From: ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Wed Jun 06 2007 - 09:07:01 EDT
Here is my attempt to translate the second paragraph from French to English. (It is MEGA II/7, p. 163). I am not very good at French, and I may have guessed wrong, but here it is: On the other hand, whenever the production of value is the issue, higher labor must always be reduced to average social labor, for instance one day of complicated labor to two days of simple labor. If the mainstream economists are full of indignation about this ``arbitrary assertion,'' isn't this an occasion to say, according to the German proverb, that the trees prevent them from seeing the forest! What they claim to be an artifact of the analysis is simply a procedure which is practiced every day in every corner of the world. Everywhere, the values of the most diverse commodities are indistinctly expressed in money, that means, in a certain amount of gold or silver. By this very act, the different kinds of labor represented in these values have been reduced in various proportions to determinate amounts of one and the same kind of social labor, the labor which produces gold and silver. Gold producing labor is not the same as simple labor. But Marx does not say here that all complicated labor is reduced to gold producing labor. He argues that in the production of commodities, the qualitative differences between concrete labors are reduced to mere quantitative differences in abstract labor, with simple abstract labor, as it is possessed by every worker in the given country, being the numeraire. In order to support his claim that such a reduction takes place, he shows that in circulation, all commodities are reduced to gold, therefore the labor in them is reduced to gold-producing labor. But this is in circulation, not in production; from the second peculiarity of the equivalent form we know that in circulation, ``concrete labor'' (i.e., the labor producing gold) ``becomes the form of manifestation of its opposite, abstract human labor.'' Therefore I don't consider the French text to be a change from the German or English, it just makes one argument in more detail than the German or English. BTW, there is a long and interesting footnote (just before the passage translated here) where Marx argues that the difference between skilled and unskilled labor is often based on tradition of other exterior influences. I think Marx is saying here that yes, a reduction takes place, but there is no general law governing how this reduction takes place. In some instances one can say that skilled labor is multiplied simple labor because of the training costs, but this does not cover all qualitative differences between labor powers. For instance because of the exhaustion of the labor force in general (due to excessive length of the workday) muscular bricklayers counted as higher labor than the much more skilled tailors. This is not the only place where Marx says that certain economic magnitudes are not governed by economic laws but depend on other circumstances, for instance, the force of the contending parties. Two other famous examples for this are, of course, the length of the workday and the interest rate. Hans.
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