[OPE-L:4775] Re: Parsimony

Michael William (mwilliam@compuserve.com)
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 15:56:04 -0700 (PDT)

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> Mike W
> -------
> >
> > Value cannot vary quantitatively independent of Price, because
> > Price is the only actual quantitative manifestation of Value. (This
> > not mean that we should, parsimoniously, collapse Value into Price.
> > are both needed to adequately conceptualise capitalism.)
> >
> Paul C
> ------
> Are you using the word actual in its French sense as 'presently

I mean under capitalism; as implied by its location as an element of the
capitalist system.
> Leaving that aside, it seems to me that you are simply introducing this
> as a definition of value, if on the other hand you define value to
> be the mean time required to make something then the possibility of
> a deviation between the two is evident. Such deviation between
> price and value can either be accidental,

I don't deny this.

> or systematic. Accidental
> deviations cause individual sales of say corn flakes to take place
> a different prices in different shops, systematic deviations cause
> products like oil to consistently sell for more than their mean
> labour content.

I don't deny that prices may not reflect concrete labour times.
> You are of course at liberty to have a theory of price and value
> which specifies that there can be no quantitative variation between
> the two,

Thank you for that permission - but I don't have such a theory. At a high
level of abstraction, prices are the sole quantitative expression of value.
But this is because values are quantitatively determined only in the full
circulation of commodities through systemic production and exchange.
Concrete labours have to continually be socially validated by their product
circulating successfully as a commodity. It is perfectly possible for
prices in the real world to fluctuate randomly around the value that is the
central measure. It is perfectly possible for prices to change without any
change in any of the various systemic and systematic determinants of price.

> but the claim that this in some way represented Marx's
> view is as strange

I am not interested in labels. However, I do think that there is ample
textual evidence that Marx was concerned with the determination of value in
the full circulation of commodities through production and exchange.

> as the attempt to paint him as a philosophical
> idealist.

My position is that the idealist-materialist dichotomy is less than

Of course technical meanings of terms can often diverge a long way from
their everyday meanings. However, in the social sciences, this needs to be
accounted for, because, IMO, ideas, meanings etc. are constitutive of
social structures, even when they are not necessarily embedded in
institutions etc. Cast your eye over this list of dictionary definitions of
'value' from the COD:
1 the worth, desirability, or utility of a thing, or the qualities on which
these depend (the value of regular exercise).
2 worth as estimated; valuation (set a high value on my time).
3 the amount of money or goods for which a thing can be exchanged in the
open market; purchasing power.
4 the equivalent of a thing; what represents or is represented by or may be
substituted for a thing (paid them the value of their lost property).
5 (in full value for money) something well worth the money spent (cf.
6 the ability of a thing to serve a purpose or cause an effect (news value;
nuisance value).
7 (in pl.) one's principles or standards; one's judgement of what is
valuable or important in life.
8 Mus. the duration of the sound signified by a note.
9 Math. the amount denoted by an algebraic term or expression.
10 (foll. by of) a the meaning (of a word etc.). b the quality (of a spoken
11 the relative rank or importance of a playing card, chess piece, etc.,
according to the rules of the game.
12 the relation of one part of a picture to others in respect of light and
shade; the part being characterized by a particular tone.
13 Physics & Chem. the numerical measure of a quantity or a number denoting
magnitude on some conventional scale (the value of gravity at the equator).

The closest one to to value=labour time is 8, the musical definition. The
thing in which they all share is in being dimensions - not substances, or
fields. That bothers me, although presumably not you.

Dr Michael Williams
"Books are Weapons"

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