[OPE-L:1413] Where does the value go? (2)

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Sun, 10 Mar 1996 23:27:25 -0800

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Paul [OPE-L:1366 of 8/3] writes

"but moral depreciation is not a question of exchange. It arises from a
change in the conditions of production

I've replied separately to his later point about empirical measurement.

What is now disputed?

Paul originally argued my example was an arbitrarily chosen hypothesis.
This seems to have been withdrawn. My examples were not arbitrary but
logically follow from a clear but disputed postulate.

The substantive issue is thus: is value conserved when stocks are involved
- a subset of the more general question which worries Mike [1376] when
he asks why value is conserved at all.

This is fair enough. I'd like to ask for some forbearance because, as I
said at the outset, here and now I am not asking for people to agree with
the argument, just to understand what it is.

But to get to the bottom of the differences, this basic point is
important: *if* value is conserved - particularly across stocks - *then*
my conclusions follow. I think it is always useful for us to try and
understand and follow the structure of each others' arguments even when
we don't accept the premises.

I consider moral depreciation a result of the formation of social values
from individual values. I also consider that in the formation of social
values, value is conserved. That is, in my view social value is a strict
average of individual values. So three slightly separate but related
issues are involved:

(a)is the formation of social values from individual values a phenomenon
of circulation, or production?

(b)is the formation of social values a strict average of individual

(c)is moral depreciation an aspect of the formation of social values
from individual values?

I think these are progressively harder to reach agreement on.

The first is easiest. We ought to be able to reach agreement on it.
If we can't then we should, I think, look at it independently of the
more controversial points (b) and (c).

I'm going to bypass (b) altogether because the discussion on it can get
very long.

Also, if Paul allows me (a) and (c), then (b) isn't necessary, in order to
agree that moral depreciation is a phenomenon of circulation. If someone
thinks social values are formed in some more or less complicated manner,
but still agrees they are formed in circulation, and if I can convince
them that moral depreciation is a result of forming social values, then we
should agree that moral depreciation is a result of circulation.

Why are social values formed in circulation?

John says[1382 of 8/3]: 'Alan might well have asked, "Where has all the
money gone?"' And this is the crux of the matter. If money bought love
then in place of individual loves we would find a social value of love
which *would* be conserved in any contract involving love.

There would no longer be my love and your love but a single marketable
commodity, love in general. If your love was of a higher quality the market
would simply slap a higher price on it. In doing so it would declare your
love to be twice as big as mine, by pricing it twice as high. But in doing
so it would create a standard love, measurable by the dollar.

And if the capitalists then set up love factories, hiring love workers
by the thousand, then shortly the market would establish the average
labour needed to make this standard love. Indeed, this happens.

In return for each $ lovers would expect and demand a standard dollar's
worth of love. Add up all the money paid for love, divide it by the
labour in the love, and you have the labour of love. And that is what
would be conserved in the exchange of love with other products.

Value is conserved because use-values become commodities; because in the
process of becoming commodities they acquire a single social value
instead of a multiplicity of individual private values. And this is
a phenomenon of circulation.

A single social value is formed from many individual values, because there
is a single uniform price for every commodity - capitalism's defining
feature. If there is no uniform price there is no uniform value. We wouldn't
for example, have

20 linen = 1 coat

from which the category of value is deduced. Instead we would have

20 of my linen = 2 of her coats
20 of his linen = 1 of their coats
20 of her linen = 1/2 your coat

and so on. We might or might not still have values, but we would have no
*uniform* or social value. Every private producer would then relate to
every other private producer like a lover, purely on the basis of their
individual labour and desires, instead of having to accept what
society deems necessary. In the above equations if I need to work
twice as long to make 20 linen as you, why then I get 2 coats for it,
as indeed used to happen before the advent of a homogenous market in
linen and in coats.

I think Michael's counter-example works only because there is no
trade in love. As long as my lover does not trade my love for that of
another, a market relation cannot emerge.

Once the market intervenes it matters not how long I work, I must
exchange my love or my linen for an equivalent amount of socially-defined
labour. If the marriage contract develops much further this may

This is what the bourgeois revolution, in economic terms, was all about;
the formation of a commodity economy with a single money price for every
use value instead of a multiplicity of private arrangements governed by
blood ties, love, vassalage, Divine Right, royal charters or just plain

But the formation of a uniform price is precisely an effect of
circulation. And so is the formation of a uniform, social, value.

A third post deals with point (c)