[OPE-L:7314] [OPE-L:843] Re: abstract labour

Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 7 Apr 1999 14:14:09 -0400 (EDT)

Back to Ajit:

>Rakesh continues...

>So first you say that concrete labor and abstract labor and use
>value and unit value "contradiction"
>underpins Marx's falling rate of profit thesis. You don't think
>that you need to make any argument to show this underpinning?

Of course an argument needs to be made! It just does not have to be made by
me. Look at the example "Technical Progress: Use Value and Value" in
Foley, pp. 54. Tell me what you think. I am not asking you to assume
anything without an argument. Since you are the expert, I would appreciate
your commentary on the interpretation by Foley of this crucial segement of
Marx's part one analysis. I am certainly not going to be able to provide
you with a better example.

How does the "contradiction"
>between use value and unit value underpin the theory of

That's too obvious: exchange value of the commodity labor power is
determined by the price or value (there is of course great controversy
here) of the commodities that enter into its reproduction; the use value
for Mr Moneybags of that commodity is the abstract labor that produces more
value than the exchange value of the commodity he has purchased. Your
refutation of this well known result hinges on the "the valid point that
Marx does does and could not have treated *surplus-labour* as *the use
value* of labor power [which deals] a death blow to the notion of labor
power as a commodity. If the right to the *surplus labor* belongs to the
worker and not to the capitalist, then the worker has simply not *sold* the
commodity--labor power, and so the question of *consumption* of labor pwoer
by the capitalist, after having bought the commodity, is a spurious one."

Perhaps Marx can easily recover from this death blow. The capitalist will
not repurchase the commodity labor power if in its use he is unable to
extract value sufficiently in excess to its exchange value. The capitalist
is as free not to repurchase this commodity as its owner is not alienate
its use value, labor itself, to its purchaser.

Your real argument seems to be that while Marx claimed that law of value,
interpreted as an equilibrium mechanism, governed labor power, the
existence of widespread unemployment proves that wage labor is not so
governed. But the analysis of labor power that the capitalist does purchase
in terms of the use value/exchange value dichotomy is not impaired by the
existence of unemployment. Since Marx assumes exchange at value in order to
disclose surplus value on that basis, it does not matter for his analysis
at this point whether the existence of widespread unemployment tends to
push labor power below its value, though this condition is of real
practical significance.

> Why can't an increase in total
>output with change in technology lead to a fall in the uniform rate
>of profit in Sraffian system? I would love to hear even half an
>argument about it.

The well known Sraffian/Okishian result is that "viable" technical change
cannot lead to a fall in the uniform profit rate without an increase in the
real wage. A rather elegant demonstration is Van Parijs' in his *Recycling

As for your understanding of Marx's critique of the Ricardian (and
implicitly Walrasian) theory of money in part one and the theory of
(partial) gluts associated therewith, I remain content with your reply that
Marx's own argument reads as mumbo jumbo to you. I never claimed to give
you the argument, only to suggest that you had missed the argument that
Marx was making.

Well, please do read the same mumbo jumbo in Capital III. p. 648, first
full paragraph. Vintage. Remember you underlined that the study of crisis
or universal gluts falls within the third problematic of economics. This
discussion of the monetary forms of crisis from vol III is built on the
critique of Ricardo's money theory from *Capital*, part one.

Yours, Rakesh

ps why does Ian Steedman in his piece on Marx on Ricardo in the Meek
festschrift not mention Marx's critique of Ricardo's money theory? Isn't
that the heart of the matter?