Re: [OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels.

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Aug 09 2007 - 15:27:11 EDT

Yes, Fred this is obviously right, but it would still be interesting to know what calculations Rodbertus was 
proposing to deal with this problem.

Paul Cockshott

-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L on behalf of Fred Moseley
Sent: Thu 8/9/2007 5:04 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels.
What Engels is saying here is that ACTUAL MARKET PRICES are not and
cannot be determined by labor-times.  Labor-times determine EQUILIBRIUM
PRICES, not actual market prices (equilibrium prices are also of course
affected by the equalization of profit rates, but Engels is abstracting
from that here).  This is a critique of the "labor-chit" schemes of
Rodbertus, Bray, Gray, etc., which tried to dictate that actual market
prices be determined by labor-times.  Engels is arguing that the
divergence of market prices from equilibrium prices is the way in which
labor is regulated in a commodity economy, and the way in which
misallocations of labor are corrected.  If this means of regulating
labor were eliminated (as it would be in the "labor-chit" schemes),
then there would be no way to regulate labor, correct misallocations,

Marx made the same argument in many places (Poverty of Philosophy, the
opening chapter of the Grundrisse, the Contribution).

This argument does not call into question the labor theory of value in
any way.  Indeed, it is based on the labor theory of value.  But
labor-times determine equilibrium prices, not actual market prices.


Quoting Alejandro Agafonow <alejandro_agafonow@YAHOO.ES>:

> Dear Friends:
> I would like your advice concerning a startling -for a non-Marxist
> socialist like me- quotation from Frederick Engels, The Poverty of
> Philosophy, Preface to the First German Edition.
> []
> He seems to reject what has come to be the standard account of
> Marxism, including Engels himself.
> Alejandro Agafonow
> «[.] continual deviations of the prices of commodities from their
> values are the necessary condition in and through which the value of
> the commodities as such can come into existence. Only through the
> fluctuations of competition, and consequently of commodity prices,
> does the law of value of commodity production assert itself and the
> determination of the value of the commodity by the socially necessary
> labour time become a reality. [.] To desire, in a society of
> producers who exchange their commodities, to establish the
> determination of value by labour time, by forbidding competition to
> establish this determination of value through pressure on prices in
> the only way it can be established, is therefore merely to prove
> that, at least in this sphere, one has adopted the usual utopian
> disdain of economic laws. [.] competition, by bringing into operation
> the law of value of commodity production in a society of producers
> who exchange their commodities,
> precisely thereby brings about the only organisation and arrangement
> of social production which is possible in the circumstances. Only
> through the undervaluation or overvaluation of products is it
> forcibly brought home to the individual commodity producers what
> society requires or does not require and in what amounts. But it is
> precisely this sole regulator that the utopia advocated by Rodbertus
> among others wishes to abolish. And if we then ask what guarantee we
> have that necessary quantity and not more of each product will be
> produced, that we shall not go hungry in regard to corn and meat
> while we are choked in beet sugar and drowned in potato spirit, that
> we shall not lack trousers to cover our nakedness while trouser
> buttons flood us by the million -Rodbertus triumphantly shows us his
> splendid calculation, according to which the correct certificate has
> been handed out for every superfluous pound of sugar, for every
> unsold barrel of spirit, for
> every unusable trouser button, a calculation which "works out"
> exactly, and according to which "all claims will be satisfied and the
> liquidation correctly brought about".»
> «If he had investigated by what means and how labour creates value
> and therefore also determines and measures it, he would have arrived
> at socially necessary labour, necessary for the individual product,
> both in relation to other products of the same kind and also in
> relation to society's total demand. He would thereby have been
> confronted with the question as to how the adjustment of the
> production of separate commodity producers to the total social demand
> takes place, and his whole utopia would thereby have been made
> impossible. This time he preferred in fact to "make an abstraction",
> namely of precisely that which mattered.»
> ____________________________________________________________________________________
> Sé un Mejor Amante del Cine
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