[OPE-L:4586] value ==> sale?

David Laibma (DLaibman@brooklyn.cuny.edu)
Fri, 28 Mar 1997 07:53:04 -0800 (PST)

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Since Alan asks a number of us to weigh in on whether value is determined
prior to sale, here goes.

My tendency is first to agree -- we are, after all, looking for areas of
agreement, ;-) -- and say that value (as distinct from market price) is
determined in the totality of production relations, and its measure is a
quantity of abstract labor time determined in (and partially determining!)
those relations. So value (however "transformed") is embodied in commodities
prior to sale. There is, however, a crucial ambiguity in the concept of
socially necessary labor: labor is validated as socially necessary when
commodities complete a circuit of exchange, and their labor content is
thereby established as acknowledged and necessary. This is the dialectic of
value: the (last-instance) determining element is itself partly constituted
and reproduced via its forms of appearance. (Essentialism, not as a term of
abuse but as a real potential reduction from a dialectical understanding, is
not the positing of essence and appearance as such, but rather the
separation, or sundering, of essence from appearance, making it into a
self-contained a priori construct.)

So I must wonder whether we should rest content with the proposition that
value is determined -- fixed into -- commodities prior to sale, with market
forces producing deviations of market price from value; or whether the
commodity character of production needs to be taken into account in the
determination of value itself. The market and competition, after all, are
not mere epiphenomena; they are part of the production relations (the best
example of this is the way in which specifically capitalist production
relations shape the transformed values that we call prices of production).
Perhaps we need a formulation like this: value of commodities in general, and
for any commodity representative of a class and an average situation, is
determined prior to sale, by labor/production/property relations that include
the general characteristics of exchange pertaining to them.

I have no idea whether this suits the purpose of Alan's inquiry; after all,
there can be only one Socrates at any given time!