Re: [OPE-L] Salto mortale

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Mar 05 2007 - 17:33:28 EST

>Hi Jerry,
>You are right, I'll cut down and concentrate more on publishing a complete
>article. I'll just reply to a few points here.
>I believe there's ironclad proof that economic value does not necessarily
>imply exchange-value, and that exchange-value does not necessarily imply
>price. I have read enough about economic history and logic to incline me to
>that view.  Of course, you are right to say a commodity by definition has a
>use-value and an exchange-value, but we knew that already. As I said, in
>countertrade prices are not necessarily used for goods otherwise produced as
>commodities. Exchange-value need not necessarily imply value either, insofar
>as a non-produced good or unique artwork is traded, or more generally if no
>socially established value already exists prior to the exchange.
>The modalities of trade are very variegated in human history, and the trade
>in some goods is not easily captured by the generalisations of economic
>theory. It would be nice to think we could squeeze every instance of
>economic life into a complete and exhaustive categorisation of it, but that
>is more a technocratic fantasy than a real possibility. I've worked on
>national accounts statistics in the past, and it is wellknown among
>statisticians that some "boundary problems" always remain, and as a
>corollary you adopt some conventions to get around those difficulties.
>There is nothing particularly oppressive about economic value as such, what
>is oppressive is if objectified commercial values happen to conflict with
>social, human or personal values, i.e. if human activity is dominated or
>restricted by market forces beyond their control, in adverse ways. What you
>call the "value system" in reality is a highly contradictory system, which
>can offer people BOTH freedoms (for example the freedom to purchase and own
>your own yacht and its fittings, and sail it) AND oppression (for example,
>the exploitation and degradation of human work, or lack of money to satisfy
>even basic needs). Economists often talk about "the market" but in reality
>there are many different kinds of markets, some more beneficial than others,
>some more oppressive than others. To want to abolish markets when you lack a
>better allocation principle is obviously stupid, but it is just as stupid to
>insist on markets when a better allocation principle is available.

>There are of course plenty Marxists who act as though value (and the law of
>value) dropped out of the air one fine day, together with the capitalist
>mode of production. But most historians and anthropologists would dispute
>that. They would at least acknowledge that value has existed in all human
>societies, except that it takes different forms in different types of
>societies, featuring different trading and allocation principles. We cannot
>escape from the fact that human beings as moral subjects are for that reason
>valuing subjects, i.e. individuals who make valuations, and are affected by
>the valuations of others.

question is not oppression. If  communities are simply exchanging an
accidental surplus now and then, there is no reason that the
reproduction of the communities would be threatened if the prices of
these surplus goods were not a function of their respective values
and there may not be powerful tendencies pushing exchange ratios
towards value. However in a generalized commodity society the
economic reproduction of society would be threatened if price did not
remain a function of value. For this reason, Marx critiques Smith for
believing that the labor theory of value governed  economic relations
in every social form but the one in which the very reproduction of
society depended on the law of value holding. The law of value is
emergent once the reproduction of the social relations of labor is
mediated through commodities. Maybe you think that's a drop from the
sky but there are emergent forms and laws in history.

Quick response. Hope it is to the point.


>So long as people produce products with their labour-time, those products
>will have a value, and people will economise their use on that basis, but
>whether that value is expressed in use-value, exchange value, prices, or
>something else - and what regulates those valuations, obviously depends on
>the prevailing social and economic relations. The question Marx asked was,
>"how does it come about, that the producer and his/her labour get to be
>dominated and ruled by the exchange-value of their products?" and he makes
>the point that capitalism is the first type of economy in which commercial
>value pervades and dominates all of economic life.
>When I gave the example of the privatisation of forest, I was talking about
>exotic (i.e. plantation) forest. I worked in 1977 for the New Zealand Forest
>Service, and it was quite clear to me that it wasn't just a question of
>simply planting a few tree-shoots on a hillside, but of pruning the trees;
>scrubcutting; felling and sawing timber, and transporting it; building
>access roads; general forest management; surveying and security; disease,
>erosion, fire & pest control; etc. so believe me a large amount of labour
>actually went into producing this forest asset and its products, which
>therefore acquired value also in terms of labour costs. These costs are
>included in the valuation of forests, and the forests become like "farms".
>In the last decades, the valuation techniques used have become very
>sophisticated, and there are now some international norms for assessing the
>value of forests. I don't think Marx ever claimed that the pure law of value
>could operate in primary production, but he did envisage the
>industrialisation of primary production.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Mar 31 2007 - 01:00:12 EDT