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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Mar 05 2007 - 17:12:42 EST

>Do you want a proof? Please, don't go yet to your kitchen and don't cook:
>simply tell the physical elements you have in it to produce for you whatever
>you want, and let me see the results. Please feel free to tell them to use
>any element that can enter _indirectly_ in whatever you want they cook for

Given the all male nature of this list and the sexual division of
labor, I wouldn't be surprised if this proof fails.

I have tried to suggest a few times on this list that labor is active
in a way that raw materials, machines and draught animals are not. If
Marx cannot single out living or active social labor time, then his
theory of value would collapse. The attempt to single out living
labor in this way is dismissed as humanist bias by some as if the
organization of social  relations of living labor as a nature imposed
necessity was humanist rather than materialist through and through.

Raw materials, machines, draught animals do not even exist as factors
of production unless living social labor time has been allocated in
such a quantitative and qualitative way to make use of them as such.
And if commodity price did not remain a function of value,  a general
commodity society could not allocate its labor time so as to make use
of the inactive factors of production to reproduce itself.

That price remains a function of value is also underlined in
empirical (as opposed to simply logical) terms by the ability of the
labor theory of value to account for changes in exchange ratios over
time, that is as a dynamic theory not as a theory of the unreal world
of fixed technical conditions. Even a critic as Meghnad Desai
concedes that the labor theory of value does remarkably well as a
dynamic theory.

Marx was interested in the ideological reasons why this necessary
functional dependence of price upon value in a generalized commodity
society was not obvious and commonly accepted, and his primary answer
was not subjective class bias (that is, Aristotle's slave owning
biases or the promotion of neoclassical theory over the labor theory
of value as bourgeois propaganda, though see here Guy Routh's book)
but the objectively illusory nature of the market itself, as Paolo
Cipolla on this list, John Torrance, Derek Sayer and others have

The point is that Marx did not make his mark in proving the labor
theory of value but in explaining the sources of resistance to it
(and of course the dynamic macro economic consequences of it) . We
would be mislead if we thought that the most important reason for
rejection of the labor theory of value is the transformation problem
which only provides the scientistic language to reject a theory which
conflicts with some market phenomena and, and is dangerous
politically. That is, the labor theory of value is in fact rejected
for extra scientific reasons (it runs against some common sense, and
it's politically dangerous), but that rejection masks itself in the
scientistic language of linear production theory and tough guy

At any rate, I think Marx's argument for the labor theory of value is
logical deduction from obvious premises in much the same way as was
Darwin's logical hypothesis of natural selection, as first conceived
on the Beagle. This is obvious in the famous letter to Kugelmann.


ps Diego, still would like to hear your views on whether we should
historical costs in the denominator of the profit rate and the
replacement costs of constant capital in the numerator.


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