Re: [OPE] intermission

From: wpc <>
Date: Wed Nov 04 2009 - 07:07:23 EST

DGöçmen wrote:
> In my research on "Knowledge Economy" ("Knowledge-Based Economy"),
> which I have not followed though all literature available, I found the
> statement that the value of knowledge cannot be asserted in terms of
> value quite challenging for political economy. Therefore, people
> suggest, by referring to Marx's Capital, that the political economy of
> knowledge and consequently the critique of the political economy of of
> knowledge cannot be written. There are references to Stanford
> University neo-classical economist who seem to try to do that. But
> general tendency is that the value of knowledge is asserted
> arbitrarily. This is the point where my capacity as someone interested
> primarily in philosophy does not allow to go into the debate. But
> political economists as professionals nay do it. If it is true that
> knowledge is produced by labour in a certain amount of time why
> is/shold be not possible to assert the value of knowledge. That was
> the quesion that occured in my mind when I was doing the research. And
> I have been criticised by people like Bob Jessop because I used Marx
> there to claim that the value of knowledge may well be asserted from
> classical political economy's point of view and therefore we ay be
> able to develop a critique of the political economy of knowledge. As I
> said the prove that the value of knoweldge may be asserted in terms of
> labour theory of value is a challenge that may only be demonstrated by
> Marxists.
> Best wishes,
> D.Göçmen
One must distinguish 3 things here:
1. The labour required to produce an individual isolated piece of knowledge
2. The labour required to reproduce this knowledge
3. The labour requird to produce knowledge as part of an organised and
repetitive process.

The original production of an isolated item of knowledge requires social
labour, so the first copy of that knowledge has a value proportionate to
the labour expended. However if the knowledge can be reproduced using
much less labour : by printing a book for example, then the value of the
knowledge is comprised of the sum of two components
  a) labour to print the book
  b) labour to produce the book's knowledge in the first place divided
by the size of the print run

This is basically how the law of value operates in publishing.

If we move to the issue of the production of knowledge as an organised
and repetitive process : developing a new drug for example, then the
labour required to produce a new one can be fairly well estimated by
past experience. There will also be a multiplicity of chemical formulae
that may have similar use values : multiple formulae for anti-flu drugs
for example. This process means that the production of knowledge becomes
a line of business like any other and is subject to the same imperatives
to economise in the use of labour in knowledge production as occurs in
other branches of production. The process of knowledge production then
becomes mechanised and parallelised in a similar fashion to machine
industry : the use of combinatorial chemistry, mass screening, micro
assay techniques etc. This means, I think, that the standard forms of
analysis of value production in industry still apply.
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Received on Wed Nov 4 07:11:20 2009

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