[OPE-L:93] Re: Marx's Goals

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Thu, 21 Sep 1995 08:14:43 -0700

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Paul Z. writes:

> Unlike Gil, I never saw Marx's law of value as a theory of prices being
> determined by labor values (even a 95% approximation theory). Volume 1
> talks about value all over the place and explicitly abstracts from
> departures of production prices from labor-time values. The law of value
> is concerned fundamentally with determining the basis of capitalist
> exploitation in the exploitation of labor power resulting from the
> difference between labor time put in by workers and the value of their
> labor power on the market.

1) What I "see" has nothing to do with it;*Marx* sees the law of value
as a claim that labor values regulate prices, and corroborates this
vision repeatedly throughout Volume I and in places in the
Grundrisse, the Contribution to the Critique, Volume III, etc).
(Indeed, this vision is how Marx justifies making the abstraction
in Vol. I that Paul refers to; more on that below.)

2) However, If the law of value doesn't say this, it's hard to see
how it is anything other than a tautology, unless one were to confuse
it with the theory of exploitation. That would be inappropriate,

3) The law of value in Marx's sense is not required to prove that
exploitation is the basis of capitalist profit. Furthermore, as
mentioned in my previous post,

4) To the extent that Marx relies on a close interpretation of value theory
(what Paul refers to as Marx's abstraction from departures of prices from values)
to establish the argument, the argument is wrong, plainly wrong, demonstrably
wrong. And by the way, Marx doesn't simply make this abstraction for
convenience; at the end of (sorry) Chapter 5 he *insists* that one
must be able to account for surplus value on the basis that commodity
prices and values are proportional. That's invalid: price-value equivalence is
neither necessary nor particularly relevant to a world in which profit (and
therefore exploitation) exists.

Gil Skillman