Re: [OPE-L] a paper on Marx's transformation problem and Ricardo's problem of an invariable measure of value

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Thu Aug 09 2007 - 11:58:02 EDT

> Can you explain what you mean here

In any system of measurement the standard unit is "irreducible" in the
sense that its measure in standard units is by definition 1 unit of
itself. E.g., The length of 1 metre is 1 metre. This property is
independent of how the standard unit is conventionally defined (say in
terms of the distance travelled by a photon in a given period of

A definition of labour-value is a method to measure the "difficulty of
production" of commodities in amounts of labour. We take a commodity
and look at all its physical inputs plus direct labour input. The
direct labour input contributes to its labour-value. We then look at
the physical inputs and their indirect labour inputs. The indirect
labour input also contributes to the labour-value. And we continue,
"vertically integrating", until all physical costs are reduced to a
single scalar measure of amounts of labour inputs.

But in this process of vertical integration we do not further reduce
direct labour to its physical inputs, namely the real wage, and then
additionally count the indirect labour costs embodied in the real
wage. Why? Because the standard unit is irreducible: 1 unit of direct
labour by definition is 1 unit of labour-value. The question, "What is
the labour-value of 1 unit of direct labour?", is equivalent to the
question, "What is the length of 1 metre in metres?" The process of
vertical integration stops at the point of reduction to quantities of
labour supplied. It makes no sense to further reduce.

This property of "irreducibility" holds for both the standard and
nonstandard definitions of labour-value. It is a necessary property of
any well-formed definition of labour-value. If we then interpret the
series representation of these definitions in terms of a dated
representation it entails that workers do not consume the real wage
during the process of replacement.

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