Re: [OPE-L] [On Fred's and your posts

From: fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU
Date: Sat Jul 21 2007 - 11:08:30 EDT

Quoting cmgermer@UFPR.BR:

>> Fred:  My question about this argument is the following:  it seems
>> to be based on the assumption of “simple commodity production” (in
>> which each
>> worker owns her own means of production).  If so, then to what extent
>> does it remain valid for capitalist society?  What do you think?
> Claus:
> Rakesh sent me a post making what seems to me to be the same question:
> This is a very important point, and I don’t have the whole explanation.
> However, in my opinion the following are some of the elements of the
> explanation:
> The law of value arises out of the contradiction between the division of
> labour and the absence of a social plan for the distribution of labour and
> of the products of labour among the individual producers. What I
> understand as the law of value, as I said in my previous post, is the need
> for the exchange of commodities to be based on the exchange of equal
> amounts of labor: the use-value which each individual offers to the
> society mus be the product of the same amount of labor contained in the
> use-values he/she receives from the society in exchange.
> Since the capitalist economy is a commodity producing economy, the law of
> value must of necessity remain valid, because the contradiction mentioned
> above remains as well. The individual producers are in this case the
> capitalist units of production, each one comprising a number of workers
> and say one capitalist, and the basic exchange is among those units of
> production, divided into the exchange among the workers and the exchange
> among the capitalists. The basic point is that the reproduction of the
> society is now dependent on the requirements for the reproduction of the
> capitalist units of production. But in the absence of a social plan for
> the distribution of labour and of the products of labour, the exchange
> among the capitalist units of production must follow the law of value.
> If there were not the capitalists, the exchange among the units of
> production would follow the law of value to its whole extent. The
> existence of the capitalists requires the units of production to produce a
> surplus in relation to the needs of their workers, which requires the
> workers to work a surplus time. But a surplus product will only exist if
> the reproduction of the workers follows the law of value, i.e., if the
> exchange among them is based on the exchange of equal SNLTs. In other
> words, the workers cannot get more from the social product than what is
> necessary for the reproduction of their labour power. The exchange among
> them is mediated by the exchange among the capitalist units of production.

What are the equal SNLTs that are being exchanged?  Does this mean that
the workers’s means of subsistence should exchange at their values?
But they don’t.  So what does it mean?

I would say that surplus-value (not the surplus product) exists only if
the money value produced by workers is greater than money wages they
are paid, which does not require that equal SNLT’s be exchanged.

> Thus, social labour is split into two parts, one being the labour
> necessary to reproduce the labor power, the other being surplus labour, to
> which corresponds a surplus product. The value of the surplus product is
> subject to the law of value, because its global value corresponds to the
> surplus labour.

Exactly how do you define “necessary labor”?  As the labor-time
required to produce the means of subsistence or the labor-time required
to produce money value = money wages?  I think it is the latter (i.e.
NLT = money wage / MELT), which does not require that equal SNLT’s be

I took another look at Rubin, and I think he does a pretty good job of
extending the “necessity of the regulation of social labor” argument to
the case of capitalism.  His argument briefly summarized:

1.  The regulation of labor in capitalism is more complicated than in a
simple commodity economy.  Labor in capitalism is regulated through the
regulation of capital.

2.  The regulation of capital is governed by equal rates of profit,
rather than by equal SNLTs.

3.  This gives rise to a new law of exchange:  prices of production.

4.  However, prices of production must ultimately be based on SNLTs,
because this is the (more complicated) mechanism through labor is
regulated in capitalism.

I think this is a good argument for the plausibility of the LTV, but I
still don’t think this is a logical proof.  I think the ultimate
validity of the law of value depends on its explanatory power, as
demonstrated by the rest of the theory.

I will be out of town for the next week, and may not have much access
to email.


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