[OPE-L:5054] Re: question

riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Sat, 17 May 1997 08:19:50 -0700 (PDT)

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Dear Aijt,

your letter is quite interesting. There are points on which I
agree, and ones on which I disagree.

I'll answer in a couple of days, since now I'm very pressed.


At 1:22 -0700 16-05-1997, Ajit Sinha wrote:
>At 10:28 AM 5/15/97 -0700, Riccardo wrote:
>>Dear Aijt,
>> I thank you very much for your answer to my question. I am curious
>>of others' opiniosn as well.
>> But now strictly to you: am I right if I say that then, according
>>to you, the labour time to which commodities are reduced is labour time *as
>>such* and not capitalist, and only capitalist, labour time? That is: value
>>is a category pertaining to commodity exchange; abstract labour a category
>>pertaining to production in general, whatever its social determination?
>>Being production nothing but embodiment of abstract labour always and
>>everywhere, if there is a deduction, in the sense that not the whole
>>produce of labour goes to workers, then we have exploitation. Right?
>These are serious issues you raise. I was thinking of writing something to
>your comments on Duncan. But, now I'll do it here. Your one concern is about
>"abstraction" of labor, because you think concrete labor cannot be added or
>compared, and this takes you to the point of commodity exchange. But it
>seems to me that many people have not realized that the problem, if it is a
>problem, would arise much before you get to exchange. Go to any factory, say
>a car factory. A car is not produced with one kind of concrete labor,
>leaving the constant capital element aside. All kinds of different kinds of
>concrete labor go into producing anything, so if concrete labors cannot be
>added, it cannot be added even at the factory level. So the problem does not
>arise in the context of comparing two commodities in exchange, but much
>before that. This is simply a problem of hetrogeneous labor. Now most of the
>classical economists believed that in the case of land and labor, the
>hetrogeniety could be homogenized for theoretical purposes because their
>quantitative determination does not depend on their prices. The problem with
>hetrogeneous capital is different because its quantity cannot be measured
>independent of its prices. Now, I think that one can always agree to the
>notion of "unskilled" labor in any given cultural context. Then the
>homogenization of labor reduces to reduction of skilled to unskilled labor.
>I think one can use Bob Rowthorn's method as a theoretically consistent
>method of reducing skilled labor to unskilled labor. Once we accept that,
>then in principle we can always measure the total, i.e. direct and indirect
>labor-time needed to produce a commodity. My sense is that the attempt to
>tie the measure of labor with the prices of commodities may create similar
>problem for marxism as the problem of measuring capital created the problem
>for neoclassical economics.
>Now, to the questions you have raised above. My position is that Marx has
>chosen labor as his fundamental unit of measure for an analysis of
>capitalism because at the pivot of the system lies exploitation, which is
>the extraction or streatching of labor beyond the necessary labor-time. This
>particular aspect of the system is hidden because of the wage relation on
>the one hand and capitalist competition on the other. I do not think that
>Marxian exploitation can be understood as the laborer not getting his/her
>whole produce. This is both the Sraffian as well as the Duncan Foley-type
>definition of exploitation, and I disagree with this. In this case
>exploitation is defined at the level of distribution, i.e. post factum,
>after production is over. My position is that Marx's exploitation is defined
>at the level of production. I explain this difference between myself and
>Garegnani and Eatwell in my paper 'The Transformation Problem: Is the
>Standard Commodity a Solution', this paper is currently under review with a
>journal. But I'll be happy to send this paper to anyone interested-- an
>earlier version of this paper was also read at the ASSA in Washington DC in
>> Moreover, what is the reason why output is not embodying the
>>contribution of other factors of production. Because labour is the only
>>human element in production?
>In my opinion, the value of all economic entity is reduced to labor because
>labor is the only social element in the production. What could be other
>'factor' of production? We of course know that 'capital' cannot be
>considered a 'factor' of production. What about land? land, by definition,
>is not a social element. However, I would suggest that in the context of
>enviorenmental economics, we may get in trouble by treating land that way.
>Moreover, we might have to take enthropy into account in developing such
>theories. So at certain stage and for certain problems we may have to
>abandon labor-values as the most fundamental measure. Cheers, ajit sinha