[OPE-L:6309] FW: Re: Historical, real and current costs

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@CLASSIC.MSN.COM)
Wed, 18 Mar 98 12:10:25 UT

Sent: Tuesday, March 17, 1998 10:29 AM
To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
Subject: RE: [OPE-L] Re: Historical, real and current costs
Importance: High

A reply to the PIAF:

From: owner-ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu on behalf of Michael Williams
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 1998 6:25 AM
To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
Subject: RE: [OPE-L] Re: Historical, real and current costs

(Note: Michael's posts are violating temporal determination. It is not yet
Wednesday, March 18.)

To begin at the end:

Michael: "Returning to Andrew's earlier post, he also said something else
puzzling: 'wages only accrue during working time'. What does this mean?"

The firm incurs wage costs only while the workers actually work (thru 5 pm),
not throughout the whole of production time (thru 9 pm). This is the key
issue in my example.

Michael: "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."

I haven't thought what I've written on this topic in the couple of days as
defending TSS. All I'm saying is, "here's a possible case, or a stripped-down
possible case. How would you deal with it?"

I had written:

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.

Michael responds: "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."

I think the last point gets to the heart of an underdiscussed issue. I take
the opposite view. I think thought needs to and can appropriate the concrete.
To the extent that our categories contradict reality, they are false. I
think there is no ultimate barrier to the opposite (truth), though it can only
be approached "asymptotically," as it were. This is why I do not like
"models" or reasoning in terms of "ideal types." They presuppose the opposite
view, IMO.

BTW, I think all this is consonant with Hegel.

Hence, I think Michael and I agree on the facts -- "there can be periods when
the two flows are not correlated" -- but disagree about what to do about them.
It seems to me he might be proposing that one make a "violent abstraction"
to eliminate the difficulty. I would propose instead that the conceptual
categories be modified, if necessary, so that they no longer contradict the

I think this is consonant with Marx. Giving his view of James Mill's
"solution" to the wine fermentation problem, Marx wrote (TSV III, pp. 87-88;
emphasis in original):

"Here the contradiction between the general law [of value] and further
developments in the concrete circumstances is to be resolved not by the
discovery of the connecting links but by directly subordinating and
immediately adapting the concrete to the abstract. This moreover is to be
brought about by *a verbal fiction*, by changing the correct names of things."

Michael: "But more than that, we are here discussing the MELT, that is, imo,
a social, average, macro entity *in reality*."

And it is a social, average, macro entity in my example, too. It just so
happens that all chunches are produced with the same technology, that there
are no other commodities, *and* that the working time and the non-working
production time for each chunche is the same.

Michael: "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.)"

I think this might be changing the names of things. Instead of saying workers
don't work between 5 pm and 9 pm, you seem to be saying that they do work, but
with a zero intensity of labor. This is rather similar to Mill's solution.

I have absolutely no problem with saying that 100 hours of labor expended thru
5 pm were need to produce the 100 chunches that are finished at 9 pm, so that
the unit value of a chunche in labor-time terms is 100 hrs./100 chunches = 1
hr/chunche. In fact, that's what I say (interpreting Marx). I DO have a huge
problem with the notion that the wages of $99 allow the workers to purchase
101.02 chunches ($99 divided by the 9 pm price of $0.98/chunche = 101.02
chunches), because the workers can't purchase *any* chunches at 9 pm. They
have *already* spent the $99 and used them to purchase 99 chunches (because
the pre-9 pm price was $1/chunche).

I had written:
>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.

Michael says: "[I don't really understand this bit.]"

Well, the last sentence refers to a bit of confusion on my part concerning the
way Marx uses the term "production time." If the distinctions themselves
aren't clear, please reread the relevant chapter in _Capital_ II (only about
10 pages).

Michael: "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."

Sure, but in the example, it doesn't.

Michael: "...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."

If intensity is averaged inter-temporally, then shouldn't productivity be
averaged inter-temporally? If you say that it should be, then, if the value
of the commodity is determined by the SNLT (which means that the labor is
inter alia of average productivity, what can we conclude about the value of
commodities? (Once you figure out the answer, you'll see why I reject the
notion that intensity or productivity is averaged inter-temporally. Also, I
think it contradicts Marx's definition of SNLT in Ch. 1 of Vol. I.)

Michael: "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

Yes. The temporalist MELT is the ratio of the aggregate monetary value of
alienable assets to their aggregate labor-time value. I suspect that this
means that flows of labor do not matter directly, though don't quote me (which
you mayn't do anyway).

Michael: "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.'."

Well, please reread the material from Marx I cited. Then tell me if you think
I'm misinterpreting him. If not, then either he's guilty of one more internal
inconsistency, or there's a resolution of the apparent contradiction.

Michael: "Take maturing wines (or cheeses, or beers, or venison ...)."


Michael: "First some labour is typically involved in the maturing process
itself; second, this labour can be intensified; ...."

True, but, again, neither is the case in my example, or in the classic wine
fermentation example.

Michael: "... 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."

Yes, but how does this relate to magnitude of value?

Michael: "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."

Here you hit on the most crucial issue, the numbers. So that I understand
what you mean by averaging, would you be willing to provide me with the
surplus-labor and profit figures associated with my example?

Michael: "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."

A culinary staff, working in a capitalistic restaurant, hotel, catering
service, etc., prepares ingredients, sticks them in a pot with water, and
turns on the heat. The heat is turned on at 10:04 am. No stirring, etc.
takes place subsequently. At noon, the soup is cooked. Would you say that
the soup at 10:04, when the working time ended, was equal in value to the soup
at noon?


Andrew Kliman