[OPE-L:4579] Re: Vintages

John Erns (ernst@pipeline.com)
Thu, 27 Mar 1997 21:04:17 -0800 (PST)

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Thanks for your time and effort on this. In your 4574, I
think I can begin to locate some of our differences.


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


OK, this is also my purpose. The idea is to understand Marx's example
in I, 12.


Rearranging my statements you cite me:

> 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
> constant.
> 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?

You state:

"But in the example of Ch. 12 the MEL of the living labor of more
productive capital does differ from the average."

I react:

It may seem a bit pedantic but in Ch 12 there is no mention of
"the MEL." More important, the MEL in CAPITAL captures how
living labor is represented in the money commodity. If 6s
represents 1 hour of living labor -- that's that.

You state (referring to Marx's example):

In this example I find the concepts of MEL and a distinction between
money-values and labor-values (and also the concepts of individual
and social value). I think that, in order to take into account ALL
the features of Marx's presentation I also focus on the MEL, not only
in those concepts.

IMHO the KEY passage of the example in Ch. 12 is the following (he
refers to the more productive capital):

The value of the product of working day of 12 hours is 20s
[s stands for "shillings"]
Of this sum, 12s represent the value of the means of
production, a value that merely re-appears in the finished
There remains 8s, which are the expression in money of the
value newly created during the working day. **This sum is
greater than the sum in which average social labour of the
same kind is expressed: 12 hours of the latter labour are
expressed by only 6s.**
The exceptionally productive labour acts as intensified
labour; it creates in equal periods of time greater values
than the average social labour of the same kind. (Penguin,
p. 435)

What does this mean? IMO that in a more productive capital the MEL
corresponding to the working day is greater than the average, social
MEL. In the latter, 12 hours of average labor are expressed in 6 s.
(MEL = 0.5s/hour) while, in the former, 12 hours of "exceptionally
productive labor" are expressed in 8s. (MEL = 0.67s/hour). This is a
specific feature of the more productive capital.

I react:

You want to allow the MEL to vary with this increase in productivity
and thereby keep the hours of labor the same -- before and after
the change in productivity. My reading is, I think, simpler and
more true to the text. In the example, the more productive labor
creates 33.33% more value per hour than the average. Thus, for me,
the more productive labor counts AS IF it were 16 hours. That's it.

You go on:


So, it seems to me that in the example of Ch. 12 the MEL DOES NOT
REMAIN CONSTANT, as (I think) you are suggesting. We cannot assume it
simply as a "exogenous factor". Moreover, Marx himself doesnt do
this. It is completely clear that the living labor of more productive
capital has a MEL **different** from the average.

I react:

For Marx, the MEL is exogenous to this example as it is
determined by production within the gold industry. Marx,
in CAPITAL, generally assumes that the labor represented
by a given quantity of gold is constant as he proceeds with
analysis of the process of production. If each and
every production process has its own unique MEL, then I'm
not clear at all about what role money itself plays in the
analysis as the labor of each process takes on the quality
of having a MEL.

You continue:

Id want to note (on Michael's comment) that the piece I quoted
in the other post is precisely located in this context. So that when
Marx says that "the exceptionally productive labour... creates in
equal periods of time greater values than the average social labour
of the same kind" means exactly that the MEL of this labor > average.
I dont think that this is "as if" process, but a real process of
monetary representation of labor time.

I react:

I do think it is an " `as if' process."

You continue:

Citing me in a reference to the money commodity,

> 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.

What I want to emphasize is that this process is carried out by means
of a MONETARY representation and in Marx's example in Ch. 12 this
is precisely the case.

I react:

I have no idea why you feel that this must be emphasized. Indeed,
in recomputing the MEL as productivity changes we begin to lose site
of possible differences between the individual and social value of a
commodity as productivity changes. It is those differences and
their resolution that are to be explained by Marx's "law of value."

Let me see if I can explain this a bit by returning to what I
"snipped" above. You stated:

"The more efficient capital has a "complex" or "intensified" labor.
The ratio which reduces "complex" to "simple" labor is precisely the
ratio between both MELs; in this case: 0.67/0.5 = 1.33. "

I react:

If your labor creates twice as much value in a given
amount of time than mine which is the average, then it AS
IF you worked twice as long as I did -- given each of us
uses the same techniques. Our MEL's are the same for any
given amount of time as your time worked is to be doubled in
arriving at your MEL. Since we have money as the actual
expression of value and assume its value to be constant,
this is no big deal.

I'll stop here as the hour is late and I may begin
repeating myself.


P.S. I did read your other post but choose to react to this
one as I thought I could get to the heart of the matter a
bit quicker.