Subject: [OPE-L:1704] Re: value-form theories and the Uno-school?
From: Fred B. Moseley (email@example.com)
Date: Sun Nov 21 1999 - 09:17:09 EST
I have been very interested in the current discussion of the value-form
interpretation of Marx's theory (initiated by Nicky's every interesting
posts), and frustrated (like many others I am sure) that I do not have
more time to participate. Thanks very much to all the participants (and
especially to Nicky) for this stimulating discussion. This is OPEL at its
Due to lack of time, I will just briefly state a few main points and try
to discuss them later, as time permits. These points are developed in an
unpublished conference paper I wrote two years ago (which need to be
updated), entitled "Abstract Labor: Substance or Form: A Critique of the
Value-Form Interpretation of Marx's Theory" (which is available from my
website: www.mtholyoke.edu/~fmoseley) The main point I want to make is
the third one.
1. I argue that Marx himself clearly assumed abstract labor is the
"substance of value", which is something distinct from money and which
determines money prices. Money is the "necessary form of appearance" of
abstract labor, but it is not abstract labor itself. Riccardo and Makoto
seem to be arguing pretty much the same thing (please correct me if I am
wrong). It there are problems with the concept of a "substance of value",
then these are problems in Marx's theory, which will have to be fixed by
changing something fundamental in Marx's theory.
2. I don't think that there are serious problems with the concept of
abstract labor as the "substance of value." The main criticism that Geert
and Mike make in their book is the old "reduction problem" with an
"operational" twist: that Marx did not solve the problem of reducing
skilled labor to unskilled labor and hence his concept of abstract labor
is not "operational" (i.e. not directly observable as such).
I respond to this criticism in my paper cited.
3. The main point I want to emphasize in this post is that, in answer to
Nicky's crucial question in her first post, I don't think the value-form
interpretation can provide a quantitative theory of profit. Without
abstract labor as the substance of value, there is no surplus labor that
determines the amount of profit.
What I mean by abstract labor as the "substance of value" is the
(1) abstract labor as specific magnitudes is assumed to exist
independently of prices (otherwise, it could not determine prices without
(2) abstract labor determines in part the aggregate price of commodities
according to the following equation:
P = mL
where P is the aggregate price of commodities for the economy as a whole,
L is the aggregate amount of abstract labor in the economy as a whole, and
m is the "money-value added per hour of abstract labor".
Therefore, if abstract labor is not the "substance of value" in this
sense, i.e. if abstract labor does not exist independently of price,
then abstract labor cannot determine price. In this case, one does not
have a quantitative labor theory of price, nor a quantitative labor theory
I look forward to further discussion.
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