(OPE-L) RE: the intellectual origins of 'simple commodity production' ?

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Sep 07 2004 - 15:15:53 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <andromeda246@hetnet.nl>
Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 1:57 PM
Subject: Re: (OPE-L) the intellectual origins of 'simple commodity
production' ('einfache Warren-produktion'] ?

To my knowledge, Marx did not explicitly use the term "simple commodity
production" (although one time I thought I found a locus in one of his
German texts, I cannot find it back again right now), and the term, as a
technical expression for a specific production circuit was first used by

Marx generally talks about the simple exchange of commodities, or simple
circulation, and one of his criticisms of the political economists was that
they did not appropriately distinguish between simple commodity exchange and
capitalist commodity exchange. In fact, as a Hamburg Marxian scholar
(Girschner) pointed out to me, Ricardo's theory of foreign trade is really
based on the idea of simple exchange.

The more substantive point is that Engels never intended to suggest there
had existed a society wholly and exclusively based on simple commodity
production. He merely refers to the historical origins and growth of
commercial trade, such as it develops within precapitalist societies, and
consequently the formation of (new) markets.

What Engels wants to argue is that the law of value, according to which the
relative exchange-values of traded labour-products are regulated by the
average labour-time currently necessary to produce them, existed from the
very beginnings of trade in labour-products. For those labour-products to be
traded, they had to be produced first, therefore simple commodity production
initially occurred. If the operation of the law of value in pre-capitalist
trade was denied, Marx's value theory and theory of market formation would
become incoherent, since in that case the law of value would have just
fallen out of the air one fine day, which is hardly credible.

The growth of market economy then means that more and more both the inputs
and the outputs of production are traded commodities, but of course
"production of commodities only by means of commodities" usually requires
the existence of money and monetary valuations.

When the latter occurs, Engels argues, then the law of value undergoes a
new modification (acquires a new form of expression) since what regulates
production of output in that case is production prices, i.e. the regulating
norm is the cost-price plus an average profit established through
competition, which expresses itself as a given cost-structure of production
and a given range of market prices for outputs.


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