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

From: cmgermer@UFPR.BR
Date: Thu Aug 23 2007 - 08:57:26 EDT

Hi Alejandro,
Thank you for your comments on my post. I feel I have not been able to
clearly present my interpretation of value and of the law of value, which
explains that you misunderstood me, as I attempt to show below.

> Dear Prof. Claus, Bullock and Bendien:
> If you equate «exchange value» with «self-interested production aimed by
> profit», then your intent to liquidate the law of value has sense, but I’m
> not sure you are meaning this. It seems to me that you equate «exchange
> value» with a social organization of production that allows social
> division of labour based on decentralization and pricing. If your
> liquidation of the law of value intends to erase decentralization and
> pricing, your model of socialism only could function with self-sufficient
> small production units –and its feasibility has a very limited sense.

I’m surprised that what I wrote led you to the impression that I intend to
liquidate the law of value. This is not the case and I suspect your
conclusion comes also from your interpretation of value as representing
labour in all forms of society, not only in capitalism, which is how I
interpret it. Is this the case? I ask you to look at my posts to Prof.
Bendien and to Ian for a better clarification of my interpretation.
I don’t equate exchange value with capitalism, but with a merchant
economy. Capitalism is of course a developed merchant economy, but
exchange value is its basis and an essential element of it, not a result
of it. Exchange value is an element and a result of the circulation of
commodities, it thus already exists in a simple commodity producing
I also don’t understand why you interpret me as suggesting a model of
socialism based on self-sufficient small units of production. This woul be
a complete nonsense imo. To make it clear: socialism can only be based on
the large-scale production provided by the development of capitalism.

My interpretation is in general similar in essence to Paul B’s. I will
quote one of his posts which represent my own point of view, since he is
obviously much more able than myself to express his thoughts, given my
difficulties in English:
“In a communist society the usefulness of labour, its employment will
depend directly on the needs of the masses. Its employment will not depend
on that particular use value that labour power presents to the capitalist,
the production of surplus value. The market mechanism would not exist.
Value as a social category will be superceded. The relative usefulness of
labour will be recognised directly for its beneficial results, not the
production of profit. Surplus labour time will be expressed not uniformly,
but in its diversity of real output, all appreciated for its own sake, its
contribution to the development of humanity beyond its 'pre-historical'

> Prof. Claus is right when he said that the acid test of value (use value)
> is the marketability of the product of labour: «If the product of labor is
> unable to be sold, this means that the society has not needed it, and
> consequently the labor spent in its production is not social labor. And to
> the extent that value is the expression of social labor, such a product
> has no value.»
> But how can you guarantee a proper scale of marketability in the framework
> of a self-sufficient small production units? I think Prof. Claus are
> thinking in this kind of self-sufficient units when wrote: «If there is no
> exchange, every production unit or community has to produce its essential
> means of consumption and production under the conditions in which it
> produces […] If the production is for self-consumption, the product is
> usefull whatever the time required to produce it […]»

In the former quotation I'm referring to a developed market economy, where
value represents social labour, from which it follows that products that
cannot be sold are not parts of the social labour and consequently don't
represent value. They are products of individual labour that has been
wasted in social terms.
The second quotation refers to a non-merchant economy. Consequently,
labour time expresses itself directly in the use-values, making an
indirect representation as value superfluous.

> I think that all you have the temptation to equate «exchange value» with
> the property «marketability» of labour’s products. That temptation comes
> from the atavism of the round-about argument in Marx & Engels. Due to the
> production scale of the nowadays industrial economies any decision of the
> usefulness of products must be done in the framework of a consumption
> market, but is precisely this link in the production process of a large
> socialist economy that is missing in Marx, Engels and Bullock, when the
> last one wrote: «With socialism and then communism […] A choice will be
> made about the usefulness of products, and the quantity to be produced,
> not their exchange value, which will not exist.»
> Fortunately, Cockshott & Cottrell are very clear in this respect. They
> allow a full consumer market mechanism. Finally, unless you adopt the
> surprisingly unorthodox interpretation of Engels concerning the
> depreciation of labour content if market doesn’t reach the point where
> commodities are fully useful, you’ll incur in a «dichotomy» saying that a
> product has value (labour) because a human being produced it, but also
> because it is of value (usefulness). Bendien incurred in this dichotomy
> when he wrote: «[…] "products of labour" qua use-values have values, to be
> precise, commodities have values ONLY BECAUSE they are products of general
> human labour which, therefore, have values. You can of course now turn all
> this around, and argue that products of labour have values ONLY IF they
> are commodities, but that is not Marx's argument. His argument here is
> clearly that products (use-values) have value, because they are products
> of human labour as such,
>  human labour in general.»
> Bullock: «[…] the use of computers to measure  the time it took to produce
> goods and services, was well discussed eg by  the late 1960's  the
> Institute of Workers Control ( Nottingham UK) was already proposing such
> technical solutions to the problems of production and distribution by
> state owned operations.»
> Are there any publication concerning these works? I didn’t know it.
> One thing is to desire that at some point in the future computers will
> help us to record and properly allocate labour time. In the USSR the
> researches concerning these possibilities existed and, as Cockshott wrote,
> Market Socialists like Lange envisaged that possibility. Even Kantorovich
> so willing to these arrangements wrote:
> «The computation of optimal solution has its difficulties as well. In
> spite of the presence of efficient algorithms and codes practical linear
> programmes are not too simple since they are very large. The difficulties
> grow significantly when the linear model is modified by any of its
> generalization.» (pp. 21 in Leonid Kantorovich, “Mathematics in Economics:
> Achievements, Difficulties, Perspectives”, The American Economic Review,
> Vol. 79, Nº6.)
> C&C have proposed to use the method of Gaussian elimination to deal with
> the empty boxes in a Leontief matrix, but what is more interesting from an
> institutional point of view is their thoughts concerning a feasible
> mechanism to feed the allocation machinery with human preferences as they
> are, using personal computers.
> Kind regards
> Alejandro Agafonow
> ____________________________________________________________________________________
> Sé un Mejor Amante del Cine
> ¿Quieres saber cómo? ¡Deja que otras personas te ayuden!

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