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

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Feb 23 2007 - 10:03:35 EST

> I think that we have to proceed in steps in the analysis 
> of prices. Before dealing with the price of non-
> produced commodities, we have to look at the general 
> case: reproducible goods. 

Hi Diego:

I agree, but what are the steps?   More particularly, what is the first step?

One might think that the first step is the analysis of the commodity and
that one then proceeds step-by-step until one has comprehended the
subject matter (capitalism) as a totality.  

For Marx this 'last step'  in the *reconstruction of the subject matter in 
thought* was to be the world market:

"...the world market, the conclusion, in which production is posited
as a totality together with all its moments, but within which, at the same
time, all contradictions come into play.  The world market, then, again,
forms the presupposition of the whole as well as its substratum. Crises
are then the general intimation which points beyond the presupposition,
and the urge which drives towards the new historic form." (_Grundrisse_, 
Penguin ed., pp. 227-28)

The first step, then, was NOT the analysis of the commodity. The first
step (*following the research phase*, which included a review of the 
relevant literature, historical studies, statistics et al)  was to identify 
logically an *order* in which the subject matter could be reconstructed
in thought.  That first step, then, was revealed when Marx stated 
repeatedly the order in which he would present the matter.  In other
words, the first step was the 6-book-plan!  

What this means is that one has to grasp at least in the most general 
and abstract way the order of  all of the different steps related to (in this case) 
price before one begins the *presentation* of the analysis with an 
examination of the commodity.  Marx, I think, had a pretty good idea of 
what these steps were and how it "all fit together", but do we? 
Instead of proceeding as Marx did, I think instead we often proceed 
as if the order of presentation represents the real order in which
the subject needs to be grasped.  We should not confuse the order
of analysis with the order of presentation.

> There is no doubt that Iraqi antiquities were part of the 
> surplus-labour realized at the moment, not of present 
> surplus-value. But again, before considering the relation 
> between the capitalist mode of production and other 
> modes of production, we  should analyse the former in 
> its purity (this applies also to the Inuits). 

If you are saying that in terms of the *order of  presentation* we must
first consider the subject matter "in its pure form", then I agree.
But, we must not forget that the subject matter isn't a product of
thought, but a real product of history.  Part of the real process of
capitalist history has been to have a valuation of products created
in pre-capitalist history.   My point is simply that this must mean,
*more concretely*, that total value can NOT equal total price.  This 
should be grasped at least in a general way even before one presents 
the subject of  the commodity-form, even though one doesn't present 
it at that time.  In other words, it forms a presupposition (both
historically and in thought)  of the presentation of the commodity-form.

>  As for the tigers they are the result of a production 
> process and so a normal commodity. It is true that 
> tigers are part of  Nature but not more than minerals or 
> oil.

No.  An explanation for the price at which tigers are sold on the 
market requires a comprehension of the role of the *State*.
Remember that it is illegal to hunt and sell tigers and that the
hunting is done on publicly-owned reserves.  This creates a
black market for tigers and the additional risk associated with
tiger-hunting (i.e. the risk of being caught, fined and/or imprisoned)
is considered in price determination.  If the market price of tigers 
equalled value [as conventionally understood by Marxians] 
then it's doubtful that there would be tiger hunting to begin with.

[Another difference is that tigers, unlike oil, are capable of 

> I think that most cases you cite are examples of the 
> non-freely-reproducible goods of which Ricardo 
> already spoke, to  which does not apply the main norm 
> of the LTV, because their price is determined by 
> demand. In conventional terms, their
> supply is a vertical line, so the price can be any 
> depending on the intensity of demand.

I agree that the examples do not apply to the main norm
of the LTV.  That was my point in a sense.  Rather than
simply saying, though, that these "special cases" are 
determined by demand, we have to consider on a more 
concrete level the impact on the aggregate level of the 
"deviations" from the norm that happen on the "micro" level.  
Simply relying on conventional analysis of S and D is not 

In solidarity, Jerry

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