Re: [OPE-L:8609] From Ian Wright on Weeks and Simple Commodity Production

From: Ian Wright (ian_paul_wright@HOTMAIL.COM)
Date: Mon May 19 2003 - 04:58:47 EDT

Hello Rakesh,

Thank you kindly for all the very interesting information re: historical

There's just two quick points I'd like to make, which may clarify matters.

>But that would put restrictions on the adjustment of supply;
>commodities could thus exchange above value.

I think one confusion between us is that whenever I consider that the law of
operates, this need not imply that commodities exchange at value, only
that there is a dynamic at work that makes values attractors for prices. For
example, gravitational attraction is a real and existing mechanism, but is
always manifest: birds fly, books stay on shelves, and so on. The fact that
most objects perhaps most of the time don't crash into the earth doesn't
invalidate the law of gravity. In fact, the law of gravity is one
explanation for
the need for wings and bookshelves. Analogously, the existence of the law
of value in pre-capitalist formations may help explain various
reactions to it (e.g., to hinder it, to further it along etc.). This remains
abstract of course, because I don't have the historical knowledge. But I
can provide sufficient conditions for the operation of the law of value,
can contribute to decisions about whether certain societies instantiated it.
Those conditions may not have been satisifed prior to capitalism, as you
argue. But considerations based only on deviation of prices from values
decide it.

>Yes, this is what I don't see. Once partial independence is allowed,
>the rational strategy would seem to be first self provisioning of
>subsistence and then marketing surpluses only; those surpluses need
>not be sold at value in order to ensure the reproduction of the
>production unit.

I think the confusion here is that "partial independence" need not imply
there is the opportunity for full subsistence independence. If there
is full subsistence independence, then we're back to the Weeks case:
entirely self-sufficient producers with no need to enter into exchange
relations. We agree that if those that produce surplus do not need to
enter into the social division of labour then the law of value will not
operate (for them at least). There must be some depedence on the
work of others.

The way to go forward with this would be to examine a particular historical
case in some detail. I'm not suggesting that we necessarily do that
(we are all time-limited and have our own interests), but methodologically
that would be the next thing to do.


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