Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Apr 11 2005 - 17:10:38 EDT

At 1:37 PM -0700 4/11/05, Ian Wright wrote:
>  >  The issue of who produces value is at the one level definitional.
>>   Marx defines value as abstract social human labour time. One could
>>  alternatively
>>   define it in some way to include the labour of robots.
>We as theorists may be able to define value how we like, but the
>question I am interested in is what money objectively
>measures/controls, irrespective of what we may think.  A thermostat
>objectively controls the temperature of a room and has internal
>representations that both represent the ambient temperature and
>represent the absence of an ambient temperature (the desired
>temperature setting). We cannot arbitrarily say that the position of a
>bi-metallic strip in a thermostat represents, say, the number of
>people in the room. Capitalism is also a kind of control system,
>implemented in the actions of people, that has its own representation,
>that is value, with its own semantics. So the issue of who or what
>produces surplus-value cannot be definitional: there are right or
>wrong, true or false answers to the question, depending on what the
>capitalist system in reality does. Marx defines value as abstract
>social labour-time, but as far as I understand it he tries to give
>theoretical reasons why value necessarily must be that, and nothing

And some of those theoretical reasons are given in the famous letter
to Kugelmann--every child knows. What I find missing in the
conversation is the ontological commitment implicit in that letter.
It seems tome that primacy is given not to the individual but to the
quasi organism of social labor certain forms of which allow for the
development of what have become valued individual capacities. The
individual is thus the result of social development. Which is not to
question its importance. The development of this very social product
could indeed be the very reason for socialism.

I think Shaikh has begun a truly excellent analysis of this idea of
social labor in his short note on abstract and concrete labor in the
new Palgrave Marxian economics, but there is a lot more to be said.

And to say more Marxists will have to turn to anthropology and
history, I think. Not simply the exegesis of Marx's texts.


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