From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Fri Aug 24 2007 - 05:53:07 EDT
Paul, I think that part of the discussion between us is just terminological. Some Marxist economists, on this list for example, Jurrian and I, think that Marx distinguishes sharply between value and its historical form of expression - exchange value. Others, you and Claus Germer for example, treat exchange value and value as near synonyms and see value as being a social form. This is just a difference of interpretation of Marx, which whilst perhaps worth discussing in a 'history of ideas' context need not have any bearing on substantial concrete questions. However when disussing concrete questions each group has to label things. Jurrian and I are labelling the social cost of production under both capitalism and socialism 'value'. You are using the word 'labour' to stand for the same thing. I do not thing that "the process of valuation of human labour in its socially abstract form, viz money, is in fact a continuously present feature of all societies", what I think is that abstract social labour is a feature of all modes of production in which there is some form of social cooperation. Only in some societies will this labour be projected onto the space of money relations. I argue, contra Alejandro, for example, that it is a bad policy to retain monetary relations in a socialist economy, albeit that most prior attempts at socialist economies have retained this. ( North Korea which actually carries our a large portion of distribution in kind, and the Chinese 1960s peoples communes which used labour points, are partial exceptions). You write: Of course the issue of allocation, training etc have to be dealt with... but all of this will be done, has to be done, by considering the concrete skills of labour and the agreed needs of the society alone. Labour's use value will only be its capacity to produce use values, and if decided upon in all particular cases, more use values than are currently consumed in the reproduction of the society. Labour's use value, if it is capitalistically unproductive, which presuming the destruction of capitalism, it would be, will NO longer be the production of value and surplus value. This is true as far as it goes, but it only goes so far. One needs to consider not only the useful properties of labour, but one needs to consider the alternative possible uses of labour. Labour is the fundamental productive resource available to us. Using labour, to build a new railway for example, has a cost in that the labour is unavailable for producing furniture, TV programs etc. In a socialist society, production engineers have to decide between different ways of achieving ends, and they have to select the means which minimises the use of social labour. If they do not do this the technology of the society will stagnate. This implies that railway engineers, for example, need to have some index of the social labour they are using up when they select different approaches ( in the literal sense ). Suppose they are approaching a city the other side of a river. They need to decide whether to build a bridge or a tunnel. If it is a bridge, should it be a stayed suspension bridge or a box girder bridge. Unless each of these can be costed they can not choose the best method. How are they to be costed? This of course is the point originally made by Mises, using a different example. He saw only two possible alternatives: 1) Money is used to cost the alternatives 2) The labour theory of value is used to cost them He believed that the(2) was impracticable on grounds of computability among other things, but I would argue for (2), on the grounds that his rejection of the labour theory of value was not well justified. The implication is that all products would have to have their labour contents publicly listed so that such costings could be done. I would say that such listings, in terms of labour hours contained, amount to listing their labour values. In this sense, of social cost, labour value must remain relevant. It is also in principle possible to use Kantorovich's method for determining which is the best solution, provided, and this is a big proviso, that you can apply linear programming in a disaggregated way to the whole economy. For large projects like building a major bridge, linear programming is a third alternative which comes close to the idea of direct computation in kind. However, for more disaggregated problems, selecting which of two ways to construct a printed circuit board for a TV set for example, it is impractical to include this in a linear program for the whole economy. In this case one would have to use labour value costings at a local level to get some idea of which would be socially cheaper. From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of paul bullock Sent: 23 August 2007 21:39 To: OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU Subject: Re: [OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels Of these 2 points: Clearly you are speaking of a different type of choice/distribution mechanism to a capitalist market. For a start the products would not contain surplus value, ie a proportion of price appropriated by the capitalist class. Both your conception of 'price', and 'market' seem to me to be radically different to those currently existing. The problem has yet to present itself historically to us in Britain since there has been no seizure of power by the working class and its allies. Marx of course was, insofar as he allowed himself to comment about the future in this way, referring to the early stages of socialism. Certainly, the actual way the problems of planning in all the 20th century attempts to build socialism seem to me to have to be studied much more carefully to extract lessons. With the second point you seem to feel that the process of valuation of human labour in its socially abstract form, viz money, is in fact a continuously present feature of all societies, by viewing 'value' as a the general (comparative?) feature of all concrete human labour, which for me completely denies value as a specific social characteristic of commodity production , in its real development, capitalist society. Of course human labour in a socialist society will have to be organised, decided upon, accounted/budgeted for. Who could deny that? Of course the issue of allocation, training etc have to be dealt with... but all of this will be done, has to be done, by considering the concrete skills of labour and the agreed needs of the society alone. Labour's use value will only be its capacity to produce use values, and if decided upon in all particular cases, more use values than are currently consumed in the reproduction of the society. Labour's use value, if it is capitalistically unproductive, which presuming the destruction of capitalism, it would be, will NO longer be the production of value and surplus value. It does not concern me so much that you see human labour as of 'value', only that this sort of observation distracts us from understanding the role of the market, thus commodities, as a form without which homogenous human labour can be conceived. Without this we will have simply, a rich diversity of practical labouring skills, and a need for direct and immediate appreciation of our activities in relation to building socialism. The basis of budgeting for the use of this labour however cannot be 'money' in any capitalistic sense. This raises real problems for those thinking about planning in such circumstances... the manipulation of quantities of 'money' as some sort of index of 'value' has to give way to other measures and constantly changing priorities. 'Price', some sort of weighting of social priorities really will be come a tool of a different sort of rationing system. regards paul b. ----- Original Message ----- From: Paul Cockshott <mailto:wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK> To: OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 10:48 PM Subject: Re: [OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels Paul B 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' stage. ___________________________ Paul C 2 points here 1. You say that the market mechanism would not exist. With respect to means of production I would agree with you. I am doubtful that this would apply to consumer goods. Marx envisaged people purchasing from society consumer goods up to the value of the labour that they had performed ( after tax to support social provision). Whilst this is not a market mechanism in quite the same sense as a capitalist market, it is a means by which the population can express its desires about the compostion of output. If the plan has 'got it wrong' with respect to the ratios in which people want different consumer goods, then shortages or surpluses will occur. One then either has to accept queueing for goods in short supply, and other goods being wasted, or it may be an idea to mark up the 'labour commanded' by goods in short supply. The divergence between labour used to produce the goods and the labour vouchers people are willing to pay can then be used to guide plan targets - to shift the direction of the 'Kantorovich Ray'. 2. You say that value as a social category will be superceded, well that would only be the case if human labour ceased to be a limiting resource on production, which in turn would only be true if fully anthropomorphic robots were available. So long as labour is a limiting resource, any society has to husband it. The difference, according to Engels, is that this will now be explicit with accounting done explicitly in hours of social labour rather than in the monetary expression of social labour as is now the case. ----- Original Message ----- From: Paul Cockshott <mailto:wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK> To: OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 1:03 PM Subject: Re: [OPE-L] A startling quotation from Engels Paul B I am aware that you might say that because exchange-value does not arise, does not mean that the use values have no latent/hidden value. But that this value is no longer commonly measureable. In this case 'value' has no function, and the law of value no place. The wide range of concrete human labour will be appreciated for itself, variously, but no longer in the way that allows self interest to direct social life. Paul C Why is value no longer measurable under these circumstances? Surely it is measurable but directly in time, rather than indirectly in money.
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