From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sun Jun 18 2006 - 10:13:40 EDT
Allin wrote: >On Thu, 15 Jun 2006, Ian Wright wrote: > >>Why do you think labour-values should be independent of the >>real wage? > >"The value of a commodity, or the quantity of any other >commodity for which it will exchange, depends on the relative >quantity of labour which is necessary for its production, and >not on the greater or less compensation which is paid for that >labour." > >Thus Ricardo starts Chapter 1 of the Principles. > >But seriously, this is not a trivial question to answer. Marx >started from Ricardo's point of view, I think it's more accurate to say that Marx arrived at similar laws but on the basis of a radically different labor theory of value. The shared laws: 1. A working day of a given length always creates the same amount of value, no matter how much the productiveness of labor may vary. 2. Surplus value increases as the value of labor (power) diminishes. 3. An increase or diminution of surplus value is the result of, and never a cause of, a corresponding change in the magnitude of the value of labor power." From William J Blake and II Rubin on Marx's debt to Ricardo. As these laws make obvious, Marx and Ricardo cannot be assimilated to so called surplus use value economics, which sometimes go under the name neo Ricardianism. Yet Marx underlined that Ricardo's starting point is confused because he never clearly distinguished the labor which appears in the use value of the commodity from the labor which is expressed by means of the exchange of the commodity. Why did Marx consider Ricardo's starting point confused? Why did he put so much emphasis on the superiority of his dual conception of labor? I think the integrity of any interpretation of Capital rests on its understanding of Marx on this point. The fundamental point: Marx's discovery of the duality of labor presupposes and posits the critique of Robinisonades with which he began the Grundrisse. Marx's theory of value is social and objective. Ricardo's is not. Ricardo was a bourgeois economist subject to the Robinsonade illusions generated by the "free" marketplace, meaning specifically that he understood the market as the locus for free and fair individual transactions, so that the (objectified) labor that is exchanged is ultimately personal and individual, subject to social norms to ensure that the transactions are just. Yet this is still at heart subjective theory of value for the understanding of exchange among individuals, though Ricardo is less subjective than Smith who had people exchange equal subjective estimations of toil and trouble (Hilferding had some good points here). Marx on the other asks not only why did the division of labor arise but also whose labor is it that is divided. To the latter question Marx answered that it society's labor that is divided. So then we understand that while Smith and Ricardo argued that exchange of commodities is an exchange of equal quantities of labor, Marx analyzes the situation further to show that this labor is not personal or individual labor but a social substance, some abstract part of the labor at the disposal of a society. It is, in other words, society that has labor time at its disposal and that depends on social labor for its reproduction just as the individual depends on society for her consciousness, individuation and reproduction: the individual activity of every single person is only a mode of functioning of the species, and it is this social and abstractly general social labor time that is expressed by way of its products in the exchange relationship. It is only by recognizing this shared aspect of commodities, that they each represent some abstract part of the homogenous substance of general social labor, that we can understand how concretely incommensurable objectifications of concretely incommensurable kinds of labor can be commensurated (or what they are commensurated as), leading eventually to the externalization of this common aspect in money. Because he did not have the concept of abstract social labor Ricardo failed to grasp money and the value form in general. Why there could be a generalized panic for money, i.e. why selling may not be for purchase, had to escape him. He had no theory of the possibility of general crisis. That is, there is a straight line from Marx's critique of Ricardo's confusion about the labor that produces value to Marx's critique of Ricardo's partial glut theory. >and was troubled by the >discrepancy between labour-values, so defined, and prices of >production. He saw prices of production as a mechanism for the >redistribution of surplus value, and reckoned that this >redistribution left total price equal to the total of >labour-values, and total profit equal to total surplus value. >As we all know. But the math didn't work out that way -- as >again we all know. If the math is meant to correct for the error of having left the inputs in the form of values or simple prices, Marx did no such thing, and never said that he did any such thing. There is another problem. Marx's admission of error has simply been misread. Rakesh > >You're offering Marx a solution, but it's not at all clear it's >one he'd take. In the context of the present argument (simple >reproduction with a surplus that's consumed by the capitalists), >you're arguing (I think) that labour-values and prices of >production are _identical_ (even if organic compositions >differ). That obviously preserves Marx's two equalities, but at >too high a cost: the distinction between labour-values and >prices of production is effaced. Labour-values are no longer >"quantities of labour necessary for production", other than in >what I see as a tricksy sense. > >In fact, I see your analysis as back-handedly supporting Smith's >old argument: that the labour theory of value ceases to apply >with the emergence of profits on stock. With this twist: it's >not that prices cease to correspond to labour-values, but that >"labour-values" have to be redefined so that they no longer >correspond to the labour-times required to produce things -- >which latter quantities are left orphaned, without any valid >theoretical status ("Sraffian values", based on an accounting >error). Prices of production are "correct" and labour-values >have to be redefined to match. > >I want labour-values to be based on production technology and >direct labour-time requirements alone, as per the classics, and >to be independent of distributional variables. That way they're >(in principle) capable of explaining the pattern of commodity >exchange ratios in a particularly strong sense. A robust >materialist sense. Of course, it's an empirical matter whether >they actually do so. > >Allin.
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