[OPE-L:8541] Re: 'Simulating the Law of Value' by Ian Wright

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Mar 03 2003 - 13:15:42 EST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ian Wright" <ian_paul_wright@hotmail.com>
Cc: <wright@ikuni.com>
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2003 12:55 PM
Subject: Re: 'Simulating the Law of Value' by Ian Wright

Dear Jerry,

Thank you for taking an interest in my paper.

> how can the abstraction of a simple commodity economy
> tell us anything of significance about the _dynamics_ of a _capitalist_
> economy?

The short answer is that simple models can provide theoretical foundations
for more complex models.  I think this is sufficient justification for
studying the simple commodity  economy (SCE), particularly  as the model
I outline has lots of interesting (dynamic) properties, such as  (i) a
spontaneous division of labour, (ii) the natural emergence of a monetary
expression of labour-time,  (iii) a very clear  role of deviations of price
from value in allocating social labour-time, and  (iv) a statistical 
equilibrium in which labour values and market prices coincide. All this  
occurs despite the fact  that economic actors are free to individually 
evaluate the monetary value of commodities as they see fit (within certain 
bounds). This simple model helps me understand more  complex models.

 The longer answer is sketched in the methodology section
of my paper (which I tried to keep short). Briefly, I
think that the collection of properties normally
associated with the SCE constitute an abstract
specification of a dynamic system that is active, albeit
modified and not necessarily manifest, in all commodity
economies, including capitalist economies. I believe the
dialectical concept of "abstract totality" may be
similar to this point of view. The SCE is potentially
significant for understanding a capitalist economy
because in some sense the SCE is present within
captialism. For example, gross properties of the SCE
such as: (i) a community of workers, (ii) production of
different reproducible commodities, (iii) consumption of
commodities, (iv) the use of money in market exchange,
(v) competition, and (vi) the ability of labour to
specialise in different kinds of work, are also
gross properties of capitalism. I would therefore expect
that a study of these properties alone will inform a
study of other systems that also have these properties.

 All this is separate from any historical considerations.
For example, capital and wage-labour may be historically
necessary for commodity production to dominate economic
relations, but commodity production itself, absent
capital, may be dynamically sufficient for the law of
value to emerge. I think this is an important point to
consider. It is the latter view that I lean towards.
However, it is possible that the "law of value" I
discuss in the context of the SCE is a different "law of
value" to that which obtains under conditions of capital
and wage-labour. I think this unlikely, but possible.
However, I believe I've shown that the law of value,
understood as the tendency for prices to correspond to
their labour values, can be shown to manifest absent
wage-labour and capital under the assumptions of the

 I hope this answers your question.


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