Re: value, labour and conservation laws

From: Ian Wright (ian_paul_wright@HOTMAIL.COM)
Date: Tue May 20 2003 - 23:56:35 EDT

Hello Andy and Paul,

I have been following your exchanges with a lot of interest, particularly
as they relate to the foundations of political economy. I would like
to try to summarise your positions, if only for my own clarification, and
then end with a question for Andy.

Andy believes it necessary that social labour is conserved in exchange,
whereas Paul believes it contingent. Hence, Paul considers it logically
possible that something other than social labour is conserved, and refers to
empirical studies that support the hypothesis that it is in fact labour
that is conserved. Andy, however, considers it logically impossible that
something other than social labour is conserved, which he deduces
from the observation that all commodities only have one property
in common, that of being products of social labour, plus the additional
materialist postulate that common powers (e.g., the ability to
exchange) must be explicable in terms of common properties. Hence:
all commodities have the power to exchange in virtue of their
shared property of being products of labour.

Basically, you both start with the same observation, that exchange is
a conservative operation, both end with the same result, that it
is social labour that is conserved, but differ in the deduction.

Normally it is a cause for celebration when differing methodologies
give the same answers. I'm therefore a bit non-plussed. My question
for Andy is: do you remain dissatisfied because you think that the
ontological status of social labour remains unclear or undefined in
Paul's presentation? If so, and assuming that for you its ontological
status is in fact clear, would you measure abstract labour in a different
manner to Paul? In other words, do these philosophical differences
result in practical differences?


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