[OPE-L:2486] Re: Was Lenin a nondualist, supporter of the single-system vision

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Thu, 6 Jun 1996 09:42:17 -0700

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Paul C wrote:

> >Moreover, Marx only said that in the *aggregate* commodities would sell at
> >their value (and the sum of value=sum of prices of production & sum of
> >s=sum of profit).
> Where does he make this restriction?

Throughout Volume 1 and in the first part of Volume 3 especially Marx
explicitly recognized that *in actuality* individual commodities would not
in general sell at their value. The concept that commodities sell at their
value holds *only* in the aggregate or as a special case by my reading. If
you want some quotes, I can dig them out later.

> To take such a restricted position makes a nonsense of the whole analysis
> of exchange value and price. Exchange value is by its nature a relative
> phenomenon, if you aggregate all commodities together then you abstract
> from the phenomenon of interest. What does it mean to say that the
> aggregate of commodities sell at their value?

Where is Marx's analysis of exchange value and *price*? By concentrating
on the exchange value of *individual* commodities, don't you lose sight of
the fundamental value relations that are obscured at the micro level?

To say that the aggregate of commodities sell at their value means that
the total quantity of commodities will sell on average at their value.
This includes -- and indeed necessitates -- wide divergencies between the
value and market price of individual commodities. By my reading,
individual commodities selling at their value is a special and unusual

> Since in a commodity money system, the commodities exchange against gold
> when they sell, then to say that the aggregate of commodities sells at
> its value implies that gold as a particular commodity exchanges for
> other commodities containing an equal amount of labour. Fair enough,
> but what is so special about gold that makes its exchange value be
> governed by labour and not that of other commodities?

Gold (or silver) can come to perform the functions of money. Other
objects as well could serve as money (and indeed have historically). Part
of Marx's explanation of commodity fetishism re gold in V1 was to reveal
the mystique behind gold and to indicate the irrationality of social
relations being determined by the money-commodity (itself a product of
human labor and a historical product of the exchange process).

>>He did *not* say that the "value that is added is ...
>>made manifest in the price of the *product* ... (emphasis added, JL).
> Is this not built in to his worked examples?

It is built into his examples *because of* the *assumption* that
commodities sell at their value. Yet, even in V1, he points out *very
clearly* that this is *only* true on average and that individual
commodities will sell normally either above or below their value.

>Is this not the whole import of the analysis of surplus value in the
>first volume of Capital?

No! The analysis of surplus value was primarily intended to reveal the
exploitive relation between labor and capital rather than to analyze the
price determination for individual commodities. Are you suggesting that V1
was a micro analysis? I believe we have a different understanding of the
"level of abstraction" (Andrew's favorite expression) employed in V1.

> Yes, but this point was well understood by all the classical political
> economists. The question was what happened when one abstracts from the
> short term fluctuations caused by supply and demand. This is certainly
> the point that Lenin is making when he says that value is the law of price.

Yes, Marx and the classical economists were abstracting from short-term
fluctuations caused by S&D (although, I don't think they used the term
short-term). I think that Marx's analysis can also be read to suggest that
there *will* be value-price divergences for individual commodities over
both the short and longer term.

We still haven't seen the entire quote from Lenin so I'm not exactly sure
what he suggested. Value, though, is something MORE THAN a "law of price."
It becomes an expression of social relations under capitalism. If value
was ONLY the "law of price" then there would be no need for the
distinction between value and the value-form.

In OPE-L Solidarity,