[OPE-L] Ajit Sinha and embodied labour/indirect labour

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon Jul 09 2007 - 21:07:16 EDT

Well thanks Ajit for your clear opinions, I am just trying to figure out
what you really mean what you are driving at. It's not that I think I am
"completely incoherent", most people understand what I mean very well, it's
just that my interpretation is different from yours (as I said, I am not a
professional economist). I am trying to understand better how you see the
issues, whether you are really saying something profound, or whether you are
just reproducing old arguments (a lot of the points you make are not
original, but what matters is, what you actually infer from them).

I guess the big problem for me is, that your paper in Westra/Zuege as a
whole is a very cryptic summation, of a whole lot of research on the
quantitative implications of different ways of conceptualising Marx's claims
about the relationship between production and distribution under capitalist
conditions. It seems to me that you claim that Marx's value-ontology is
mistaken, because quantitatively it is not adequate to explain... what?

1) What do you mean by "embodied labour"? Have you defined/formalised this
in an article, or is it discussed in the archives somewhere? The biblio in
Westra/Zuege cites 11 publications by you, but some of these I cannot easily
get hold of.

2) Dated labour - not exactly the same as embodied labour, I know (have to
check Sraffa on this)

3) If values, prices of production and market prices can in reality deviate
from each other in any direction semi-autonomously from each other across
time, I think a lot of your models wil not work anymore since they assume
accounting identities to be able to establish a systematic relationship
between values and prices.

4) Products have values, but not prices, if they are not being offered for
sale. At any time, the majority of products and tangible assets in society
are not being traded. For example, means of production being used in
production have no actual price, and what their market price might be, at
any point in time, could only be estimated on the basis of what similar
goods currently trade for on average. That price would be an ideal price,
i.e. an assumed price, not a trading price.

5) The question is, why does Marx not talk simply only about prices? Why
does he utilise a series of "forms of value" (individual and social values,
exchange values, market values, production prices, market prices)? What is
you answer to that? In other words, what do you think the theoretical reason
is, why he doesn't simply talk about real prices and ideal prices, period
(since you can devise a concept of surplus and exploitation without any
reference to values)?

6) The two sector model, you discuss in chapter 10 of the Westra/Zuege book
("revisiting the theory of value"), p. 178. The idea seems to be that you
have two sectors each buying each others products, and then you aim to prove
that the exchange values realised by each cannnot match corresponding labour
values (?) You description is cryptic, and not easy for me to follow. If you
were more pedagogic in your publications, it might be easier to follow for
us "dummies" (but then again you might not want to write for dummies).

7) How can I say that 10A = 5B? In the first instance, simply because as a
matter of fact the trade occurs that way, these quantities equate in trade
that way, i.e. because 10A exchange for 5B. I am obviously aware that, for
all kinds of reasons, you can argue that this exchange equation does not
express an equal exchange - this would involve another valuation referent
(e.g. labour value), according to which the 10 units of A are in fact worth
more or less than the 5 units of B, even although the trading relationship
happens to be that 10A =5B. If you apply that referent, you can argue that
the exchange expresses an exchange of unequal values. But there is nothing
especially problematic about that notion, it's rather obvious.

8) How do you understand what the "theoretical problem of value" is - have
you stated this anywhere explicitly? (there are many different views on
this)? I.e., what do you think the main problem to explain is? It seems that
your reading of Marx is very much through the prism of Ricardo and Sraffa.
That is not bad, but it might affect how you frame what the problems are.

9) I don't think Marx is trying to prove that "the distribution of income is
independent of the doctrine of value", rather he is trying to show that the
mode of production determines the mode of distribution, and that they have
to be dealt with together in a unitary framework. Your argument seems to be
that he does not succeed in this, inter alia because his transformation
procedure doesn't work, but so what's new about that?

10) I'm not so sure about your interpretation that Marx believed that "the
equalisation of profit rates does not affect the distribution of value
between social classes". Your idea here seems to be that a given quantity of
surplus value gets produced, and it can thereafter only be redistributed
between capitalists.


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