[OPE-L:5283] Re: Metal money versus absolute value

M Williams (Michael@mwilliam.u-net.com)
Tue, 17 Jun 1997 14:39:43 -0700 (PDT)

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At 08:45 17/06/97 -0700, you wrote:

>> Michael W:
>> A couple of queries:
>> 1. The 'total annual labour expended by society' is a vector of many
>diverse specific concrete labours, is it not?
>> 2. *If* one is seeking a theory of relative prices, then the question is
>> *what* fraction of 'total annual labour expended by society' measures a
>> particular relative/individual value? Is it not?
>One abstracts from these when looking at the total labour of society
>on the grounds that the labour force is fluid and can flow into different
>activities. This is what distinguishes human labour from that of termites,
>though even these have some flexibility.

Michael W:
This is now a well trodden disagreement between us about the nature of
Abstract Labour. I am still considering your position, but we do, perhaps,
not need to repeat our respective positions

> Paul C:
>In looking at the portion of societies labour that is devoted to making
>different things one is doing more than seek a theory of relative prices.
>One is looking at the material conditions of production, whose imperfect
>social representation may be expressed as relative prices.
>However, these underlying material conditions of production are in
>a sense more basic than relative prices, in that were social relations
>of production to change so that products no longer had prices, the
>requirement to allocate amounts of labour to things production would remain.
>Social ownership of the means of production might dethrone gold
>from its position as a monetary standard, but gold would remain absolutely
>expensive. Socialism will not bring us all gold tableware.
>Whilst prices are relative, values are absolute. A society that must devote
>20 hours to the production of 20 kilos of corn is absolutely poorer than
>a society that can produce it in 1 hour. Knowing absolute values one can
>of course deduce relative values, but values themselves are not relative.
>If one knows the fraction of the social working year it takes to make
>something, one can deduce relative values. If we also know how
>many people there are in the working population and how long they work,
>we can deduce what the absolute value of things is.

Michael W:
Again, our past discussions indicate that we have quite different
conceptions of the relative importance of these underlying trans-historical
technical-physical constraints as opposed to the systemic social evaluation
of different products as Commodities, that is quite specific to Capitalism.
We need, I think, not rehearse them again now.

All the best
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