[OPE-L:6344] Re: Re: Historical, real and current costs

Paul Cockshott (wpc@faraday.org)
Tue, 24 Mar 1998 10:46:43 +0000

C. J. Arthur wrote:

> May I point out to Andrew and others engaged in this debate that from a
> marxist point of view it is absolutely impermissable to consider one
> product economies. Value is constituted as an abstraction from use value
> and this itself occurs in practice only in exchange where heterogeneous
> good are identified with each other. Comodities have value 'in themselves'
> only by reflection into them of the value form whether this is understood
> as the commodity form, the money form or the capital form. Conversely a
> value without a value form is an absurdity; yet without exchange this is
> what one has. To identify value with labour time is explicitly denounced by
> Marx, among other reasons because it makes value asocial and ahistorical.

Whilst I agree with Chris that discussing exchange value and price in a
oneproduct economy is absurd, I think you overstate the case in saying Marx
explicitly denounces the identification of value with labour time. I think one
can find passages where he explicitly identifies the two.

> Green theory might say that privileging human time is hopelessly
> anthropocentric. You admit things have value only when they have use value
> but these things do not have use value until they are dry. So it is clear
> that the entire time of their production must be counted whether the
> productive power considered was that of labour or that of the sun - so yes
> the sun does create part of the value. Marx clearly rejected this, set
> value magnitudes in proportion to labor times and treated the excess
> production time in the same way as circulation time - capital's must be
> recompensed for it but this is effected by transfers of value.
> Unfortunately at no point did he offer a satisfactory explanation of just
> why labour time out of all the various times capital is tied up should have
> the privilege of creating a positive while all the others were a negative
> to be compensated for from this positive stock.

Surely the point is that he is concerned with examining social relations,
between people. Exchange value is a relation between people mediated by
things. Human beings do not enter into social relations with the sun, though
in religion they may imagine that they do. Thus the sun and other natural
features of the environment as non participants in social relations are
of value. This is not to say that they do not set the conditions under which
people work and as such influence how much labour is required for tasks.