[OPE-L:878] reply to Alan

Fred Moseley (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)
Tue, 30 Jan 1996 11:30:26 -0800

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This is a reply to parts of Alan's posts (859) and (865).

Alan says:

The labour-time socially required to produce any commodity is
an AVERAGE, the total labour time expended in producing it,
divided by the total use-values in which this labour-time is

The value of a commodity is not what it would cost using the most
advanced means of production in existence, as the 'reproduction
cost' theory of value implies, but an AVERAGE over all
commodities of this type, which is in general lower than the
reproduction cost. (emphasis added)

My response:

Alan, you may be surprised to find that I agree with these statements, at least
as I understand them. I agree that "socially necessary labor time" is a
social AVERAGE, and that this applies as well to the socially necessary
labor time required to produce the means of production. I think that Marx
's concept of "current reproduction costs" refers to such a social average.
I do not think that it applies to the reproduction costs of the most
advanced means or production.
This average socially necessary labor time will be somewhat higher than the
current most advanced means of production. But, with technological change,
it will also be lower than the actual, historical costs, so that there will
still be to this extent a devaluation of the existing constant capital.

You attribute to me the interpretation that current reproduction costs are
determined by the current most advanced means of production. But this is
not what I have said nor what I think.

The possible disagreement between us on this point is precisely WHEN,
according to Marx's theory, this average is determined: (1) in past periods
in which the means of production are produced and purchased; or (2) in the
current period;
or perhaps (3) some combination of the two. I have of course argued for (2)
and I think all the passages I have presented clearly support this
I have thought that in your other works, you have argued for (2). But
perhaps not. Please correct me if I am wrong.

With regard to your interpretation, I am afraid that I have erased by mistake
(for which I apologize) your earlier post (828) in which you evidently
explain your concept of averaging and also provide a counter-example against
the interpretation that current reproduction costs are determined by the
current most advanced techniques. Would you please send me another copy of
this post (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)? Although, as explained above, the
latter is not my interpretation, I still of course want to study your
example and especially your concept of averaging. Thanks a lot.

Finally, the simple case you discuss in (865), in which there is no fixed
capital and thus all the previously produced means of production have been
consumed, does not really apply to my interpretation. By "previously
produced means of production" I mean only those means of production that are
still in existence and still employed in production. I guess I didn't say
this explicitly, but the case in which all the previously produced means of
production have been consumed never occurred to me in this context. Means
of production which have already been consumed are not relevant to the
determination of constant capital or to the devaluation of constant capital.

Thanks for your comments and for resending your post (828). I look forward
to continued discussion.