[OPE-L:6428] Re: [OPE] What is prior? Response to Paul C

Alan Freeman (a.freeman@greenwich.ac.uk)
Tue, 07 Apr 1998 10:26:13 -0500

Alan had written
> > I would thus modify Fred's presentation of the principle in two respects.
> > First, the magnitude of value - not just surplus-value - is independent
> > of distribution. Second, I use the word 'independent' instead of the
> > words 'determined prior' because of the ambiguity of the word 'prior'.

Paul writes
> I take it Alan, that by this you mean the magnitude of value in terms of hours
> of labour. You clearly do not mean magnitude of exchange value
> because by specifying total value you are abstracting from exchange
> between its component parts.

Alan responds

Hmmm, I'd have to be careful about choice of words because I think
'exchange value' has a different meaning for you. For me, every value has a
representation both in hours and in money, and there is no dimensional
incompatibility between price and value. Therefore, value can be either a
quantity of money or a quantity of hours, If for example $1 = 2 hours, and
a commodity contains 100 hours of socially necessary labour time, then its
value can be expressed interchangeably either as 100 hours or $50.

Moreover it receives this value as a consequence of being produced for
sale, not as a result of being exchanged. Thus it is already measured in
money at the point when it emerges from production, whether or not it is

I would say that in the exchange relation the product acquires a price; a
valuation that usually differs quantitatively from the exchange value it
receives through production. A commodity whose value is $50 (=100 hours)
might fetch $20, that is, sell for less than its value. This price can then
be expressed either as $20 or as 40 hours (if meantime the monetary
expression of labour has not changed). If sold at this price, I would say
that a commodity whose value is 100 hours has realised 40 hours. Or, which
is the same thing, a commodity whose value is $50 has realised $20.

I regard both the 100 hours and the $50 as being 'determined prior' to
sale. Both arise entirely from the immediate conditions of the labour
process which gave rise to them and cannot be modified through subsequent

I think that it you probably wouldn't find sense in the idea that the
product has a monetary measure prior to its sale. In that case, my
principle could only be formulated in terms of hours, and in that form, I
suspect that we agree on it.