[OPE] Misunderstanding value (reply)

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Fri May 08 2009 - 06:45:23 EDT


I am sorry if I became a little ascerbic in my comments, I got frustrated.

I am like you all in favour of a 21st century perspective, but let's not throw out perfectly valid insights from previous times, and reinvent the wheel. The dispute about Marx gets fired up, because Marxists who claim absolute orthodoxy in fact misrepresent Marx's real idea - which is easy to do, not only because Marx's is a complex thinker, but also because a large chunk of his writings concerns stuff that he didn't even publish. What irritates me that that the misrepresentations are presented as the true, super-radical viewpoint, when in fact it turns out they embrace the most pedestrian nonsense of bourgeois economics.

You can say that exchange or markets socially equalize differential labour expenditures and objectify them as prices, but in fact this equalization process occurs already at the level of production accounting itself and occurs also independently of market activity. You are on stronger ground if you say that capitalist production is the "unity of production and circulation" but this doesn't prove that abstract labour is possible only because of the occurrence of commodity exchange (trade). The social relation of producers via trade is only one instance of the way in which they are socially related.

Marxists reject markets because markets are evil and incorrect. But most people do not think that way. They reject markets only when markets do not provide what people need. Non-market methods are necessary if market methods do not allocate goods satisfactorily. But the real point is, that whether allocation is market or non-market may be either oppressive or liberating - we cannot simply infer that market allocation is by definition oppressive and non-market allocation by definition liberating, or vice versa. That is the foundation of a scientific economics.

The reason why Cockshott/Cottrell/Zacheriah/Wright opt for an embodied labour theory is, I think, primarily because the main way you can quantitively approximate or measure the Marxian "value" of products and assets is, by assuming that they "embody" a certain fixed quantity of value substance, such that a certain quantity of labour hours worked equates to a certain quantity of money represented by output.

If you adopt a "field theory" of labour-value of the Cap. Vol. 3 type I referred to, it is practically speaking much more difficult if not impossible to measure labour-value with any accuracy, since there may be no clear correlation between current product values, actual labour worked and current product prices at any one point in time, and accounting information cannot directly reveal the average quantity of current living labour implied in the production of a product. Of course from a field theory perspective this doesn't really matter so much, since we're interested in explaining economic movements (dynamics).

If you were to ask me if I thought a GDP figure measures something real, I would say no. It is only a stylized, quantified summary, an estimated depiction of a very large number of real proportions. We use GDP as an synthetic indicator of observational evidence, but we know very well that it is only a very approximate and indirect gauge of changes in output, income and expenditure.

Marxists try to derive prices from values, but bourgeois economists try to derive values from prices. In this sense, the Kuznets/Stone measure called "GDP" represents a bourgeois solution to the transformation problem: the total "value" added equals the total producer's "prices" of net output, the assumption being, that there exists a price quantity, which equals total value. The quirky paradox is just that, as Peter-Utz Reich points out, this approach is irreconcilable with marginality utility theory.


E-mail message checked by Spyware Doctor (
Database version: 5.10260

ope mailing list
Received on Fri May 8 06:51:54 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sun May 31 2009 - 00:00:03 EDT