[OPE-L:3711] Re: [3707]; Two "causes" of deviation?

aramos@aramos.b (aramos@aramos.bo)
Tue, 26 Nov 1996 12:15:40 -0800 (PST)

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I would wish to briefly comment on Chai-on's 3 points
on my OPE-L (3705):


(1) Value and price of production have the same substance.
Otherwise, the so-called trans-FORMation would be an
absurd word in terms. The same substance must change
its own form from VALUE into PRICE.


I agree. This "substance" is the "value-substance", labor-
time, i.e. Marx's "Wertsubstanz". The difference between
"value" and "production price" is that the former
corresponds to the labor-time OBJECTIFIED by an individual
capital, while the latter corresponds to the labor-time
APPROPRIATED through the selling of the commodity. As Marx

The COST-PRICE of a commodity simply depends
on the quantity of PAID LABOR it contains, while
the VALUE depends on the total quantity of labour
it contains, whether PAID or UNPAID; the PRICE OF
PRODUCTION depends on the SUM of PAID LABOUR plus
a certain quantity of UNPAID LABOUR that is inde-
pendent of its own particular sphere of
production. (Penguin, p. 265, emphases added.)

It is important to stress (again) that VALUE is defined as
the sum of cost-price ("PAID LABOUR") + surplus-value

The "transFORMation" means that this value "assumes the
form" of production price, a "metamorphosis" which implies
ONLY a QUANTITATIVE DIVERGENCE: Instead of the amount of
UNPAID LABOUR corresponding to "value" (given by the
proportional amount of living labor exploited by a capital),
in production price is "added" a "quantity of UNPAID LABOUR
that is independent of the... particular sphere of
production", i.e. depends only on the general rate of

It is important to note that the analysis of the
"transFORMation" of this SUBSTANCE implies, precisely, an
analysis of the relationship between "Wertsubstanz" and
"Wertform", i.e. the two poles that constitutes the "single-
structure" called "value" by Marx. In other words, it is an
analysis of the way by which the "substance" (labor-
time) assumes a "form" (money).


(2) Once commodities are used as production materials,
they are no more commodities but simply an input VALUE of a
capital. The so-called deviation of the two entities in the
cost price disappears once they cease to be commodities
because only commodities can have the price of production.


I also agree. This is why Marx says that:

The cost-price of the commodity is a GIVEN
PRECONDITION, independent of his, the
capitalists's, production, while the result
of his production is a commodity that contains
surplus-value, and therefore and excess value
over and above its cost price. (Penguin, p.
265, emphasis added)

Insofar as we examine the cost-price, the commodities
forming it appear to us "as inputs", as a "given
precondition" for which the capitalist has already paid an
amount of money (production price). In this sense, it is
true, as Chai-on says, that they are no longer commodities,
but "materials" already incorporated in the labor process,
i.e. use-values being consumed.

On the other hand, when we examine the commodites as a
"result" (i.e. as outputs), it is clear that there is a
surplus-value "over and above" this "given precondition",
namely the cost-price. This surplus-value differs from the
profit the capitalist actually appropriates when s/he sell
the commodity. This is the only difference between value
and production price.

However, this does not impede us to "decompose"
proportionally the components of cost price into, for
instance, a fraction representing the "value contained" and
another representing the "deviation" between value and
production price. This "decomposition" is carried out
according to the proportions in which the commodity AS AN
OUTPUT is divided.


(3) In regards to the amount of dead labor (value account
of a part of the cost-price), we have to synchronize the
labor account with that of living-labor. Dead labor amounts
need to be converted into current ones. But how? Only be
reference to the current market value of the production
materials, they can be converted into current ones. The
input VALUE of a capital is to be computed by reference to
the current market value of production materials (not by
actually purchased price of them, for accidental
circumstances might cause the purchased price to deviate
from its prevailing (or dominant or average) prices).


Here, Chai-on is proposing a discussion for which the
example of the transformation given by Marx in Vol. III,
Ch. 9 (and reproduced by myself in OPE-L 3705) is not
adequate. The issue raised by Chai-on ("the synchronization
of dead labor") makes sense to me in a "dynamic context",
i.e. where technical change is taken into account.
Marx example, converted into a very abstract "simple
reproduction schema" is not enough to discuss this.
I also think that these problems cannot be discussed
abstracting the "real" monetary economy, i.e assuming
some type of monetary system and examining the way by which
"in more concrete situations" the labor-time is actually
represented by money.

It seems to me that also Paul's comments contained in OPE-L
3708 do not take into account the very abstract nature, and
the very limited purpose of my example. I am not discussing
the content of Paul's observations now, but my example is
not intended to take into account the situations he is

Thanks to Paul and Chai-on.
Alejandro Ramos M.