Re: Is value labour?

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@T-ONLINE.DE)
Date: Thu May 08 2003 - 11:57:45 EDT

Cologne 08-May-2003

clyder@GN.APC.ORG schrieb  Wed, 7 May 2003 23:38:30 +0100:

> Quoting Paul Zarembka <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>:
> > Alfredo,
> >
> > Are you arguing that Marx's 'value' is therefore different than Ricardo's
> > 'value' and, if so [if not different, I wouldn't understand your point],
> > how different?  It is one thing to mention that Ricardo speaks from a
> > trans-historical position but not Marx, it is another to demonstrate how
> > 'value' is thus affected.
> >
> Ricardo opens his chapter on value thus:
> "The value of a commodity, or the quantity of any other
> commodity for which it will exchange, depends on the relative
> quantity of labour which is necessary for its production, and not
> on the greater or less compensation which is paid for that
> labour."
>     "It has been observed by Adam Smith, that 'the word Value has
> two different meanings, and sometimes expresses the utility of
> some particular object, and sometimes the power of purchasing
> other goods which the possession of that object conveys. The one
> may be called value in use; the other value in exchange."

It is interesting to observe that Adam Smith was himself "observing" Aristotle,
namely Pol. 1257a5ff "With every article of property there is a twofold use
(_dittae hae chraesis_) for it ... Take for example a shoe--there is its wearing
as a shoe and there is its use in exchange".

> Marx differentiates between value and exchange value:
> "I rather say that exchange-values (exchange-value, without at least two of
> them, does not exist) represent something common to them, which “is quite
> independent of their use-values” //i.e. here their natural form//,
> namely “value.” This is what I write: “Therefore, the common substance that
> manifests itself in the exchange-relation of exchange-value of commodities, is
> their value." ( notes on Wagner)
> The point is that for Marx, exchange value is form of representation
> of something prior to exchange, that thing is value - the normal
> amount of labour that an article costs to produce. As a form of representation
> exchange value has the potential to be noisy, it can be a degraded
> representation of value disturbed by adventitious market conditions.

Cf. Adam Smith: "The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to
the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. What
every thing is really worth to the man who has acquired it, and who wants to
dispose of it or exchange it for something else, is the toil and trouble which it
can save to himself, and which it can impose upon other people." (The Wealth of
Nations Bk. I Ch. V p. 33f)

Notice the change of perspective: Labour is a price paid to get some useful thing,
not a substance inhering in a useful thing. One pays the price of "toil and
trouble" to get something which is in itself valuable because it is useful. And,
conversely, if one has already acquired wealth consisting of valuable useful
things, one can get others -- in exchange --  to labour on one's behalf to make or
do other useful things. According to Adam Smith, things are only worth the "toil
and trouble" of acquiring them if they are valuable in themselves for some use or
other ("necessaries and conveniencies of life"). Otherwise, why would one bother?

The value of things in themselves is their usefulness for human living in some way
or another, and this must be prior to a price of "toil and trouble" paid to get
them. That is, according to this insight of Adam Smith's, use-value is (logically)
prior to labour-price.

In this very first conception of "labour value" there is no suggestion of equal
amounts of labour changing hands. Rather, the insight is into a relation between
labour and use-value.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ _-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

> > Paul
> >
> > --On Wednesday, May 07, 2003 9:45 AM -0400 Asfilho@AOL.COM wrote:
> >
> > > The trouble with such Ricardian views as "value is labour" is that they
> > > take for granted the existence of exchange, prices and commodities. That
> > > commodities are worth more because they embody more labour begs the
> > > questions of *why there are commodities at all*, and *why it is a
> > > relevant abstraction to assume, at certain stages in the analysis, that
> > > commodities exchange at their labour time of production*.

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