Date: Thu Mar 13 2003 - 21:45:57 EST
From: "Ian Wright" <email@example.com> After reading your posts I think there isn't really any disagreement, except perhaps on the weight you give to Weeks' example.I have not read Weeks, and therefore state the following based only upon what you've posted, but it seems that the example of production units that (i) are largely self-subsistent and (ii) sell only excess produce, is not an example of a simple commodity economy (and therefore you were correct to guess that I would not count it as such). The main reason is that these conditions fail Marx's criterion for "the exchange of the various commodities to cease being purely accidental or only occasional". (In fact, the law of value fails to emerge in my simulation if exchange is only occasional). Such units, being self-sufficient, do not need to enter into exhange relations with others. Bringing excess produce to the market is an unplanned, and therefore accidental, side-effect of their self-reproduction. Once at the market, the units are satisifed with any sale: there is no objective necessity for them to realise a particular price for their excess product, so in some sense they are disinterested in market outcomes: any income from sale is a non-essential "bonus". In this scenario, there aren't ubiquitous exchange relations and there isn't productive interdependence. In an economy of non-competitive, self-sufficient producers (as in Weeks' example) there is no systematic need for a market, and of course the law of value will not operate. He is therefore correct to deny that this kind of production would be regulated by a law of value (on the assumption that patriarchal agrarian households interact with the marketplace in the manner described). I think Marx would readily accept this conclusion because it fails at least one of his stated conditions. I think that the example of patriarchal agrarian households is pretty much irrelevant to determining whether the law of value ever operated in a direct and unmediated form as Engels suggested, and which I think this is your main concern here. It would be more productive to consider other pre-capitalist economic formations that do support specialisation, interdependence and continual exchange. The example of an economy of self-sufficient, accidental market participants is a red herring in this context. In the SCE, prices tend to correspond to values because mean incomes tend to equalise although products require unequal periods of time for their production. Hence, it seems reasonable to consider that any systematic income inequalities, such as may be due to the presence of an exploiting class, implies a deviation from a community of free commodity producers and hence the expression of the law of value is likely to be modified. Engels may have been rash in stating that prices correspond to values up to the 15th century due to the unmediated operation of the law of value, rather than simply stating that the law of value operated before capitalism. As an aside, I think it would be very interesting to analyse ancient city-state economies from this perspective. > >If so, this raises the question of whether it makes sense to >>speak of such specialization and interdepedence in the >>absence of social classes. I do have my doubts. I didn't understand this. There are many models that contain specialisation and interdependence without classes (e.g. Debreu's theory of value, Marx's discussion in Capital prior to the introduction of capitalists and workers, any organisational model of a firm etc.) I have every intention of studying models with classes, but you've got to start somewhere. All the best, -Ian.
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