[OPE-L:2634] Re: estimation of abstract labor

Michael Williams (100417.2625@compuserve.com)
Wed, 10 Jul 1996 15:12:28 -0700 (PDT)

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In an exchange with Fred, Paul writes:
we define value to be socially necessary labour time, ... it is a
concept whose application is more general than the specifically capitalist
sector of the economy. It is an underlying reality that survives changes
in the form of social organisation of labour.

Michael W.
Would just like to point out that this seems to me to be contrary to Marx's
dialectical method. The notion that value ' is an underlying reality that
survives changes in the form of social organisation of labour' has of course
appeared in Paul's posts before, in his teleological arguments about embodied
labour value magnitudes forming the basis for socialist planning . If we
understand, as I and othe value-form theorists do, value to be the specifically
bourgeois form of social valuation of human creative activity and its products,
then it is incomprehensible to use the same value-system to grasp some yet to be
realised socialist utopia, and actually existing capitalism. Not only needs and
wants, but the form of their articulation with creative activity are all
epochally specific. The 'underlying' metaphor seems to me to be completely
misleading too. First, the ahistorical tendencies in Paul's method (what I would
call naturalistic Marxist economics) are again evident in the notion of the same
sub-structure underlying the capitalist system, and some socialist system which
Paul prophesises is coming. Secondly, it goes with Paul's naturalistic
tendencies: the value-system is a sub-structure analogous to the molecular,
atomic and sub-atomic substructures of physical objects. But for me value is
constituted by the market reproduced system - any 'underlying' sub-structure is
pure speculation.

I profoundly disagree with Paul's apparent method (although his specific work -
for example on the empirical correlation of vertically integrated labour times
and money prices - is intriguing). But are we dealing here with incommensurable
world-views, or can Paul and I fruitfully discuss these methodological matters.
Can anyone else on the list offer some assistance?

Comradely greetings

Michael W.