[OPE-L:5224] RE: ideal vs real value

Michael Williams (mwilliam@compuserve.com)
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 15:51:47 -0700 (PDT)

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To continue my response to Andrew K, who wrote (quotes from Resultate,
Capital I, Vintage, pp. 991-92, caps added):
> This abstract labor, Marx tells us, is "real work," the magnitude of
which is
> determined in production just as is the magnitude of concrete labor, for
> fact it is the same real work: "The work is not done twice over, once to

> produce a suitable product, a use-value, ... and a second time to
> *value* and *surplus-value*, to *valorize value*. ... All that is
> is the labour of spinning, etc. ...

Michael W:
Of course - but this real work has two aspects - it produces a certain
number of use-values, and creates an amount of potential value. This is, of
course, a perhaps misleadingly schematic form of words. Given an ongoing
system of generalised capitalist commodity production and exchange,
including the trading of L-P as if it were a commodity, to all intents and
purposes any specific bit of work we might care to observe is already
constituted as abstract labour, the substance of value. But the point of
the potentially misleading schemata is precisely to make clear that the
constitution of abstract labour is achieved not in production in isolation,
but only in production as embedded in commodity circulation. More
concretely, the abstraction from work actually performed to abstract labour
is reproduced by the real on-going abstractions in commodity and
labour-power markets.

Andrew K:
>This *real* work creates value only if it
> is performed at a normally defined rate of intensity ... and if this
> work* of given intensity and of given quantity AS MEASURED IN TERMS OF
> actually materializes as a product. ... Therefore, the labour process
> a valorization process by virtue of the fact that the concrete labour
> in it is a quantity of *socially necessary* labour (thanks to its

Michael W:
It is quite clear from a quote from early in V1 that I cited some time ago,
that for Marx 'social necessity' was also determined by the fact that that
labour that produces that proportion of output that turns out to be in
excess supply is 'wasted' just as surely as that extra labour needed on a
sub-average technique of production.

Andrew K:
> In MECW 32, p. 326 (this is also in TSV part III, in the section on
> he notes similarly: "Ricardo continuously confuses the labour which is
> represented in use value and that which is represented in exchange value.
> is true that the latter species of labour is ONLY THE FORMER SPECIES
> IN AN ABSTRACT FORM" (caps added). So the difference between them was
> that Ricardo thought that the work that workers actually do creates
> whereas Marx disagreed. No, he agreed with that, because abstract labor
> concrete labor "expressed in an abstract form." Where Ricardo went wrong
> in failing to recognize that, although *real work* does create value, it
> so not by virtue of its natural properties, but by virtue of an
> specific, alienated *production relation* in which the
> "worker puts his life into the object, and his life no longer belongs to
> himself but to the object. ... The *alienation* of the worker in his
> means not only that his labour becomes an object, assumes an *external*
> existence, but that it exists independently, *outside himself*, and alien
> him, and that it stands opposed to him as an autonomous power. The life
> he has given to the object sets itself against him as an alien and
> force" (Marx, "Alienated Labor").

Michael W:

Quite. And that historically specific etc social relation precisely
involves a labour process embedded in commodity circulation.

Andre K:
> This is his [Michael L.'s] answer to the following questions of mine:
"If, on the other
> hand, the magnitude of a commodity's value is indeterminate until sale,
or if
> it only becomes a value upon sale, then I would like to know how
defenders of
> this [PIP] interpretation account for the determination of value. Where
> how does the quantitative alternation in value take place?

Michael W:
My answer to this is first to reiterate the necessity of understanding
'production' as an element embedded in the capitalist system, and secondly
to say that since the magnitude of Value is not determined in production in
isolation, the question raised does not arise

Andrew K:
> Also, is
> there any difference between magnitude of value and price?"

Michael W:
My answer would be that the price is the sole independent expression of the
magnitude of value, and that IMO Marx does not offer a theory of price
determination, but of the allocation of labour as determined by value-form

> More importantly, if the market determines the magnitude of value, then

Michael W:

It is not my position that 'the market determines the magnitude of value'.

Andrew K:
> Moreover, such things as the distinction between productive and
> labor would become completely inexplicable. Indeed, salespeople and
> especially advertising and marketing specialists would then become the
> men (and women) in value generation, since they are located precisely at
> "point" of its generation.

Michael W:
I do indeed have a problem with this distinction. It seems to me to be
ahistorical. Marketing labour etc. produces a commodity useful to somebody,
under capitalist relations of production - so why should it not create
value? The only sense I can make of it is by reference to some kind of
notional 'rationally organised economy' in which such 'wasteful' activities
would no longer be socially valued.

More later.
Dr Michael Williams
"Books are Weapons"

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