Re: [OPE-L] Complex ... and the French edition of capital

From: Anders Ekeland (anders.ekeland@ONLINE.NO)
Date: Sat Jun 09 2007 - 06:48:17 EDT

Hi Hans,

the translation is good AFAICS, but your interpretation I find quite
strange and unconvincing; just to take one example:

- the whole point for Marx is that *all* types of complex labour
"must always be reduced average social labour through money (gold and silver).

- If Marx do not regard gold producing labour as simple here then he
has not answered how the reduction of various types of complex labour
are reduced to simple labour. The difficulty is not to say that
different labours can and must be equated - it is how to find the
coefficients which is the problem. Hic coefficientes hic salta!

Regrettably I cannot just now go into a detailed analysis of the
various passages where Marx treats this issue, but it seems to me
rather obvious that you cannot get one theory out of it. See my other
posting on this issue. The "process behind the producers back",
education costs, gold producing labour - you just cannot make one
coherent story out that.

If that was possible - great thinkers like Hilferding and Rosdolsky,
Rubin et. al would have shown the inner logic of such a solution - if
there was one. I cannot see this as making the same argument, just in
more detail, because the French version is not more detailed, it just
have another logic, an other focal point. Not educations costs, but
the gold producing labour which since Marx (mistakenly in my opinion)
believed was close to "directly social labour" - cr. Mandels article
in Freeman and Mandel, "Ricardo, Marx and Sraffa" "Gold, Money and
the Transformation Problem"


At 15:07 06.06.2007, you wrote:
>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.

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