[OPE-L:5006] Re: ideal vs real value

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Wed, 14 May 1997 02:29:54 -0700 (PDT)

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> From: Michael Williams <mwilliam@compuserve.com>
> To: Multiple recipients of list <ope-l@anthrax.ecst.csuchico.edu>
> Subject: [OPE-L:4996] Re: ideal vs real value
> Date: 13 May 1997 23:43
> > Paul C:
> > Not so. Validation prior to production also takes place via market
> > research. This may not be entirely accurate, but the fact that both
> > market research and final sales both validate something, indicates
> > that the use value, as well as the value exists independent of, and
> > prior to sale.
> Michael W
> Not so. The processes you refer to are components of what we (Geert & I)
> have called 'precommensuration'. They are guestimates that *are to be
> validated* (or not). They are possible because of the embedding of the
> production process in question within a system of ubiquitous commodity
> circulation. They *may* (contingently) involve stop watches (and no doubt
> tasters, focus groups and all kinds of things).

Of course, contemporary business firms conduct market research prior to
production. This research, however, is not a "validation" of the use-value
and exchange-value of products that are about to be produced. *At best*,
they are merely ex ante *anticipations* which, ultimately, are
"guesstimates." This subjective anticipation of value is very different
from the actual validation of value via the act of exchange. Until that
act, estimates remain estimates. It is the act of exchange itself which
validates (or does not validate) value and either confirms or tears
asunder the estimates that capitalists had. This uncertainty and risk
related to value becoming real/actual is a necessary consequence of the

Paul C
There are 3 distinct things involved here

Exchange Value
Use Value

Value is the labour required to make a commodity under prevailing
conditions of productivity

Exchange Value is a ratio between use values

Use Value - according to Marx is properly the domain of technology
and relates to the useful physical properties of things

My point was that use value exists independently of sale in the
useful properties of objects. This can be determined by asking people
what uses they could put an object to, whether they find Microsoft
Word more useful than Latex to prepare documents etc. This usefulness
exists independent of the commodity character of the object. Microsoft
Word is a commodity, Latex is free on the Internet, but irrespective
of whether they have a price, one may be more useful for certain
purposes than others. When writing a book I prefer Latex, when writing
a letter Word is more useful.

Market research is a means of determining the usefulness of things.
Of course the reason why it is employed is to determine how many of
a given thing can be sold, which relates to the thing's exchange value.
To the extent that it concerns only how people can be conned into
buying something, market research clearly does not validate use value.
But it is not sale that validates the usefulness of a thing. Advertising
may often induce people to buy things, which, when they try them out
turn out to be far less useful than they expected. Anyone who had the
misfortune to purchase a Sinclair QL can testify to that. What validates
use value is puting something to use and seeing if it works.

The table below illustrates the concepts of use value, exchange
value and value applied to two products.
Product | Word Latex
type of |
value |
Use value | good for good for
| letters books
Exchange value | $300 zero
Value | circa circa
| 60 mins 30 mins

The use value relates to the technological properties of commodities.
It is a mistake to identify use value with the neoclassical notion
of 'utility' as some sort of scalar magnitude, I feel that this
is behind the idea that use value can be validated in sales.

The exchange value relates to how many dollars the product will
exchange for, and this depends among other things upon the monopoly
conditions that may exist in given markets.

The value is the labour required to reproduce a product, which in
the case of digital information is very low, for Microsoft Word which
is reproduced on a CD it is slightly higher than for Latex which
is reproduced over the internet. Legally enforced monopolies allow
the price of software - its exchange value - to stay systematically
above its reproduction value.