[OPE-L:387] Re: Value Digressions & Questions

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Tue, 31 Oct 1995 15:02:48 -0800

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John asks
Does the worker in one country create the same
amount of value as a worker in another, given
differences in productivity? It seems to me
that Marx in the first book says answers this
question in two different ways. In Part VI,
the worker in the more productive country is
seen to produce as if she/he created more value
in a day. In Part VII, the opposite or, rather,
both workers create the same amount of value in
a day. Is this a problem or are we back to
individual value and social value?

Consider the following possibility. There are
two countries, which are initially isolated from
trade with one another. In each of them the same
set of tradeable commodities is produced, and in
each the same relative amounts of labour are needed
to produce the different types of use values.
However in the first country the productivity is
twice that in the second.

So long as the two countries are isolated, then the
values of commodities in the first country will be
half those in the first country, expressed in each
case in domestic labour. But since there is no sense
in which the value creating powers of the two countries
can be compared, the labours of the two countries are
each within their local frame of reference, within
equivalent. An hour is an hour is 3600 seconds and that
is all there is to it.

If trade now starts between the countries, then the
labours of the two countries relate to one another
through the alienated form of their products. One
kilo of corn from the first country must, assuming
identical quality, be equivalent to one kilo of corn
from the second. But in this process one hour of labour
in the first country is related as equivalent to 2 hours
labour of the second. Thus from the stand point of the
more productive country, the labour of the less has half
the value creating power and vice versa.

Only if the diffusion of technology etc results in there
no longer being a systematic correlation between productivity
of labours and geographical locations of that labour can
one say that there exists a single social standard between
the two countries as to what amount of labour is necessary
to produce a given commodity.