[OPE-L:1446] Re: Where does the value go?

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Tue, 12 Mar 1996 00:30:25 -0800

[ show plain text ]

Re Paul's [OPE 1430] I think an important point of
agreement is here:

Exchange is by definition not a relation between flows but
between stocks.


I will allow the above, but this does not show that the
value of stocks of commodities must be conserved. I grant that
they are conserved in exchange, but an exchange is, at least
in principle an instantaneous operation. One moment the bread
belongs to the shop, the next moment it belongs to me. Since the
process is instantaneous we can assume no depreciation goes on
during it. But this does not prove that no depreciation will go
on prior to or immediately after sale. If the bread sits on the
shop shelf all day, it will have depreciated and lost almost all
its value.


I would not argue that value is conserved when use values
change. My argument concerns only what happens in that
instantaneous moment of exchange, that is, actually,
in the exchange-relation itself rather than the acts of
circulation which of course take time during which other
changes are going on. Thus it seems to me you have granted
me my argument.

I would never claim that value is conserved when a change
in use values takes place, because obviously the value is
embodied in the use values so that when an old use value
disappears or a new use value appears, the magnitude
of value in the world changes.

My point is that this is the *only* way the mangnitude
of value in the world can change. And that means that if
we consider a change in prices in abstraction from the
production or consumption of use values, it cannot change
the amount of value in the world. It also means that if
we consider an exchange of titles in abstraction from
consumption or production, as when I sell the bread
to you, this also cannot change the amount of value in
the world.

The depreciation of the bread you refer to is material,
not moral. It is a change of use value. If someone invented
bread that didn't go stale, it would not depreciate on
the shelf, or if eg it was placed in a freezer.

If the bread lost value because of a price change, this
would be moral depreciation. But then what is happening
is that from one instant to another, prices are changing.
In other words, the problem is not that depreciation happens
'prior to or immediately after' sale; because at each
instant in time a new set of price relations arises so that
we have a continuum of 'moments of sale'. The issue then
becomes, what is the relation between the price at one
instant and the price at the next immediately succeeding

In a complete analysis we have to separate out the effects
of these changes in price from the effects of consumption and
production, which is the function of Marx's circuit of capital.

Moral depreciation is a change in price; material depreciation
is a change in use values.

Value is conserved in moral depreciation *because*
it is a pure change in price and can occur independently
of any creation or destruction of use values, eg if
one commodity becomes more expensive and another
becomes cheaper. The fact that moral depreciation
normally takes place by a change in the conditions of
production should not be allowed to obscure this basic

So I am no longer sure exactly where or whether we
disagree. Certainly I don't think I disagreed with
anything in your statement above.