[OPE] Stanley Jevons and the problem of abstract labor

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Sun Mar 29 2009 - 11:35:49 EDT

Here is a quote from Jevons to which I refer in my article-in-progress on the law of value:

"Labour affects supply, and supply affects the degree of utility, which governs value, or the ratio of exchange. In order that there may be no possible mistake about this all-important series of relations, I will restate it in a tabular form, as follows:

Cost of production determines supply;
Supply determines final degree of utility;
Final degree of utility determines value.

But it is too easy to go too far in considering labour as the regulator of value; it is equally to be remembered that labour is itself of unequal value. Ricardo, by a violent assumption, founded his theory of value on quantities of labour considered as one uniform thing. He was aware that labour difers infinitely in quality and efficiency, so that each kind is more or less scarce, and is consequently paid at a higher or lower rate of wages. He regarded these differences as disturbing circumstances which would have to be allowed for; but his theory rests on the assumed equality of labour. [My] theory rests on a wholy different ground. I hold labour to be essentially variable, so that its value must be determined by the value of the produce, not the value of the produce by that of the labour. I hold it to be impossible to compare a priori the productive powers of a navvy, a carpenter, an iron-puddler, a school master and a barrister. Accordingly, it will be found that not one of my equations represents a comparison between one man's labour and another's."

- W. Stanley Jevons, The Theory of Political Economy, edited by R.D. Colison Black. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1970, p. 187.

This quote neatly illustrates the difference between the value theory of the direct producers, and the value theory of the property owners who appropriate the products of the direct producers.


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Received on Sun Mar 29 11:37:58 2009

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