Re: value and labour

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Tue May 13 2003 - 06:15:17 EDT


This relates to our previous exchange regarding the nature or
substance of value. You suggested the standard commodity was a
contender for this position.

The problem I have is that in comparing the standard commodity of
two different systems you are not really comparing like with like. In
each respective system the exchange value expressed in terms of
the standard commodity is an index for exchange value as such, or
exchangability, where the quantity of exchagability of a particular
good can only be defined by the whole vector of exchange values of
that particular good, i.e one car = 2 standard commodities = three
televisions = 10 computers =.....

In different systems there are different sets of goods, so in general,
exchange value is incommensurable between systems. The whole
gamut of conlusions reached in Sraffian economics are thereby
conditional upon how the above issue is resolved.

As I recall I thought our subsequent exchange made clear you had
in mind the standard commodity as an index of productive capacity
or some such. Is this so? If so then it raises questions about the
meaning of such an index, and how this is captured by the
standard commodity. Can productive capacity meaningfully be
reduced to a single dimension? Probably we then end up with
'energy', or 'abstract labour' as a meaningful variable in this context.

Could you clarify?


Date sent:              Tue, 13 May 2003 10:53:31 +0100
Send reply to:          OPE-L <OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU>
From:                   Paul Cockshott <wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK>
Organization:           University of Glasgow
Subject:                Re: value and labour
To:                     OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU

> Andrew Brown wrote:
> >
> > Ajit has also argued (not on OPE-L though) that Sraffian theory is
> > fundamentally limited due to the fact that any two Sraffian systems
> > are incommensurable. The difference between the two systems need
> > only be the presence of a commodity in one system but not in the
> > other, that is enough to disallow any comparison of value betwen the
> > two. No doubt I have Ajit's argument wrong, but the above argument
> > regarding commensurability is what I think, at least. Such
> > incommensurability severely limits Sraffian economics in two
> > respects: at a more abstract level, the nature of value is
> > presupposed but not elaborated upon; at a more concrete level, it is
> > difficult to work out how Sraffian analysis can be developed to
> > enable concrete explanation.
> I think this overstates the incomessurability. I am pretty confident
> that if someone chose to work on it, you could establish approximate
> metrics relating closely similar i/o matrices. One would proceed by a
> process of aggregation forming composite commodities until one had a
> one to one mapping between outputs of the two tables.
>  --
> Paul Cockshott
> Dept Computing Science
> University of Glasgow
> 0141 330 3125

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