[OPE-L:4329] Re: Brazilian diamonds and value

mktitoh@e.u-tokyo.ac.j (mktitoh@e.u-tokyo.ac.jp<"mktitoh@e.u-tokyo.ac.jp")
Mon, 10 Mar 1997 05:48:37 -0800 (PST)

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Dear Hans Ehrbar;

I share your disatisfaction or shortage in explanation in Marx's passage
which you are examining with 4302 Alejandro.

My instant reaction to your riddle is to think of three possibilities;
1) The differential rent structure in the world market. Brasil may be more
fertile for sugar and coffee production than in the relative rank in diamond
mines in the world.
2) The cost of diamond mines is based on unfair use of slave or slave-like
discriminated labourers.
3) The seraching labour in finiding diamond may not really be counted in the
usual reproduction costs in labour-time.(Probably this sound more suitable
to the volume I spirit interpretation than other two).

All the best,


>In 4302 Alejandro asked: How do listmenbers understand this passage:
>> According to Eschwege, the total produce of the Brazilian
>> diamond mines for the eighty years ending in 1823 still did
>> not amount to the price of 1 1/2 years' average produce of
>> the sugar and coffee plantations of the same country,
>> although the diamonds represented much more labor, therefore
>> more value.
>> Vol I, Ch. 1, Penguin, p. 130
>> Does this mean that diamonds were systematically sold below their
>> value and/or coffee+sugar above their value? This would be a
>> price/value difference just in Ch. 1.
>I have riddled over this passage too. From the wording it seems
>clear that Marx thinks that gold and diamonds are sold *below* their
>values, not that coffee of sugar are sold above their values. Here is
>what I have in the very latest version of my Annotations to Marx's
>Capital, which I am using as study guide for an email class about
>Capital, and which I am planning to publish eventually:
> Marx does not explain why there is a discrepancy between labor
> content and market price. Like all laws, the law that the magnitude
> of value is set by the quantity of labor is only a tendencial law,
> whose effect may be modified or blocked by other effects. This
> itself is nothing remarkable. Still, why would Marx give here an
> example which seems to contradict his own theory? Perhaps Marx found
> it relevant that prices are *below* instead of above labor content.
> If scarcity were to affect prices directly, i.e., through deficient
> supply, rather than through labor content, then one should expect
> prices of scarce materials to be above their values. This
> discrepancy between prices and values can therefore be considered a
> confirmation of Marx's theory, since it disconfirms Marx's theory
> less than the competing theory.
>I am not terribly happy with this, but this is the best
>I came up with.
>Hans Ehrbar.