From: ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Sun Jun 10 2007 - 11:58:39 EDT
Anders, you wrote: > 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! I disagree. Marx's main concern regarding the ``reduction problem'' is the qualitative dimension. He starts with the observation that on the market, all commodities are equated to each other. He assumes that this is not a social fiction, i.e., not something made up in the circulation process, but that the commodities indeed have something equal inside them. Therefore Marx systematically looks for this equal substance in the commodities. First he rules out use-value or any physical properties of the products. Instead he says that this equal substance comes from the labor producing the commodities. Secondly he says: labors themselves are not equal either. But there is one aspect which all labor processes share, namely, they are the expenditure of human labor-power. This leads to the distinction between "concrete" and "abstract" labor. Thirdly, he argues: strictly speaking, human labor-powers are not equal either. They are qualitatively different. But by treating different commodities as equals, society acts as if all labor-powers were homogeneous and had at most quantitative differences. In some instances, the qualitative differences in labor-powers can indeed be reduced to quantitative differences: when the differences are due to different times spent for acquiring the skills. But obviously this does not exhaust all qualitative differences between labor-powers. Here, the market activity does not quite fit together with the nature of the production process which it regulates. But the fit is close enough that the whole system works anyway. Think of it this way: if all laborers were identical twins or clones of each other, then the equation of all commodities on the market were truly justified by the nature of the underlying production process. Real-life laborers are not identical twins, but they are still similar enough to each other that the market-regulated production can maintain itself. What does this qualitative way of looking at things give us? It tells us where the action is, i.e., where the sources of value and surplus-value are located. They are not located in the market, they are also not located in the use-values, they are also not located in the skills of the laborers, but they are located in the simple labor which every laborer can perform. This predicts for instance that capitalism can do without monopolies, therefore anti-trust laws are compatible with capitalism. I predicts that use-values often are quite shoddy (planned obsolescence), that the labor process is made monotonous and boring and the skills are withheld from the laborer, that working hours are long and the level of education is low, that getting an education is not a protection from exploitation. I would argue that the haphazard way of shoe-horning qualitative into quantiative differences of labor-power is also empirically confirmed by the notorious difficulty to predict wage differences by either the character of the work performed or the qualifications of the laborers (just ask any labor economist). Hans.
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