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

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Mon Feb 26 2007 - 12:19:59 EST

Hi Ajit

> In any case, If you put rate of profit equal to zero, then
> Sraffa's prices (dated labor or simultaneous equations
> alike) will be exactly equal to Marx's labor values
> and there will be a commodity residue.

As an aside, for historical accuracy we should really write "Marxian"
labour values, because Marx never once wrote down the standard formula
for labour values found in static equilibrium critiques of his theory.

> How do you
> calculate labor values? Let's say it takes 5 units of
> corn plus 5 hours of labor to produce 1 unit of iron.
> The labor value of iron will be 5 hours of labor plus
> you go to the corn sector and see how much of direct
> labor and the constant capital elements for corn is
> taken to produce 5 units of corn. You add this live
> labor to your 5 hours and then go into the sectors of
> constant capital used in production of corn. Collect
> the live labor needed to produce the amount of
> constant capital elements used in producing 5 units of
> corn. Add those live labors to your collection of
> labor hours and then again go in to the sectors that
> produced the constant capital elements of the constant
> capital elements of corn and collect the live labor
> elements from there and add them to your labor hour
> collection. This way you keep going back and back and
> the amount of constant capital elements keep becoming
> smaller and smaller. When they become so small as to
> be negligible,i.e; their limit tends to zero, then
> your live labor hour collection gives you exactly the
> same measure of labor value as simultaneous equations
> would.

My only point is that this cannot be a real historical process, but
only a hypothetical one. The 'dates' are not real dates, the
'successive periods of production' did not actually occur.

> If my memory serves me right, Morishima's
> method becomes relevant in joint production cases--as
> you must know, in cases of joint production you cannot
> always determine labor-value of a commodity. Cheers,

Morishima introduces labour values as employment multipliers before he
discusses joint production. In the input-output literature, deriving
from Leontief, the standard formula for labour values (which as you
note is equivalent to setting r=0 and dividing by w in Sraffa's dated
representation) is used to rank sectors according to how much
additional total direct and indirect employment an expansion of that
sector may engender. No mention is normally made of Marx's theory of
value. Input-output theorists also make use of "total employment
multipliers" which augment the technical matrix by household
consumption, which they interpret to include the "induced" effects of
sector expansion due to additional direct and indirect household

I am wondering why the "dated" interpretation of the standard formula
for labour values is preferred over the "employment multiplier"
interpretation, and what are the relations between them.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Feb 28 2007 - 00:00:08 EST