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

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Thu Feb 22 2007 - 12:25:29 EST

Hi Ajit

Welcome back. Thanks for your comments on the history of this concept.

> In any case Marx accused Adam
> Smith for maintaining the proposition that at some
> stage labor alone produces somethig--i.e. there was no
> commodity residual. According to Marx this had to be
> the case for his additive theory of value to be
> meaningful. I'm not sympathetic to Marx's reading of
> Smith on this point, but I think Sraffa is more
> sympathetic.

Considering the simpler case of simple commodity production, Sraffa's
`reduction to dated quantities of labour' formula (with r=0) does
entirely eliminate the commodity residual. This is nonsense if
interpreted as describing an actual historical process. But useful,
however, when viewed as a hypothetical interpretation of an
instantaneous property of technology field (just like the definition
of the potential energy of a point in an electric field).

As an alternative, Morishima interprets labour-values as employment
multipliers, i.e. how much direct and indirect employment is generated
by a unit increase in output of a given commodity. But the concept of
employment multipliers is similarly counterfactual in its own way, but
I'd be interested to know if anyone has thought much about this
interpretation, or worked with it.

> Keep in mind that if there is no
> commodity residual, that is if commodity could be
> produced solely by labor, then the maximum rate of
> profits would become infinite. You must have a
> commodity residual to have an upper bound on the
> maximum rate of profits. Now I think I have confused
> Ian more than he was before--but I have tried to
> clarify a point in my own humdrum manner.

I think we discussed this issue before. You could try again if you
feel that I missed your point.

Best wishes,

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