[OPE-L:1965] what every child knows

C. J. Arthur (cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk)
Mon, 20 Dec 1999 15:03:48 +0000

This is a reply to part of Fred's 1935 Re: value form theories.

On the Kugelmann condition.

This is a standing condition of any society with a division of labour but
in all pre-capitalist societies its workings are very 'loose' and
'inequitable' quantitatively.
Consider a domestic mode. Say a wife takes half as long to clean as the
husband. Does this mean she is to do all the cleaning? BY no means. Say the
wife spends twice as much time on domestic services as the husband. Does
this result in some adjustment so as to equalise 'exchange'.? Of course
not. All that matters is that all the work is accomplished somehow or
other. IMO this applies also in a putative SCP mode. There is no necessity
to exchange equitably between occupations, nor to drive out those who spend
more time than is socially necessary within the same branch. All that
matters is that social needs are met 'somehow or other'.
*Only* capitalism enforces equal exchange and tends to drive down time to
that socially necessary. This is because capital in virtue of its form
determination insists on it.
So the 'standing condition' is met here as in all societies but only in
*this* society is it met with quantitative strictness.
Therefore the law of value cannot be deduced from the standing conditon alone.
(Of course I agree it is also a peculiarity of capitalism that it is all
hidden fetishisticaly.)

Chris A.

>1. Chris, I am of course very glad that you agree with me that the
>equation P = mL expresses Marx's theory of the relation between abstract
>labor and prices, i.e. that abstract labor exists as a separate entity and
>determines prices.
>2. I agree with you that it is important to "ground" this equation, i.e.
>to explain why abstract labor must necessarily appear as prices, or to
>explain why abstract labor is the only possible determinant of prices.
>In another post (1889), you mention that Marx's only argument along these
>lines is a "Smithian" argument that Marx "exasperatedly advanced" in an
>letter to Kugelmann: that abstract labor must be expressed as prices
>because that is the way private labor is regulated in a commodity economy.
>Marx also made this same argument, in a much more complete and less
>exasperated form, in Section 4 of Chapter 1 on the "fetishism of
>commodities. Marx argued that the fetishism of commodities (according
>to which commodities appear to possess value as a natural property,
>independent of the labor that produced them) arises in commodity economies
>because of the peculiar indirect way in which labor is regulated in
>commodity economies. In non-commodity economies, which Marx briefly
>reviews (Robinson Crusoe, feudalism, peasant families, "association of
>free men"), labor is regulated consciously and directly in terms of
>labor-hours. Labor does not have to be expressed indirectly as prices in
>order to be regulated through prices, and hence the products of labor do
>not appear to have value as a natural property. But in commodity
>economies in which there is no conscious, direct regulation of labor,
>labor must be expressed as prices as the only way in which private labor
>can be socially regulated. Hence the fetishism arises.
>Marx noted toward the end of Section 4:
> Political economy has indeed analyzed value and its magnitude,
> however incompletely, and has uncovered the content concealed
> within these forms. BUT IT HAS NEVER ONCE ASKED THE
> PARTICULAR FORM, that is to say, why labor is expressed in
> value, and why the measurement of labor by its duration is
> expressed in the magnitude of the value of the product.
> (Vintage edition, pp. 173-74)
>Marx's answer to this question, it is clear from Section 4, is the
>peculiar way in which private labor is regulated in commodity economies.
>This is at least part of Marx's "grounding" of his equation of price
>3. Chris argues that the necessity to express labor as prices is
>"superseded when we have capitalism because now it is capital's drive for
>valorisation that is the central fact" (1889).
>I would argue that the necessity to regulate social labor through prices
>is not superseded in capitalism; commodity-producing labor is immediately
>unregulated private labor, which can be regulated only through prices.
>Prices still serve the function of regulating social labor, but in an
>indirect and distorted way through the distribution of capital, which is
>itself regulated through the equalisation of profit rates, which
>ultimately depends on prices. I think Rubin (Ch. 18) is good on this
>4. I would also argue that Marx provided additional "grounding" of his
>equation of price determination in Section 1 of Chapter 1 (exchange of
>equivalents, necessity of a common property, abstract labor as the common
>property). There is of course much controversy over the adequacy of
>Marx's arguments in Chapter 1, including on OPEL (which I would not like
>to revisit right now, but would like to one of these days), but as I have
>argued on OPEL, I think that Marx's arguments in Section 1 are basically
>5. Also in the same latter to Kugelmann mentioned above (July 11, 1868),
>Marx argued that, even if there were no arguments in Chapter 1 to support
>the assumption that prices are determined by labor, the real "proof" of
>the validity of this assumption is the explanatory power of this
>assumption that is demonstrated in the rest of the book, i.e the wide
>range of important phenomena that are explained on the basis of this
>assumption (inherent technological change, conflict over the working day
>and over the intensity of labor, falling rate of profit, recurring crises,
> Even if there were no chapter on "value" in my book, the analysis
> of the real relations which I give would contain the proof and
> demonstration of the real value relations. All that palavar about
> the necessity of proving the concept of value comes from complete
> ignorance both of the subject dealt with and of scientific method.
>6. So I would argue that Marx himself provided sufficient "grounding" for
>his equation of price determinatioin.
>Chris does not think Marx's arguments are sufficient, and wants to add an
>additional argument for the necessity of labor as the determinant of
>prices, that has to do with labor's subjugation under capital in
>capitalist production.
>I applaud Chris' general effort. I think it would be helpful to provide
>further "grounding" of the "labor theory of value." As I remember (and
>I don't have the time to look it up right now), I have not been entirely
>convinced by Chris' argument. But I would be happy to be convinced.
>I just don't think the additional argument is necessary.
>I look forward very much to further discussion.

P. S. Please note that I have a new Email address,
but the old one will also run until next summer. (To be doubly sure load both!)

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