[OPE-L:7205] [OPE-L:727] Re: Thought experiment on exchange

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 23 Mar 1999 18:07:20 -0500 (EST)

Gil wrote in [OPE-L:725]:

> How might we get around the ambiguity in the foregoing situation, to
> permit a conclusion something like Marx's in Chapter 1?
> 1) We could, of course, *assume* that goods A, B, and M are
> *commodities*, i.e., products of labor.

That's my choice.

The subject of Ch. 1, after all, is "The Commodity".

(and, I would add, commodities produced under *capitalist* relations.
Thus Marx begins Ch. 1: "The wealth of societies in which the capitalist
mode of production prevails appears as an 'immense collection of
commodities' ....").

> <snip>
> 3) But suppose "reproducibility" does not necessarily imply "being a
> product of labor". Would we be logically compelled by some property of
> exchange to deduce that "reproducible" goods are necessarily products of
> abstract labor? No. For example, a good that comes very close to being
> reproducible without labor is *information*, such as might be embodied in a
> formula or an empirical observation. This good can be "reproduced" simply
> by consuming it in a communicable way, e.g. repeating the information
> gained loudly enough so that others nearby can hear it. Or better yet,
> have the information bit posted in some public way, subject to the caveat
> that access to the information can be monitored.
> Then reproduction (dissemination) automatically follows from the fact of
> consumption, with no act of productive labor taking place.
> As we know from the modern discussions about "intellectual property
> rights", one can command a price for dissemination (reproduction) of
> information. But per the above, it doesn't follow that additional bits of
> information thus disseminated are products of labor. Thus given bits of
> information would not have "in common" with standard commodities the
> property of being products of abstract labor, even if they're exchanged,
> contrary to Marx's claim.

You are ignoring (a large) part of Marx's perspective on the above issue:
his theories concerning ***rent***.

(NB: we have never really discussed on this list the topic of the
relation between Marx's theory of value and his understanding of rent? I
think such a discussion would be very illuminating).

> For example, you've heard the story about cigarettes serving as money in
> prisoner of war camps.


In solidarity, Jerry