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

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Mon Aug 20 2007 - 16:54:19 EDT

> This statement conveys the same «dichotomy» that we can find in Bendien,
> that is: a product has value (labour) because a human being produced it, but
> also because it is of value (usefulness). The subject theory of value
> surpasses this dichotomy integrating coherently both sides of the
> phenomenon.

I'm not sure you are well-versed in Marx's law of value, which does
integrate the causal relationship between labour-embodied and
labour-commanded, and overcomes the so-called dichotomy. Rubin is very
clear on this (see his "Essays on Marx's Theory of Value"). But also
Marx in this respect is not that novel, and follows in the tradition
of Smith and Ricardo, who pretty much accept that markets reallocate
social labour to different tasks in order to meet changing social
demand. But I do not understand why you think such commonplaces are an
argument against a LTV.

There is a long tradition in Marxist value theory that emphasizes the
relationship between exchange-value and use-value.

> But this isn't the only leak of labour value theory. All you
> know very well the exceptions that labour value has to do to integrate
> coherently the valuation of none-reproducible goods (natural resources) and
> one-shot-labour-goods like a van Gogh or a Reverón (known Venezuelan
> painter).

Both Ricardo and Marx excluded non-reproducibles from their scheme. I
take a slightly different view: a symptom of non-reproducibility is a
persistent mismatch between the labour-embodied in a commodity and the
labour-commanded by it. But this does not invalidate a LTV. As I
mentioned previously such mismatches are in general an essential
feature of the law of value.

However, I am not an expert on Marx's theory of rent, so others may
have something to say at this point.

In the case of a van Gogh it is simply impossible that its price can
ever coincide with its labour cost since more cannot be made (c.f. my
earlier description of the classical gravitation process toward
natural prices). So what happens in practice? Social labour is
allocated to producing facsimiles, posters, arranging exhibitions etc.
in order to meet the demand.

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