Re: [OPE-L] workers' consumption and capitalists' consumption

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Jun 17 2006 - 14:32:26 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
>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?

 From this error, Marx argued, followed Ricardo's inability to
understand money and the
real contradiction between value and riches.

Also followed was Ricardo's conflation of fixed/circulating capital
with constant and
variable capital.

>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.


>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.

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