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

From: Pen-L Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Fri Mar 16 2007 - 11:10:18 EDT

Quoting ajit sinha <sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM>:

> Fred:
> Yes, you can.  You can “get a money measure of
> constant capital”
> (and
> also variable capital) from EMPIRICAL OBSERVATIONS (as
> long-period
> averages).  Capitalists invest a certain quantity of
> money capital (M)
> in the sphere of circulation, prior to the production
> of output, to
> purcase means of production and labor-power.  This
> empirical quantity
> of money capital ALREADY EXISTS, prior to production,
> and therefore CAN
> BE TAKEN AS GIVEN AS SUCH in the determination of the
> total price of
> the output and the total surplus-value (which is the
> main goal of the
> theory), as explained below:
> _______________________
> Ajit:
> Fred, I gave you an example. The capitalist has 50
> pounds of silver, which empirically already exists,
> with which he goes to buy constant capital and
> variable capital in the sphere of circulation. The
> prices of y and z and the wages of labor-power already
> exists also. Who is denying that they don't exist. Now
> you tell me how is this capitalist investing this
> empirically existing money capital of 50 pounds of
> silver. That is the question. If capital letters could
> substitute for arguments then life would be much
> easier.

I don’t understand your question.  Do you mean HOW MUCH the capitalist
is investing?  The answer to HOW the capitalist is investing is obvious
– to purchase means of production and labor-power.  The answer to HOW
MUCH is – it is what it is, in the real capitalist economy, without
explanation at this point.  Whatever the capitalist invests, be it the
whole 50 pounds or some part of it, that is what is taken as given in
Marx’s theory.  The theory does not have to explain (at least not to
begin with) why this amount is 50 pounds or 47 pounds or whatever.  It
is what it is, as already spent, prior to the production of the output,
and taken as given as such.  The main question of Marx’s theory is:
how does the initial given M become (M + dM)?
> Fred:
> 1.  The given empirical M is divided into C + V.  C is
> the money
> capital advanced to purchase means of production, and
> V is the money
> capital advanced to purchase labor-power.
> ______________________
> Ajit:
> So why not just take my example and show me how is it
> done.
> __________________
> Fred:
> 2.  The given empirical C becomes one component of the
> total price of
> the output (i.e. C is “transferred” to the price of
> the output).
> ____________________
> Ajit:
> So, how much is C in the example I gave above?
> __________________
> Fred:
> The other component of the total price is the new
> value produced by current
> labor (see #3 below), so that:
>        P  =  C  +  N
> The given empirical C becomes the first component of
> the price of the
> output, no matter what determines the magnitude of C.
> It is not
> necessary to know the determination C in order for C
> to be the first
> component of P.
> ___________________
> Ajit:
> But as I have shown above, you will not know C unless
> you know P.

I guess you would also know the unit prices, but these would be
irrelevant data.  Unit prices play no role in Marx’s theory.

> You may differentiate P of inputs from P
> of outputs and claim that P of inputs are known. If
> you are doing that, then clarify your position.

Yes, I am definitely distinguishing between prices of inputs and prices
of outputs.  There is not simultaneous determination in Marx’s theory,
but rather sequential determination.  The prices of the inputs (total
prices, not unit prices) are taken as given in the determination of the
prices of the outputs (again total prices, not unit prices), and most
importantly in the determination of the total surplus-value.

> __________________________
> Fred:
> The first component of the total P is the actual
> empirical C (as indeed it is in reality), whatever the
> magnitude of C.
> _____________________
> Ajit:
> Since I'm getting tired of your "empirical C", I must
> ask you once again, what do you mean by "empirical C"?
> When I walk around Paris I don't ever come across the
> empirical C. So actually, it is somekind of data you
> must be getting from somewhere. Where are you getting
> this data from?

I have not saying that I have a data estimate for C.  I am saying that
C already exists, and is in principle observable, and that this already
existing C is taken as given, whatever it is, in the determination of
total value and total surplus-value.

> ____________________
> Fred:
> The first component of the total P is not a
> hypothetical quantity
> (equal to the labor-values of the means of production,
> as in the
> standard interpretation), because then the total P
> determined would be
> a hypothetical total P, not the actual total P, which
> the theory is
> intended to explain.
> 3.  N is determined by the product of SNLT (L) and the
> MELT (m), both
> of which are also taken as given:
>        N  =  m L
> ______________________
> Ajit:
> Who gave you m?

m in Capital is determined by the value of gold, which is taken as
given (it is equal to the inverse of the value of a unit of gold).
Without commodity money, the determination of m is more problematic.  I
have written about this issue, and also discussed it on OPEL, but I
would like to set this issue aside for now, and keep the focus on the
given C and V.

> I take that L is data. However, you
> should keep in mind that your SNLT (L) is not
> "empirically given". You will need to do a lot of
> maniulations of the labor employment data and make a
> lot of assumptions to arrive at your SNLT. But I let
> this SNLT pass for now.

L is abstract labor (SNLT) and therefore is not observable as such
(because of unequal skills and unequal intensities).  But it is assumed
to exist, even though not observable, and is assumed to determine N.

> Ajit:
>> Why do you
>> think Foley and Dumenil only took variable capital
>> given in terms of money and not the constant
> capital?
>> Because they knew that it would be fatal to their
>> whole argument. Cheers, ajit sinha
> Fred:
> Are you suggesting that it is OK to take money
> variable capital as
> given, but not OK to take money constant capital as
> given?  Why should
> there be a difference between C and V in this regard?
> ________________________
> Simple. Labor-power is one commodity, which has one
> price. Constant capital is made of millions of
> commodities, there is no one price of a commodity
> called "constant capital". Cheers, ajit sinha

I don’t see how this makes a difference.  Are you saying that it is OK
to take V as given because the price of one commodity is more easily
observable than many commodities?  Is it a matter of ease of
observation?  I don’t see why that should be an important theoretical

I argue that, even though C is very difficult to observe, it
nonetheless exists prior to production (just like V already exists),
and this already existing C is taken as given in the determination of
the total value and total surplus-value (as is the already existing V).


This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.

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