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

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Apr 12 2005 - 08:12:51 EDT

I responded to this in the latter part of my  post.

Value is a theoretical object. We can construct definitions
of value as theoretical objects as we wish. If these definitions
are not the same, then clearly we have different theoretical objects.

Robot value and human labour value would be different theoretical
concepts. But to establish the notion of robot value as a theoretical
object you have to construct it. You have to say how you would assign
robot value to a produced commodity in a situation where there were
a plethora of automatic machines involved in production. These would
be of very varied types: self flying aircraft, automated trains, 
one armed Unimate type robots, Asimov type android robots etc.
Whose hours count in the formation of your value concept?

That is why the first step in discussing this has to be to establish
that you actually do have a theoretical object : robot value. If
you don't have this as a well defined concept there is nothing to 

Having established a theoretical object, there is then the question
of whether this theoretical object explains the behaviour of what
we observe in the price system. It can be shown for example that 
labour value does have relatively good explanatory powers, whereas
'energy value' has a much poorer explanatory power.

If you can define 'robot value' then you should be able to propose
tests to see if robot value is an effective predictor of prices.

-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Ian Wright
Sent: 11 April 2005 21:37
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

>  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
else. He didn't just say it was a useful working definition, which
we'll be happy with if it gives decent predictions.


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