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

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Jul 10 2007 - 19:02:31 EDT

My point has nothing to do with "unequal exchange"
etc. When you say "10A exchange for 5B" there is no problem. But you are
mistaken in jumping from here to a mathematical equation such as: 10A =
5B. There is nothing in the exchange that tells you that you could put
two bunch of commodities as "equal".

Depends how abstract your algebraic concept of an equality or
equivalence operation is.
I would argue that if an operation induces a relation that is reflexive
, symmetric and transitive,
Which the exchange relation is, then it is an equivalence operation.

This is pretty standard abstract algebra

-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of ajit sinha
Sent: 10 July 2007 17:41
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Ajit Sinha and embodied labour/indirect labour

Right now I find myself more busy than I have ever
been in my life, so I'm afraid my answers to your
comments would have to be cryptic.

--- Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@TISCALI.NL> wrote:

> 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 never claim to any profundity or originality. It is
for others to decide. I just do my work as well as I

> 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?
I don't even know what "value-ontology" means? So how
can I believe that it is mistaken or not?
> 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.
When you write a journal article, you have to assume
that there are certain terms and concepts there is a
shared understanding of. You cannot go on "definig"
every term or concepts in your paper. It is well known
that Marx and even classical economists calculated the
labor-value on the basis of prevalent techniques and
not the techniques actually used to produce fixed
capital elements if there has been change of
technology in the meanwhile.
> 2) Dated labour - not exactly the same as embodied
> labour, I know (have to
> check Sraffa on this)
Please do.
> 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.
I didn't know that I had any model in my paper. I have
a feeling that you don't have a good understanding of
the terms and conditions of the theoretical
problematic of value and that's why you are unable to
understand my arguments.
> 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.
You say, "Products have values, but not prices, if
they are not being offered for sale." Then the product
is not a "commodity" and therefore has no "value" in
Marx's theory. If a product is produced for sale,
i.e., it is a commodity then it has value. If a part
of this product is utilised by the firm which produces
it, then it amounts to self-buying and its value is
the same as it is for others. Same is true for

> 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)?
How can I talk for Marx? But the fact of the matter is
that he didn't know how to get to prices or surplus
without going through labor-values. He died before
Sraffa was even born! Secondly, he might have thought
he was proving exploitation in a system based on
equality through labor-values. The question is whether
he succeeded in it or not. May be it will be of some
help if you take a look at my 'A Critique of Part One
of Capital Vol. 1: The Value Controversy Revisited' in
Research in Ploitical Economy vol. 15, 1996.
> 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).
My point on page 178 is only to show that a particular
and popular interpretation of Marx's famous letter to
Kugelmann of 11 July 1868 simply turns the concept of
value into an incoherent idea.
> 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.
My point has nothing to do with "unequal exchange"
etc. When you say "10A exchange for 5B" there is no
problem. But you are mistaken in jumping from here to
a mathematical equation such as: 10A = 5B. There is
nothing in the exchange that tells you that you could
put two bunch of commodities as "equal".
> 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.
Well, you will have to read my published and
forthcoming works to understand how do I understand
the 'theoretical problem of value'. I cannot tell you
here on internet.
> 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?
I don't think I understand you.
> 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.
Again, I'm not sure if I understand you. Cheers, ajit
> Jurriaan

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