Re: [OPE-L] questions on the interpretation of labour values

From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@WFU.EDU)
Date: Thu Feb 22 2007 - 00:03:05 EST

On Wed, 21 Feb 2007, Diego Guerrero wrote:

> In my opinion, values and market prices determine each other
> mutually. Values are created by labour but the value of a
> commodity includes the MARKET price of the inputs. As Rakesh
> said in his last message, Marx has been misread also in this
> point.

> I argue that the inputs have to be valued at market prices (m),
> not at values (w) or production prices (p)--I thus disagree with
> Alejandro Ramos and Fred Moseley too.

> One can find in Marx's texts a fondation for this. The reason is
> that he is (and we should be) interested in the process of
> creation of NEW values, and he says explicitly that for this we
> can and must abstract from the values that come from other
> places, like in the case of the chemist:
> <<The circumstance, however, that retorts and other vessels, are
> necessary to a chemical process, does not compel the chemist to
> notice them in the result of his analysis. If we look at the
> means of production, in their relation to the creation of value,
> and to the variation in the quantity of value, apart from
> anything else, they appear simply as the material in which
> labour-power, the value-creator, incorporates itself. Neither
> the nature, nor the value of this material is of any importance.
> The only requisite is that there be a sufficient supply to
> absorb the labour expended in the process of production. That
> supply once given, the material may rise or fall in value, or
> even be, as land and the sea, without any value in itself; but
> this will have no influence on the creation of value or on the
> variation in the quantity of value.>>

I don't think this quotation supports your interpretation.  At
this point in Volume I Marx is focusing in on the creation of new
value by living labour -- and he is putting off to a later point
the analysis of the "full" value of the product, including value
transferred from the means of production.  He's saying that
insofar as the means of labour are considered simply as means by
which living labour-time gets itself embodied in a product, their
own value doesn't matter.

Notice that in the next paragraph Marx continues,

"In the first place then we equate the constant capital to zero."

So the quotation could equally well be taken as saying we should
always value the non-labour inputs at zero, rather than always
valuing them at market prices, as you say.  But this clearly makes
no sense in the context of Marx's theory as a whole.

> I show in the paper that if we assume this, it is possible to
> keep all Marx's equalities: total prices = total values, total
> profitts = total surplus value, one single rate of profit and so
> on.

This is along the same lines as the TSS claims.  But of course it
is not difficult to satisfy all sorts of conditions simultaneously
if you grant yourself twice the degrees of freedom (e.g. by
treating input prices and output prices as independently variable

Allin Cottrell
Department of Economics
Wake Forest University, NC

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