Re: [OPE-L] Abstraction

From: Michael Perelman (michael@ECST.CSUCHICO.EDU)
Date: Wed Jun 13 2007 - 12:11:04 EDT

Paul, if you are talking about how to organize an economy you are right; as for value 
theory, I cannot see what you mean.

On Wed, Jun 13, 2007 at 10:12:24AM +0100, Paul Cockshott wrote:
> Michael
> -------
> 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.  How many
> hours of abstract labor does a surgeon represent.  Can 20 or 50 unskilled labor
> perform the same procedure? 
> --------------
> Paul C
> I think Hilferdings approach does give a handle on this.
> Suppose the National Health Service wants to increase the output of knee operations,
> and suppose ( unlike what happened a couple of years ago ) that it can not rely
> upon bringing in Surgeons from other countries to do it.
> The knee operations require the input of surgical staff - not just the surgeon
> but a whole team of personnel.  The operations also involve materials - gas,
> dressings, sterile instruments. To maintain all of this requires the expenditure
> of past labour and present labour. The present labour is simply the time of
> the team, the past labour involves the time to prepare the materials, plus
> the time taken - over and above normal education - that the team have to spend
> aquiring the skills.
> Thus manpower planning is required if the number of operations is to be
> increased - new medical school buildings have to be opened up, additional
> training staff hired etc.
> Currently all of this is costed in  but this is just a historically specific
> feature - because this directly social need is being met by the NHS within the
> context of a capitalist economy. In a fully socialised economy one could calculate
> it all in labour time not money - the labour time spent training, the labour time
> required to build the medical schools etc.
> What one has to do is look at the total direct and indirect social time that has to
> be allocated to ensure that the operations can take place. 
> The idea that it is some special property of the labour of surgeons that creates
> additional value is fetishism - a projection of this larger social division of labour
> onto the activity of one individual.

Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 530-898-5321
E-Mail michael at

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