[OPE-L:4933] Re: ideal vs real value

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Tue, 6 May 1997 06:42:52 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

A reply to Jerry's ope-l 4927.

I think this discussion has been productive. I think I now understand why
Jerry objects to what he takes to be the notion of "conservation of value in
exchange" and why he thinks his quote from Marx indicates that value can
indeed be altered in exchange, according to Marx.

The key, I think, is that Jerry begins with two spheres, production and
circulation, and takes "conservation of value in exchange" to mean
conservation of value in the SPHERE of circulation. Since, once a commodity
is produced, it enters the sphere of circulation, "conservation of value in
exchange" would then mean that the value of an item cannot change once its
production has been completed.

It is easy to make fun of this notion. Indeed, it is absurd. I see an apple
in the store. When no one is looking, a take a bite out of it, and then put
it back. It is in the SPHERE of circulation; it has never left that SPHERE;
yet one would have to have a very unusual conception of value and use-value to
say that its value is not destroyed along with its use-value. Thus, value is
not necessarily conserved in the sphere of circulation.

But I don't think that those, like Marx, who hold to the notion of
"conservation of value in exchange" mean that "the quantity of 'value' [that
has been] produced can neither increase or decrease in the sphere of
circulation," as Jerry has written. I know I don't mean this; never have.

Rather, I (at least) mean that aggregate value cannot be altered in the
PROCESS of exchange. The question is, in its essentials, simply this: can a
change of titles alter the amount of value in existence? It sometimes seems
to do so: officers of different S&Ls sitting around, each signing over a
piece of property to the next one, each time at a greater "value," so that the
"value" of the property increases within one or two hours from $150 thousand
to $200 thousand to $250 thousand to $300 thousand. Yet, as I (at least)
understand the notion that value is only conserved in (the process of)
exchange, it maintains that the property is worth no more than it was before;
the price has been artificially increased over the REAL (not "potential," not
"ideal") value of the property. The notion of "potential" value, and this
seems to be the case with "ideal" value as well, make it impossible to
understand matters in this way. Rather, one would have to say that the REAL
value of the property doubled through the 3 flips.

I think this is the understanding of others as well. For instance Paul
Cockshott. In ope-l 4929, he writes: "Value may be conserved in exchange,
but that does not imply that value of goods left on the shelves of warehouses
etc must stay the same. The issue of stock depreciation is quite distinct from
conservation in exchange." This would make absoultely no sense were "in
exchange" to be interpreted as meaning "in the *sphere* of circulation, i.e.,
in anything except the sphere of production." But it makes perfect sense once
Paul's reference to "in exchange" is interpreted to mean "in the process of
exchange." Applying my Jigsaw Puzzle Parable -- the most adequate
interpretation of the instructions is that which allows the puzzle to be
constructed, or, more prosaically, the most adequate interpretation of the
text is that which allows the text to make sense (given that *proof* of
internal inconsistency is lacking) -- I conclude that Paul's "in exchange"
means "in the process of exchange."

I know that a lot of people, most recently Riccardo, resist the Jigsaw Puzzle
Parable because they don't like the conclusions to which it leads in
particular cases. But here we have a case in which it is possible to test the
principle: if my interpretation is wrong (in your view) Paul, please tell me.

Andrew Kliman