[OPE-L:4571] Re: Vintages

John Erns (ernst@pipeline.com)
Thu, 27 Mar 1997 11:02:38 -0800 (PST)

[ show plain text ]

Thoughts & Responses to others:

1. In my 4552, I asked Michael to not suppose that
the fall in price was immediate. Rather I asked that
he consider using the categories of individual value
and social value as Marx did when he discusses a
doubling of productivity in CAPITAL, Vol. I, Ch 12.

In 4564, Iwao cites a case in which the fall in price
is rather immediate. I have no doubt this happens.
However, in general, it does not. Thus, even today,
we are faced with the rather basic problem of how and
why the social values of commodities fall to their
individual values as technical change takes place.

2. Alejandro in 4563 responded to my questions of 4555,
at first, by quoting me:

"Why not use terms like individual value and social value to explain
this? Why not, at first, assume a money commodity or a constant

and then he stated:

-- OK, I can use these terms but I propose to all (you, Michael, Alan
and myself) to DEFINE them previously. I also think that to work with
simple numerical examples help us (I suggest one below). So, what do
you mean by "individual value" and "social value"? How are measured?

to which I respond:

I have no problem with Marx's definitions in Vol. I, Ch. 12. I am
willing to pursue his example in that same chapter. Further, his
measurements are fine with me.

Alejandro continues:

-- I can assume a constant MEL (or use ONLY labor-time as measure of
value) but only in the **very previous** stage of the analysis (as in
the example below, commenting Alan's post) because the change in
productivity in itself changes the MEL.

To which I say:

It seems to me we arrive at a constant MEL by assuming a constant
value of the money commodity. The money commodity's value is not
changed by increases in productivity in other branches. To be
sure, this is an assumption but one Marx makes to better understand
the process of valuation as technical change takes place. Using
a continually changing MEL implicitly assumes either no money
commodity or one whose value is always changing. Why not first
come to some understanding with a money commodity whose value
does not change as we deal with technical change?

Alejandro continues:

This is a key element of the analysis and I think that part of the
confusion arises from the omission of this change. So, when Marx says:

The exceptionally productive labour acts as intensified labor;
it creates in equal periods of time greater values that the
average social labour of the same kind... (Capital I, p. 435,

I read that these "greater values" are MONEY-VALUES, NOT LABOR-
VALUES. If I omit the distinction between money and labor measures of
value, I cant understand or... worst I can think that 1000 hours of
"exceptionally productive labor" ARE 2000 hours. This is an error.
1000 hours are always 1000 hours of LABOR-value. But they can be
REPRESENTED in an amount of money ("greater value") which represents
2000 hours. "Exceptionally productive labor" means labor which
"yields" more MONEY than the average.

To omit the analysis of the changing (or different) MEL only drive us
to confusion. This is not merely a "practical simplification" but a
distortion of the problem.

To which I say:

I am beginning to think that using the idea of MEL may introduce more
confusion than we need in a situation that is already confusing.

a. I am assuming that we do have a money commodity whose value is

b. Given that we do have such a commodity, the idea that 1000 hours
of "exceptionally productive labor" create the equivalent of 2000
hours of the ordinary labor that produces the money commodity does
not strike me as especially confusing.

c. If with an increase in productivity in one industry you note a
change in the MEL and calculate a new MEL, do you then use that
recomputed MEL to determine how much labor is spent in those
processes where the labor is not exceptional? Are different labor-
values represented in different money-values?

d. Again, it seems to me that Marx himself gave a fairly simple
way to look at this situation, given it is not easy to understand.
I'm unclear why we are now using concepts like MEL, money-values,
labor-values, etc. Have we lost the relatively simple concepts
of individual value and social value? If so, why?