximation, a simplification, but unless one first
examines the simple case, one does not know how significant 
second order perturbations are going to be.
Can you give some reason other than personal preference why this

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