[OPE-L:7301] [OPE-L:830] Re: abstract labour

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 22:27:19 -0400 (EDT)


In an obnoxious style all your own, you given me quite a bit to take issue with.
I only have time for the two central points: your mis-understanding of
Marx's critique of Ricardian money and partial glut theory and your
interpretation of the meaning of Marx's law of value.

As for the first, recall that I had quoted from Theories of Surplus Value,
and you responded thusly:

"You see crisis you are talking about here is the misallocation
of labor
crisis. Market mismatch. This of couse falls within the allocation
problematic that I have alluded above. You should know that Ricardo
is far from childish. If you keep talking like this, no serious
scholar will ever take you seriously."

Now Ajit how do you expect a serious guy like me to take you seriously?
Even the most superficial reading makes clear that the whole point here is
Marx's critique of the understanding of crises only and always as partial
gluts (aka the allocation of labor problem), never as universal ones. Marx
thinks this reductionist error which takes it most extreme form in Say's
Law comes from an incomprehension of money.

Let's continue Marx's critique of Ricardo's exclusive concern with the
quantitative determination of exchange value from p. 504 of Theories of
Surplus Value II (Moscow: Progress Publishers.

First the footnote to what I have already quoted:

"That Ricardo regards money merely as a means of circulation is synomous
with his regarding exchange value as a merely transient form, and
altogether as something purely formal in bourgeois or capitalist
production, which is consequenly for him not a specific definite mode of
productin, but simply the mode of production."

Marx continues:

"That only particular commodities, and not all kinds of commodities, can
form a 'glut on the market' and that therefore overproduction can always
only be partial, is a poor way out [that's your way, Ajit--rb]. In the
first place, if we consider only the nature of the commodity, there is
nothing to prevent *all commodities* from being superabudnant on the
market, nad therefore all falling below their price. We are here only
concerned with the factor of crisis. That is all commodities, apart from
money [may be superabundant]. [The proposition] the commodity must be
converted in money, only means that : all commodities must do so. And just
as the difficulty of undergoing this metamorphosis exists for an individual
commodity, so it can exist for all commodities.--which includes the
purchase and sale jsut as it does their unity--instead of excluding the
possibility of a general glut, on the contrary, contains the possibility of
a general glut. Ricardo's and similar types of reasoning are moreover based
not only on the relation of purchase and sale, but also on that of demand
and supply, which we have to examine only when considering the competition
of capitals. As Mill says purchase is sale, etc, therefore demand is supply
and supply demand. But they also fall apart and can become independent of
each other. At a given moment, the supply of all commodities can be greater
than the demand for all commodities, since the demand for the general
commodity, money, exchange value, is greater than the demand for all
particular commodities, in other words the motive to turn the commodity
into money, to realise its exchange value, prevails over the motive to
transform the commodity again into use value."

Now this is not the argument you are asking for, but it does indicate the
argument that needs to be made and understood--Marx's critique of Ricardian
money theory as setting the grounds for a theory of universal, as opposed
to partial (aka the labor allocation problem), gluts.

Equally superficial is your understanding of the law of value; your
bourgeois economic eyes are focused on the market and equilibriating

You write:

"The *law* of value, as I have said many times, is like the *law* of
gravity. It equilibrates supply of a commodity to its effectual

Now do underline that the Marxian law of value is like a law of gravity
*only* in the sense that it asserts itself as does a house when it falls
upon our ears. Why then does the law of value not peacefully and simply
work to equilibriate supply and demand? Where is your argument?

Compare Mattick in the chapter "The Law of Value as an Equilibrium
Mechanism" in his Marx and Keynes:

"Even so, in maintaining the 'social equilibrium of production,' the law of
value asserts itself just as 'the law of gravity does when a house falls
upon our ears." it asserts itself by way of crises, which restore, not a
lost balance between supply and demand in terms of production and
consumption, but necessary 'equilibrium' between the material production
process and the value expansion process. It is not the market mechanism
which explains an apparent equilibrium of supply and demand but the
accumulation of capital which allows the market mechanism to appear, at
times, as an equilibrium mechanism." p. 56

Or from Mattick's Marxism: last refuge of the bourgeoisie?

"This allocation of the social labor must be brought about thrhough the
uncoodinated activities of the diverse capital entitites in their
competitive pursuit of suprlus value. And if its brought about in some
fashion, this is not due to any equilibrium tendencies stemming from teh
suppy and demand relations, but is accomplished through shifts of labor
time relations at the point of production, as determined by the value and
surplus value relations of capital production Because the production of
commodities is subordinated to that of capital, the social allocation of
labor is determined by the accumulation of capital. The regulatory element
in capital production must then be looked for not in the market, but in the
production of value and surplus value as determined by capitalis relations
of production.
"The market exchange of commodities must lead to the accumulation of
capital. If it does not serve this end, there exists no possbility for the
exchangeability of all commodities, which is a necessary condition of the
equation of supply and demand. With the consumption propensity of the
workers restricted to the value of their labor power--that is, to the
necessary part of the total social labor time--the whole of the surpulus
value, in its commodity form, would have to be consumed by the capitalists
in order to assure the exchangeability of all that has been produced. This
would imply a condition of simple reproduction, hwich however is foreign to
capital. It is then the accumulating part of the surplus value that may
allows for the exchangeability of all commodities and therewith for an
apparent indentity of supply and demand--an identity not indicating an
equilibrium of production and consumption, however, but only a relationship
between necessary and surplus labor assuring the enlarged reproduction of
capital. Only this can provide a basis for the allocation of labor over the
different spheres of production. This it is always an allocation of labor
resulting from teh social realtiosn of production and therefore from the
value relations in which they find their fetishistic expression." p. 22

Yours, Rakesh

ps I don't have time presently to deal with the nature of Marx's criticism
of classical economics for its inattention to the form of value (see
Postone); the epistemological dimensions of the theory of commodity
fetishism (see Derek Sayer); Marx's explicit and implicit critique of other
schools' theories of money and his positive analysis of the peculiarities
of the value form (recent issues of The International Journal of Political
Economy); the Marxian principle of historical specificity as it was
sharpened by defending Richard Jones against Ricardo (see TSV III; Korsch;
Patrick Murray; the role of Jones in the development of the theory of the
Asiatic Mode of Production)

That is a full time job. And I don't have the time for it presently