[OPE-L:2143] Re: Grundrisse question

Alfredo Saad Filho (ASF2@bes.leeds.ac.uk)
Fri, 10 May 1996 09:08:02 -0700

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> Even as he began the Grundrisse, Marx clearly understood the problem with
> a simple c+v+s formulation. He was attacking those who wanted to use labor
> notes [which would reflect the embodied labor], but he rejected the idea
> as incompatible with a dynamic economy. Right?
> --
> Michael Perelman
> Economics Department
> California State University
> Chico, CA 95929
> Tel. 916-898-5321
> E-Mail michael@ecst.csuchico.edu

MIchael is right, in the sense that Marx shows that in a dynamic
economy (with productivity increases between one period and the next)
it is impossible to assert commodity values with a 'labour money'.

Marx also argues that problems would appear even in a static context,
and that a 'labour money' is not adequate at all for a commodity-
producing society (or a capitalist society for that matter). This is
because it does not allow the equivalence between concrete and
abstract labour to be realized.

In the original proposal, it was thought that commodities would be
exchanged for 'labour notes' (that Marx called labour chits) in
quantities determined by the concrete labour time spent in
production. Marx easily shows that this inconsistent, because it
would lead to a quick *drop* in labour productivity (if I spent four
hours sewing a coat and get L$4 in return from the state-owned
warehouses (who would buy all commodities), and Michael - who is much
more efficient than me - sews an identical coat in 2 hours, he'd get
only L$2; therefore, competition would lead to a spiralling downwards
of labour productivity).

If, however, an 'average' of concrete labour times was to be
determined by the state then, Marx argues, the idea of a labour money
loses all sense. In this case, Michael's 2 hours of concrete labour
would be equivalent to L$3 (say), the same as my own 4 hours of
concrete labour. Therefore, all talk of labour money loses meaning,
and we are back where we started (for more details, see my paper in
HOPE 1993).

I would be very interested in hearing what people think of the
relationship between the proposed 'labour money' arrangement and the
role of money in socialism. It would be easy to show that the
proponents of labour money are for a planned economy (which they
freely admit), and that this economy would resemble the Soviet.

(Makoto Itoh's forthcoming article in Capital & Class discusses some
of these issues; so don't miss the next issue!)


Alfredo Saad Filho
School of Business and Economic Studies
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT, England

+44-113-233-4472 (tel W)
+44-113-233-4465 (fax W)
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