Re: value and labour

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Mon May 19 2003 - 12:43:05 EDT


You wrote:

> 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
> Maxwell.

I had in mind the notion in physics of a 'field' of potential. Like
'energy' and 'force' this notion raises many philosophical issues
(see below). Regarding your exposition of the notion of 'field' that
you are employing, any definition in purely mathematical terms is
necessarily incomplete. My question is: what quality is involved? I
am pointing out that some quality must be involved; to talk of a
field, as you have defined that notion above, pressupposes a
quality whose quantity is denoted by the values to which you refer
(i.e. the values associated with the space constituting the 'field').

> > 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.

Certainly, we can deduce the specific presence of energy from
specific movements. But we can only do this given the general
concept of energy as such. The concept and use of the term
'energy' as such is emphatically not a simple deduction from forms
of movement. It is a very difficult notion registering the unity of the
very diverse things of the universe. It is a task of philosophy to
elucidate the meaning of the term 'energy'. Physicists, and indeed
everyone else, can and do use the term without having to worry
about its philosophical aspects.

> > 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.

Your analogy does not seem to work. Deducing the existence of
'energy' entails deducing the quality that is being measured (viz.
qualitative characteristics of energy). It entails answering the
question I keep posing. Deducing the 'existence' of a 'field' does not
answer the question. It begs the question: what quality is involved?

> 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.

A 'scalar field of *exchange* value'??? Not value? Now you seem to
be saying that there is a field of exchange value, *and* a field of
value. For me, 'exchange value' must be the form, and the external
measure, of something else, some quality being measured.
Without this then 'exchange value' at best refers to
'exchangeability', something that can only be measured, in general,
by a vector of all exchange values for a particular commodity, and
which therefore is, in general, incommensurable between different
economies (and different points in time of the same economy).

Could you clarify your position in light of the above?

Many thanks,


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