[OPE-L:3370] RE: slave labour conditions

Massimo De Angelis (massimo@uel.ac.uk)
Sat, 12 Oct 1996 03:41:28 -0700 (PDT)

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On Fri, 11 Oct 1996, Paul Cockshott wrote:

> The point is that as soon as labour becomes free the whole labour theory of
> value breaks down. Firstly the society can only be transient, since free labour
> implies the rapid starvation of the labour force. Secondly, if labour really
> were
> free, then there would be a negligible correlation between prices and labour
> inputs,
> and the labour theory of value would not hold.

Depends on your understanding of LTV and capitalist mode of production. For
Marx the latter is not defined by the existence of wages, but by the
organization of the social system around a simple principle
boundless drive for accumulation. The wage form is one way to deal
with workers needs of reproduction, but is not the only one. With
v=0 people could for example be fed directly without the monetary
mediation, as in prison and slave camps. The point is anyway that even is
v is different than 0, labour is still free. Not only because
sv is positive, but also because of the social cooperation of
labour which, as I remember, Marx defines as giving a free
gift to the capitalists. To define v=0 as "free labour" is
to mystify the essential nature of "free labour" in capitalism,
which is NOT defined by the wage. It seems to me that this opposition
between Paul and Andrew is not so much sterile, but reflecting
a crucial difference between opposite ways to apprehend
the capitalist world.


> Since Andrew, by his own admission is engaged on a branch of formal mathematics,
> there is no pre given relationship between the symbols in his system and
> material entities or processes. When attempting to fit the theory to the real
> world, one can match them up with the things in the real world to which they
> most closely correspond. Now as far as I can see the only close match to a free
> input to the production process under capitalism is something like sunlight,
> an externally supplied input for which nothing has to be paid. We see no
> significant
> correlation between prices and sunlight used in the real world.
> The same would be the case with labour were wages zero. Labour values and
> labour inputs would be completely irrelevant to prices and profits.
> As historical materialists we should be concerned with real social systems,
> we can not when creating models of them abstract from their central features
> and expect the models to be of any relevance in predicting what actually
> happens.
> I find the debates associated with such absurdly simple formal models completely
> sterile in developing our understanding. What we need to do is to make our
> models
> more concrete, closer to reality and more testable against that reality if we
> are to advance the subject.
> Paul Cockshott
> wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk
> http://www.cs.strath.ac.uk/CS/Biog/wpc/index.html