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

From: Diego Guerrero (diego.guerrero@CPS.UCM.ES)
Date: Mon Mar 05 2007 - 13:16:33 EST

Hi, Ajit,

You wrote:

> What kind of argument is that? Are you saying that we
> are blind and you are blessed with exceptional eye
> sight? Actually, Marx was quite proude to proclaim
> that what he had found couldn't be found by just
> "looking at the real world"!


> is the connection you
> make? May be that a commodity is sold for $100
> because its price is $100?

Of course! Cheers, ajit sinha


I am not blessed at all. Moreover, I am myopic. However, on the subject of
theories of value, I can distinguish between clarity and obscurity. So I see
a group of people that are in search of clarity and at least three groups in
search of obscurity.

People who like clarity tend to think in this manner. If I enter a
restaurant's kitchen and see a set of physical things and relationships
between, say, eggs, oil, a pan, a cooker..., etc., but no people cooking,
and check that in these circumstances no omelette is being created from the
mere existence of eggs and all those things... If I repeat the same
operation one million times and no omelette can ever, ever be seen. If I see
later for the first time a person cooking the eggs and then it happens that
an omelette does appear..., then I tend to deduce from all this that this
person's work is the active explanation of the existence of the omelette. I
would tend to think that this person's labour may have something to do with
the price of the omelettes being actually sold in the restaurant's market.
Now, if I see once and again the same phenomenon in all firms--I mean
absolutely all firms--no matter how important and valuable are the physical
things that stand still each one in front of the others when no labour is
being made, and see that always-always--happens the same thing, I can deduce
that the use value and therefore the value of things created when labour
does intervene may be related with labour itself. Then I begin to think that
the labour theory of value is a reasonable theory, so that the price of the
product of all those processes might be explained in terms of those labour

People who like obscurity tend to think differently.

1. For instance, they belong to the species that having never seen anybody
cooking an egg from one or more omelettes or seen an egg being created from
an omelette without the intervention of labour either, say seriously that
the price of the egg can be explained in terms of omelettes on the same
basis as others say that it can be explained in terms of labour, and this
usually arguing that the case for this is just that they are able to do some
beautiful calculations beginning from omelettes and eggs. And when you reply
that, even if it is possible to say that other things enter directly OR
indirectly in the production of all commodities, the truth is that labour is
the ONLY ONE that enters directly AND indirectly in the production of all
commodities, they don't know what to say but still think they are right, and
then I begin to think that this theory is not reasonable at all.

2. Other people who like obscurity tend to think in another similarly
unreasonable way. They know that the LTV says that the only fact lying
behind all commodities (either goods or services) in absolutely all cases is
labour--and it is labour in a quantity than can be determined and measured
in hours--and then reply that commodities have another properties in common,
utility for example, but they don't ever say in what terms this property can
be quantified. After this, they say that their _utility_ theory is as
reasonable as the LTV, and I observe this behaviour and conclude this theory
is not a serious alternative to the LTV either.

3. And finally if I see people who say that prices are simply what they are
and don't need to be explained., because. if they have some precise
magnitude, they have that magnitude because they have that magnitude, then I
can see that they have no reasonable theory. because they don't have any
theory at all.

Therefore, as I observe that there are no alternatives to the LTV, I am
happy to have at least one theory that tries to approach reality, and I tend
to favour its hypothesis on these bases and defend it versus the theories
and not-theories of others who don't seek for clarity or propose serious

After all this, and only after this, I feel legitimate to say that, since
there is and I can see and compute a correspondence between the overall
quantity of new labour produced and the price of the whole mass of new
commodities produced, one can translate freely from quantities of labour to
quantities of money and vice versa. And it is only once I have checked that
the correspondence between both totals is 1:1 for example, that I dare to
say that _if a commodity is sold for $100, its value must be 100 hours of

As you have seen in several emails I have tried to explain my view. What
about yours? Don't say that this is not the matter. At least it matters to



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