From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sun Jul 22 2007 - 11:05:01 EDT
Hi Claus, I wanted to add to the comments I've just made to Fred some comments on your posts to him. I think he is right to say generally that capitalist production does not require that there be an exchange of equal SNLTs in the labor market exchange between labor and capital. You write: "What I understand as the law of value . . . 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 must be the product of the same amount of labor contained in the use values he/she receives from the society in exchange." You then go on to explain that for capitalist production the individual units are capitalist firms. But you then argue that within capitalist firms "the workers cannot get more from their social product than what is necessary for the reproduction of their labour power." This last point doesn't follow. Nor actually does the "must" in the first sentence quoted -- that is too strong. The problem I think is similar to the point I responded to in my recent post to Fred -- I wonder if you are getting to the causal ground of explanation. You seem to be making the exchange of equal quantities of labor the ultimately decisive thing. But this is consequent, and as a result, tendential. The operative causal structure is independent producers who produce use values they do not need. That sets in motion exchange. The question then is what is the ratio in which goods exchange. They tend to exchange for equal amounts of objectified labor, but there is no 'must' about it. So too for the market exchange that takes place in the sale of labor power for a wage -- what has to happen (this is a 'must'!), as Fred argued, is that the use value given up creates more value than the value given as a wage, but there is nothing ultimately regulative about labor getting in exchange an exact equivalent for what was given. What is really interesting about your exchange with Fred and Rakesh is the way the problem presented forces a recognition that two distinct things are going on; two distinct things are, as Rakesh says, "intrinsic to the structure." We have had a hard time seeing this in recent years because Value Form Theory has made those two things, value and capital, one. But if we look at the causal structures that must ultimately ground explanation, there are TWO causal structures and they are different in KIND. Everything depends on being clear on the difference. Marx's effort to define capital was different from his effort to define value. In each case he identified a different constitutive structure of social labor. Now the constitutive structure of capital presupposes the constitutive structure that gives rise to the commodity form. So this offers an answer to Fred's question: "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?" In order to answer that question we have to stop thinking of modes of production and think instead of causal structures of social life. Independent producers producing products that are useless to them -- whether the entity of production be an individual peasant or a plantation dependent on some form of servitude or an artisanal shop or a capitalist firm -- individual producers engaged in producing products useless to them is a way of identifying a causal structure that accounts for the commodity form of the product of labor. It remains 100% valid for capitalist society where all products take the commodity form. It does not mean there is a simple commodity mode of production operating in capitalist society. It means there is a causal relation of independent productive entities operating. The consequence of that causal relation is that since all products must exchange, and do, they can be treated as an aggregate of whatever it is that renders them commensurable. The thing that renders them commensurable has got to be something that causally regulates the ratios in which they exchange. Plainly that they all exist under the stars doesn't. Needs also won't work because needs are not commensurable. What about labor? As you argue we need a mechanism for distributing labor to need anyway if society is going to reproduce itself; could that regulate the ratio in which goods exchange? But private labors also are not commensurable. There would have to be a causal mechanism that would render those private labors commensurable. Is there such a mechanism? What about about competition operating through the random collisions of exchange that takes place in the market? Marx argues competition works in such a way that each individual product, regardless of the amount of concrete labor devoted to it, comes to represent a determined portion of the aggregate. The implications of distinguishing the constitutive structures of the commodity and capital are profound I think. Thanks, Howard ----- Original Message ----- From: <fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU> To: <OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU> Sent: Saturday, July 21, 2007 11:08 AM Subject: Re: [OPE-L] [On Fred's and your posts 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 exchanged. 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. Comradely, Fred ---------------------------------------------------------------- This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.
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