[OPE-L:2461] Re: Commodity Money

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Tue, 4 Jun 1996 02:02:40 -0700

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>Sometime ago, in response to my account of the value-form, Paul asked:
>Paul C:
>Why do you say that it [abstract etc. labour as the substance of value] is in
>principle incommensurable as opposed to simply
>saying that it is not, in practice, directly measured in a capitalist
>To which Michael W.:
>Because I can envisage no way which it can be commensurated except that in
>it is: via systemic market exchange of its outputs, expressed in prices. I do
>not believe that the Cockshott/Cottrell measure suceeds in capturing abstract
>labour independently of market exchanges.
Paul C:
Clearly it is not at present measured, but let us consider the following
A socialist government has been established in a country, but the economy is
as yet not subject to any central plan, with enterprises still selling their
product on the market and reproducing themselves as capital from the proceeds.

Let us suppose that the government wishes to start the transformation of the
economy to a socialist one, which will require an alternative method of doing
economic calculation. Being orthodox socialists they consult Engels who says
that they should do this by replacing monetary calculation by labour time
calculation. Before they can even start socialising the economy they must
gain access to information about howmuch labour is used to make things.

As a first step, they legislate that each firm must submit to the
statistical office
along with its company accounts a schedule of how many units of each
commodity it
produced and how many hours of direct labour it used on their production.

Using this data, the statistical office can then construct disaggregated i/o
tables, whose inverse will give the labour required to make things.

Here is a mechanism by which the labour contents of all commodities can be
simultaneously measured (co-mensurated) without, as yet, abolishing capitalist
relations of production.

Of course in the simple account given above, one can say that no allowances
are made for skills etc. If you wish to pursue this I can specify more
complex accounting procedures.

Michael W:
>More to the point, I can see no real mechanism by which any such underlying
>substance of value has any independent causal influence on the quantitative
>expression of value in price.
Paul C:
See my previous post about Farjoun and Machovers arguments.

Michael W:
>I am a bit surprised that someone with Paul's revealed naturalistic aspirations
>can bring himself to believe in such a metaphysical concept as the substance of
Paul C:
I prefer a field interpretation myself, which is why I favour simultaneous
models for the determination of value. However, the discrepancy between the
two interpretations is small in quantitative terms unless one has a very
rapid rate of technical change.
Paul Cockshott