Re: [OPE-L] The roots of value theory

From: Diego Guerrero (diego.guerrero@CPS.UCM.ES)
Date: Mon Mar 05 2007 - 10:18:42 EST

Hi, Jurrian,

Thanks for your long message. I agree with almost everything you write and
believe you have explained the matter very well. But let me comment only a
few things.

You wrote:

> What IS problematic is if we start to think an ideal price is the same as
> a
> real price or vice versa. Just as Hegel fell into the illusion of
> objective
> idealism, we can also fall into the illusion of believing that our model
> of
> prices is more real, that the prices it seeks to depict. Concepts and
> language are fine, so long as we do not confuse them with what
> they try to represent.

I think this is crucial. Value relations and price relations are equally
real. But the conceptual values and prices we need to deal with them are not
real in the same sense. As shown in my paper's table, even _individual_
values and prices are _theoretical_ or _ideal_ values and prices.
On the other hand, it should be clear that I understand that a _statistical_
price (in the sense it represents the fact that you call _the price of milk
last year was..._) is as real as the price I paid yesterday evening in
Madrid's Carrefour nš 23.


> Consequently Marx's value and value relations are useless in
> ordinary accounting practice. Yet value theory is essential and
> presupposed
> (1) not only to be able to group, relate and aggregate those things that
> you
> can measure, but also (2) to explain the relative movements and mutual
> adjustments in labour-time, money-prices and trading ratios across an
> interval of time.

I agree


> What Marx often does, especially in his drafts, is simply to assign a
> number
> to express a quantity of value. This causes a lot of confusion, precisely
> because strictly speaking you cannot do that; as I just said, "value" in
> Marx's own theory can in reality only be (observably) expressed and
> measured
> in the three ways I mention. He resorts to this abstract quantitative
> procedure only to illustrate theoretically what he thinks the important
> proportions and relationships are. If this is understood, there is nothing
> particularly wrong with it; conventional economists constantly try to
> relate
> real prices and ideal prices anyway (and not infrequently confuse them).
> As
> I have also said, it is absolutely impossible to "prove a concept of value
> is correct", it remains an interpretation. It can be "proved" only in the
> sense of its predictive, explanatory or heuristic power.


I agree with all


> Marx sought to theorise the transformation of commodity values into prices
> of production within capitalism dialectically, as a "moving
> contradiction":
> namely, in capitalism, the value of a commodity output produced
> encompassed
> both the equivalent of the cost of the used inputs which were initially
> bought to produce it, taken as a given datum, as well as a gross profit
> component (surplus value) which became definite and manifest only after
> the
> commodity has been sold and paid for, and after costs were deducted from
> sales.


Do you agree with me in the following?
If one follows Marx in believing that labour is behind prices, critics of
this idea cannot criticize this _doubly_ so to say. They can say: _this is
not true_, or _you haven't proved that_, but they cannot add, as if it were
a contradiction for a supporter of the LTV, that one cannot think of the
value-equivalent of the price of an input without damaging the LTV.

I think that those who believe that values cannot be explained in relation
with prices, as if in doing so one risked to let the purity of values being
_contaminated_ with the impurity of prices, are wrong. I have no idea about
physics, but coudn't we say that the rain-water is partially explained by
the existence of clouds, even if the clouds themselves can be explained by
the existence of water?


> Best regards
> Jurriaan


Best regards,

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