Re: value and labour

From: clyder@GN.APC.ORG
Date: Fri May 16 2003 - 10:32:21 EDT

Mensaje citado por Andrew Brown <Andrew@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK>:

> Hi,
> A minor and dull point and then a major and interesting point:
> (1) You are invalidly mixing practical with theoretical notions of
> generality and simplicity. Of course, in practice, there is not a
> money commodity and even when there was we still only required
> any old unit of account. And, yes, no doubt exchange relations
> between bundles of commodities are interesting in practice. But in
> theory we gain nothing by starting off thinking about exchange
> relationships between vectors, and we do not even have to
> introduce money at all. This because the key conceptual issue is
> that of commensurability for which the practical considerations you
> make are, initially, irrelevant. This has nothing to do with barter. It
> has to do with focusing upon the most important (most abstract
> and simple) categories of capitalism before moving on to more
> concret and complex ones.
> (2) So, then, to the key point. You state:
> > The logic of the exchange process enforces the existence
> > of a conserved scalar field. I agree that labour values
> > act as an attractor to this field. I have never done the
> > experiments to see if "standard commodity content" for example
> > might also act as an attractor.
> >
> This is an interesting way of looking at it. You talk of a 'existence
> of a conserved scalar field'. I think this is a *pressupposition* that
> you have made. I think it needs justification.

I justify it in the paper Values Law Values Metric, which
is available on the web page

The exposition involves a number of diagrams so
I will not attempt to include it in this mail.

> In fact I think it is
> senseless until we state what constitutes the 'field'.

The existence of the field can be deduced from the metric
space imposed by commodity exchange itself. Whether the
field is induced by labour is an empirical question. I think
empirical studies have established that it is, but at
least in principle, as scientists we have to allow that
it might be some other input to production - say energy
that induced the field.

> Indeed I am
> arguing that the only thing that can possibliy constitute it is
> abstract labour. Let be more precise: I do not think I would it is a
> 'field' at all; it is a substance. This takes us into the metaphysics of
> the (highly contested) notion of 'field', on which, I supsect,
> materialist dialectics has rather alot to say.

The concept of a field is well defined in math as a space with an
associated value at each point, One usually assumes a vector space
and a vector value, but the extension to other spaces and non vector
values is fairly conventional.

I am not aware of any materialist dialectical criticism of this, if
you want to critique it you are setting yourself against science since

>(It also raises the
> notion of 'substance' of course)
> > What I am saying is that incomesurablity is not absolute. Measuring
> > with weight with an approximate kilo gives an answer that is not
> > identical with the use of the standard kilo in Paris, but what one is
> > concerned with is the error bounds. Mass is defined in terms of the
> > standard kilo, all other kilo weights are distinct and only
> > approximate it. Measurement theorists dont like this, but it is a
> > workable arrangement.
> >
> > A small change in the commodity bundle of the standard commodity is
> > analogous.
> Now, perhaps, you can see what I am getting at, and where we
> disagree? You are presuming, at least from my point of view, that
> *something* is being measured. You have called it a field. In your
> analogy it is mass.

If one is looking for an analogy I would chose energy, whose existence
we deduce from an exchange relation between forms of movement.

> I am saying that we must first establish *what*
> is being measured. What is the equivalent of notion in economics
> to the notion of 'mass' in physics? We cannot just say 'it is a field',
> it is a 'something' and then get on with it.

Why not, one can deduce the existence of the field
from observables, just as one can deduce the existence
of energy from observables.

There exists a scalar field of abstract exchange value, there
exist various other fields implied by the structure of prodution:
the field of labour contents, of oil contents, steel contents etc.
Which of these induces the exchange value field can only be
established by empirical tests.

> Until we have established
> what the thing is, economics, Sraffian or otherwise, remains
> entirely senseless, irrational, meaningless, without foundation,
> hocus pocus...
> Marx agonised over and then refuted Bailey's argument that no
> substance underlies exchange value at all. You seem to me to be
> somewhere between Bailey and Marx. On the one hand you say
> there is a 'third thing', with Marx. On the other, you simply call it a
> 'field', which I think simply begs the questions of what the 'third
> thing' is, and, without an answer to this question, ends up sliding
> back to Bailey's point of view.

I dont think I am adopting Baileys point of view, though I think
the value form people are. Have a look at the paper I cited and
see what you think.

> In any case, our ultimately very different respective versions of
> materialism are beginning to surface, in a very interesting way.
> Many thanks,
> Andy

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