Re: (OPE-L) Re: value, money, and the exchange of equivalents

From: Phil Dunn (pscumnud@DIRCON.CO.UK)
Date: Tue Dec 02 2003 - 18:44:50 EST

Hi Jerry

>Hi again Phil. We don't seem to be approaching agreement,
>but some important  issues have been raised in this thread.
>>  At the point in CI where Marx talks about the quantitative
>>  incongruity of price and magnitude of value as inherent in the price
>>  form itself, he has made a decision to abandon the universal
>>  equivalent in favour of a deterministic theory of value.  It is a
>>  self-inflicted injury.
>I think, rather, that Marx understood that had he maintained
>the assumption that all commodities exchange at their value then
>he would be committing an 'injury' to reconstructing capitalism
>in thought.    One has to recall that at the time that he wrote
>Volume 1,  he had a pretty good idea of how what he wrote in
>that volume would fit in with the rest of _Capital_ (and, I
>believe, the other 5 books in the 6-book-plan as well). E.g.
>he already had an understanding of the systematic character
>of price-value deviations at the time he wrote Part 1 of Volume 1.
>In making the _assumption_ that commodities exchange at their
>value, he already comprehended the analytical requirement to
>modify the presentation at a more concrete level of abstraction.
>At that more concrete level (capitalist production as a whole or
>'capital in general') it is no longer the case that all commodities
>exchange at their value.  Does this then mean that he has given
>up on the concept of  equivalent exchange?  I think he would say,
>'no'.  The reason is that _if_ there is an equality between the sum
>of values and the sum of prices of production, then there is
>(exclusding rent) equivalent exchange at the aggregate level.
>>  If prices of individual commodities are not necessarily equal to
>>  their value then where is the equivalence?
>See above.
>>  I rather think that the volume I analysis, as a whole, depends on
>>  equal exchange.
>I think rather that the analysis of the subject matter requires that
>non-equivalent exchange enter into the presentation.
>Does his Volume I analysis depend on equal exchange?  Well,
>let's see.  The theory of surplus value, which Marx viewed as one
>of his most important "discoveries"  in political economy,
>was presented under the assumption of equivalent exchange (i.e.
>commodities are assumed to sell at their value, including the
>commodity labour-power).  This assumption was made even
>though Marx understood that wages could be reduced below
>their value (indeed, in the drafts for what became Volume III
>he noted that this "is one of the most important factors in
>stemming the tendency for the rate of profit to fall" -- Penguin ed.,
>p. 342).  In moving from first assuming equivalent exchange to
>then dropping (or, more accurately, modifying) that assumption
>at a later stage in the presentation he was simply following the
>method of abstraction which had been employed (in somewhat
>different ways) in German philosophy and English political economy.
>There was also an important political point that he wanted to
>make, I believe.  He wanted to show that even in the absence of
>'cheating', i.e. even when workers received wages equal to the
>value of labour-power, that they were exploited by capital. This
>was, in part, an answer to Proudhon.  He wanted to show that
>exploitation was inherent in the class relation between capitalists
>and wage-workers and was not a matter of some 'bad', 'greedy'
>capitalists under-paying workers.  This was an important point to
>make since otherwise one might come to a reformist conclusion: i.e.
>that reforms were needed to prevent unscrupulous capitalists from
>exploiting workers and to ensure that workers received a 'fair'
>In solidarity, Jerry

It is worth pointing out the difference equal exchange makes.  With
equal exchange it is impossible for the "value of labor-power" to
fall below or rise above the value of money wages.  In the "New
Interpretation" the value of labor-power is equal to nominal wages
times the absolute value of money.  I would modify this to say that
the labor-power value of the producer commodity is equal to nominal
wages times the real value of money but that is not the issue here:
there is equal exchange anyway.   Further, in the non-dualist strand,
the value of constant capital is equal to the dollars paid for it
divided by the MELT or multiplied by the value of money: equal
exchange again.

One further step.  Treat commodity capital in the same way as
constant capital: take the value of commodity capital as equal to the
dollars it sells for times the value of money.

Now the universal equivalent is fully reinstated.


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