Re: [OPE-L] Abstraction

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Tue Jun 12 2007 - 22:15:53 EDT

Michael P writes:

>Marx says that commodities are commensurate in the market, but there
>is no way to
>get behind the market to get a handle on the abstract labor measures.

One does not have to get behind the market to get a handle on the
abstract labor measures because the measure exists only in and
through the market. Bohm Bawerk charges circularity. You seem to
agree!  Mark Blaug's main criticism too.  But Hilferding replies that
the movement of prices shows that this is just what is happening. For
example to the extent that it takes less special training for a
simple average laborer to become a qualified laborer and/or the more
productive becomes the qualified worker, the multiple will tend to
decline, ceteris paribus.

>  How many
>hours of abstract labor does a surgeon represent.

This is not a good example as surgery is not a reproducible
commodity; its supply is limited by the AMA.

>  Can 20 or 50 unskilled labor
>perform the same procedure?

No but with time and training an average laborer can herself or--
pending proper prenatal and perinatal care, social support and
educational opportunity--her child can become a surgeon, though our
billion dollar plus IQ industry seems bent on denying this
possibility and to that extent itself creating an obstacle, the
legitimation of the inequality created by accumulation interfering
with accumulation itself; at any rate, the the value of a surgery
would reflect the training time as well as related other incurred
labor costs. We are teachers here, I think we should insist on our
own importance.

Rubin (and by the way I do think we need an explanation for why
whatever little American Marxism there has been it has been
derivative of European ideas--Sweezy from the right wing Austro
Marxists, Mattick from Grossman; Hans who I don't think agrees with
you is I think German born) has an expansive definition of the sundry
compounded in qualified labour expenditure. I must re-read chapter.
Here it is

the labor expended in training the producers of a given profession
enters into the value of the product of qualified labor. But in
professions which differ in terms of higher qualifications and
greater complexity of labor, the training of laborers is usually
carried out by means of selection, from a larger number of the most
capable students. From among three individuals studying engineering,
perhaps only one graduates and achieves the goal. Thus, the
expenditure of the labor of three students, and the corresponding
increased expenditure of labor by the instructor, are required for
the preparation of one engineer. Thus the transfer of students to a
given profession,among whom only one third has a chance of reaching
the goal, takes place to a sufficient extent only if the increased
value of the products of the given profession can compensate the
unavoidable (and to some extent wasted) expenditures of labor. Other
conditions remaining equal, the average value of the product of one
hour of labor in professions where training requires expenditures of
labor by numerous competitors will be greater than the average value
of one hour of labor in professions in which these difficulties do
not exist. [15]

The objections of these critics can be reduced to two basic
propositions: 1) no matter how Marxists might explain the causes of
the high value of products of qualified labor, it remains a fact of
exchange that the products of unequal quantities of labor are
exchanged as equivalents, which contradicts the labor theory of
value; 2) Marxists cannot show the criterion or standard by which we
could equalize in advance a unit of qualified labor, for example one
hour of a jeweller's labor, with a determined number of units of
simple labor.
The first objection is based on the erroneous impression that the
labor theory of value makes the equality of commodities dependent
exclusively on the physiological equality of the labor expenditures
necessary for their production. With this interpretation of the labor
theory of value, one cannot deny the fact that one hour of the
jeweller's labor and four hours of the shoemaker's labor represent,
from a physiological point of view, unequal quantities of labor.
Every attempt to represent one hour of qualified labor as
physiologically condensed labor and equal, in terms of energy, to
several hours of simple labor, seems hopeless and methodologically
incorrect. Qualified labor is, in fact, condensed, multiplied,
potential labor; it is not physiologically, but socially condensed.
The labor theory of value does not affirm the physiological equality
but the social equalization of labor which, in turn, of course takes
place on the basis of properties which characterize labor from the
material-technical and physiological aspects (see the end of the
previous chapter).

>  --
>Michael Perelman
>Economics Department
>California State University
>Chico, CA 95929
>Tel. 530-898-5321
>E-Mail michael at

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