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

From: cmgermer@UFPR.BR
Date: Thu Aug 30 2007 - 08:22:02 EDT

Hi Ian,
thank you for your reply. I'm preparing to leave tomorrow for a
conference, from which I'll be back only next wednesday. For this reason
I'll not be able to answer now to your comments, but I'll do it after my

I take the opportunity to inform to the list that a new association of
political economists has been founded and is being organized in Latin
America: SEPLA - Sociedad Latinoamericana de Economía Política y
Pensamiento Crítico [Latin American Society of Political Economy and
Critical Thinking]. It is largely based on the Brazilian experience of the
SEP - Society of Political Economy, which has been founded in 1996. The
conference I'm going to participate is organized by SEPLA with the title:
PARA AMERICA LATINA [Challenges and proposals for an alternative project
with socialist horizon (?) for Latin America]. The conference is a joint
meeting of political economists and leaders of social movements.


> Hi Claus
> Sorry for the delay in replying.
>> Thus the individual producer does
>> not know in advance if he/she is or is not a part of the social
>> reproduction. A product of labour having value means that it has been
>> accepted as product of social labour, i.e., has been sold; not having
>> value means that it has not been accepted. Having produced something
>> that
>> cannot be sold means to have been excluded from the social reproduction,
>> and this condition cannot go on if the producer wants to survive. He/she
>> must be accepted again as a member of the social reproduction, which
>> implies that he/she must insert again his/her particular labour as part
>> of
>> social labour, i.e., he/she must produce something that meets a social
>> demand.
> I agree in general with your characterization. But now I wonder
> whether this is, again, a terminological issue.
> I interpret "having value"  to refer to the "total labour-time
> required to produce a commodity under the given conditions of
> production". So a commodity "has value" regardless of its fate in the
> marketplace.
> The unqualified term "value" is highly ambiguous. So I am beginning to
> try to avoid it. I prefer to use the terms labour-embodied and
> labour-commanded when contrasting actual labour-time expended and the
> amount of social labour-time that equalizes with it.
> I agree that the labour-embodied in a commodity that does not sell is
> not "social labour" in the sense that it fails to equalize or exchange
> with other labour. The labour-embodied in the commodity is positive,
> but the labour-commanded by that commodity is zero.
>> It seems to me that you use an unusual concept when you say that there
>> is
>> "labour-value regardless of whether it meets a social demand or not". To
>> be a product of labour, particular labour, is not the same thing as
>> being
>> a product of social labour. Having value does not mean not having
>> required
>> labour, it means that the labour spent is not social labour.
> I don't think my concept is unusual but rather standard. Marx in Vol
> I: "We see then that that which determines the magnitude of the value
> of any article is the amount of labour socially necessary, or the
> labour time socially necessary for its production." The modifier
> "socially necessary" does not refer to the existence of sufficient
> social demand, but to the prevailing conditions of production.
> There has been some semantic drift from Marx's definition due to some
> more modern interpretations that I do not agree with.
>> Claus: I totally agree with you about the requirement of the allocation
>> of
>> the total labour-time in all societies. This is basic in Marx's theory.
>> What I don't agree is that labour-time expresses itself as value in all
>> societies.
> Again, this may be a terminological dispute. What do you mean by
> "value" in that last sentence?
> Certainly money and prices are not present in all societies. But
> articles that require a definite, objective amount of labour-time to
> produce, given the level of technology, is present in all societies.
> (Unless we have left the realm of necessity, which seems unlikely for
> quite some time).
>> I interpret Marx's point of view as saying that the expression
>> of labour-time as value is specific of the merchant economy and of
>> capitalism. It does so because in the merchant economy labour as the
>> source of all wealth is obliterated by the non existence of a social
>> plan
>> of production and is disguised as value expressed as exchange-value in
>> the
>> form of money. Where there is an explicit plan (like f.i. in feudalism)
>> labour time appears clearly and does not need to express itself
>> indirectly.
> Monetized markets and widespread commodity exchange were ubiquitous in
> feudal times. Some parts of the division of labour were partially
> governed by the spontaneous operation of the law of value. I agree
> however that certain cases of exploitation -- e.g. the corvee peasant
> -- are more transparent due to the direct and personal provision of
> surplus labour.
>> The analogy you make between the thermometer and money (which is the
>> form
>> of value) are imo not valid. Although temperature exists without
>> thermometers, value does not exist without money, because money is the
>> way
>> through which the individual labours are converted into social labour,
>> which money represents. The sale of the commodity, i.e. its conversion
>> into money, is what asserts it as the product of social labour. Thus,
>> value and money are social phenomena that evolve side by side.
> I very much agree that social labour and money are two sides of the
> same coin that historically evolve side-by-side. Money, as you say,
> *represents* labour-value; but it is not *constitutive* of
> labour-value. It requires a definite amount of labour time to produce
> an article regardless of whether the society uses money or not. Such
> articles will "have value" even in a planned economy, for example.
> Best wishes,
> -Ian.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Aug 31 2007 - 00:00:10 EDT