[OPE-L:6302] RE: Re: Historical, real and current costs

Michael Williams (Michael@MWILLIAM.U-NET.COM)
Wed, 18 Mar 1998 11:25:49 +0000

Thanks to Andrew for his clarification. However, I am still not clear
on the point being made. I think I can air my puzzlement more easily
by querying some bits of Andrew's response to Jerry on the same
topic. But I will refer also to Andrews examples from his response to

I am following this debate with care, because whilst I am attracted
to some aspects of TSS, some of the ways it is defended really puzzle
me. And this is one.

In response to Jerry, Andrew wrote:
> I *am* saying, however, that value does not increase in strict proportion to
> the flow of labor-time; i.e., the flow of value per unit of time is not
> proportional to the flow of labor per unit of time.

Perhaps I am being naive, but this last statement seems quite clear
and unambiguous. It also seems to me to imply that value cannot be
proportional to labour time. Of course, by careful selection of
end-points, there can be periods when the two flows are not
correlated. But our explanatory categories cannot be expected to map
onto every detail of reality, however time-sub-scripted they may be.
But more than that, we are here discussing the MELT, that is, imo, a
social, average, macro entity *in reality*.

Turning to the examples that have so far emerged of hiatus between
value and labour flows, it seems to me they fall into two categories:

A.- Those to be grasped as less-than-maximum intensity of labour.
(This may be associated both - and inseparably - with organizations
and technologies for real subordination.)
>The gaps can occur anywhere during the production time, beginning,
>middle, end. The working time is any time during which workers are
>actually working to produce the product. I think production time is
>either the whole period between input and output, or the
>uninterrupted subperiods between input and output.
[I don't really understand this bit.]
>In any case, terminology aside, there are three distinct concepts.
>An example: It takes two days to build a chair. (Whole period
>between input and output.) During the night in between these two
>days, production is interrupted. (Two uninterrupted subperiods
>between input and output.) Production continues after work is
>completed on the second day, because the chair is only finished when
>the varnish is dry.
[This fits in here because expenditure of labour
could speed up the drying, and/or intensification of the labour
process could ensure that there was no down-time while one item was
drying, etc..]

>Output comes from a computer sometime after the command is given by
>the worker.

As to these, let us remind ourselves that the context is a discussion
about how to conceptualize the MELT. Then the appropriate intensity
of labour is the average one - both cross-sectionally and
inter-temporally. It would clearly be to misunderstand Andrew to
suggest that he proposes that the MELT (an intrinsically social,
average, macro category) jumps up and down as labour stops and starts
over the day or week? Wouldn't it?

B. - Those that do indeed seem to endow value-creating (and not just
use-value enhancing) powers to (non-human) nature. For example:
> the value of finished wine is greater than that
>of the pressed grapes, even WITHOUT additional labor being expended.
> The value of the chunches, I think Marx would argue, is (the monetary expression of)
>100 labor-hours. But I don't think he'd say they had this value at
>5 pm.

As to these, to my mind the very cogency of the metaphysics of the
labour theory of value depend upon distinguishing between human
natural energies regulated as labour power and non-human natural
energies that are not so grasped. There are a number of gambits that
can be used to maintain this crucial distinction: recognition that
'nature' can enhance usefulness; that nature can provide better or
worse conditions under which wage-labour is performed; recognition
that refined enhanced usefulness is often associated with scarcity.
Take maturing wines (or cheeses, or beers, or venison ...). First
some labour is typically involved in the maturing process itself;
second, this labour can be intensified; third it is, anyway, the
muscle and brain power of the labour that cultivated and harvested the
grapes and made and casked the wine that makes a product that is
*capable* of improving in use-value by maturation.

And what do these second type of examples have to do with
conceptualizing the MELT. Not a lot, I would say. The labour times and
prices involved just enter into the social average flows.

So, it seems to me that the money flow/labour-time flow measure of
MELT is not just a proposal for a statistical approximation, but is
rather true to the social nature of the MELT. Does that make be a
'simultaneist'? I haven't a clue. But it certainly doesn't imply
that I conceive a period of production as vanishingly small. It
certainly doesn't stop me conceiving investment as being essentially
temporal (or insisting that turnover, depreciation and obsolescence
are all essential to grasping Marx on the trpf).

There is also one example I do not get at all:

> Soup has more value once it is cooked.

If the cooking is done by wage labour, its value is paru
passu increased. If it is done by domestic (or voluntary) labour, its
usefulness is enhanced, but not its value.

But I have a problem: Andrew is not silly. These examples, in the
context of conceptualizing MELT, in the way I have interpreted them,
seem a bit silly. Therefore, I must be missing something: my
interpretations are silly. What is it?

Returning to Andrew's earlier post, he also said something else
>wages only accrue during working time

What does this mean?

Comradely greetings,
"Books are Weapons"
Dr Michael Williams
Department of Economics Home:
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences 26 Glenwood Avenue
De Montfort University Southampton
Milton Keynes SO16 3QA
tel:+1908 834876 tel/fax: +1703 768641
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