[OPE-L:2492] Re: Was Lenin a nondualist, supporter of the single-system vision

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Fri, 7 Jun 1996 06:45:02 -0700

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>Paul C :
>> >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?
>G Levy:
>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.

Paul C:
To say that individual commodites do not sell exactly at their values
is not the same thing as saying that commodities in aggregate sell
at their value. The latter is a quite vacuous statement. What I take
Marx and the classical political economists as holding was that, in
modern language, prices are highly correlated with labour values, that
if value is the signal, and deviations due to supply and demand imbalances
the noise, then the signal to noise ratio is high.

Saying that commodities in aggregate exchange at their values is vacuous
since it would still be true even if there was a zero correlation
between prices and values. Let us assume that prices bear no relation
to labour content, it would still be the case that if we took two random
samples of 10,000 commodities, spent $1 on each of them, then the $10,000
spent on each bundle would purchase about the same amount of embodied labour,
just as it would purchase about the same amount of embodied wheat, coal etc.
There would then be no reason to treat labour rather than, coal, sunshine,
or proximity to the holy city as the source of value, since given a large
enough aggregate, any arbitrarily chosen property of commodities will be
conserved in exchange.

>> 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?
> Jerry:
>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?
Paul C:
Chapter 1 of capital deals with exchange value and price. It shows that
a) exchange value is in principle something relative,
b) the universality and consistency of exchange relations shows that
the individual relative values express an universal property
c) that price is the immediate expression of this universal property
d) that the substance of this universal property is labour time
If we remove from consideration relative prices, the whole argument

>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
Paul C:
I suggest that you try giving a formal specification of what you
mean by the above. In the process you may see the ambiguity of
your terminology.

>>>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.
Paul C:
The analysis of the production of surplus value is contingent upon there
being a positive correlation between prices and values.

One can readily see this. Consider the means of production, if
we assume these to be aggregates of a large number of individual
commodities, it would be the case that labour content would correlate
with money spent on means of production even if prices and values
were uncorrelated. On the other hand, the added labour and the
final product are single commodities, so aggregation can not be
applied here. If we assume that price is uncorrelated to labour content,
then there is no reason to suppose that the product, containing as
it does more labour than the raw materials should sell for more than
the raw materials. If adding labour makes no difference to price, then
the product is as likely to sell for less than the raw materials
as it is to sell for more. Thus whether a production process makes
a profit or a loss would be completely random and unconnected to
labour employed.

If one believes this, then the whole analysis of exploitation is

Paul Cockshott