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

From: cmgermer@UFPR.BR
Date: Sun Aug 05 2007 - 22:04:48 EDT

thank you for your answer to my previous post. I'm sorry for answering
with such a delay.

> 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’m attempting to follow the logical grounding of Marx’s theory of value.
Since the exchange is based on equal (average, i.e., socially necessary)
labour times, as a condition for the normal reproduction of the producers
of the units of production, it seems obvious that in a capitalist society,
where the agents of the exchange are the capitalist units of production,
the exchange among them would have to follow the same principle. But in
fact it doesn’t have to do it to the whole extent, because only one part
of its production is strictly linked to the reproduction of the direct
producers, which is the part needed for the reproduction of the workers.
Thus, one part of the production has to be exchanged for the means of
subsistence required by its workers, both containing the same amount of
labour time, irrespective of their prices. The regulation of prices cannot
lead to a different rule of exchange. The other part of the production
(representing the surplus time), which corresponds to surplus value, is
more than enough for the reproduction of the capitalists. Thus, it can be
redistributed according to a different rule, without challenging the
reproduction of the capitalists. The different rule is the equalization of
the rates of profit instead of labour times.

At the empirical level, since the prices of production fluctuate around
the values of the commodities, and since a worker consumes a great
diversity of commodities, isn’t it reasonable to expect that the price of
production of labour power must be close to its value? If it were not so,
wouldn’t the sum of the profits be different from the sum of the

> 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.

I think I don’t understand the logic of what you are saying. There cannot
be a surplus value without a surplus product. Imo the reasoning would have
to be the opposite: the money value produced by workers will be greater
than the money wages they are paid only if they work a surplus-time
producing a correspondent surplus-product. And it requires that the social
labour times contained in the commodities exchanged be greater than the
SNLT necessary for the normal reproduction of the workers.

>> 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.

Necessary labor time is the labor-time required to produce the means of
subsistence. Its expression in value is the amount of the money commodity
produced in the same labor-time. This is imo the theoretical definition.
It seems to me that money wage / MELT is a way of approximately
calculating the NLT in a given concrete situation, where we cannot know
directly the actual NLT. The NLT is the sum of the individual times
(SNLTs) for the production of the means of subsistence. Thus, NLT is the
SNLT of the commodity labor power.

> 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
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