[OPE-L:1972] Re: value-form theories

Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Wed, 22 Dec 1999 00:57:21 -0500 (EST)

A few brief comments on Chris' interesting post (1966).

On Mon, 20 Dec 1999, C. J. Arthur wrote:
> This is a reply to Fred's 1935
> >
> >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.
> >
> >It seems to me that this is a significant difference between you and R-W,
> >who seem to deny that abstract labor exists as a separate entity and
> >determines prices, in the sense of the above equation. Hence, in this
> >case, the label "value-form" is misleading, in that it obscures a
> >fundamental difference between these two versions of the "value-form"
> >interpretation.
> >
> No more misleading than 'Marxist'.

True enough, but everyone knows that there are many different kinds of
"Marxists". The label "value-form" seems to suggest a specific, unified
interpretation of, or alternative to, Marx's theory. But you are probably
right that labels often obscure important differences.

> It is true that some value form theorists think prices are contingnet and
> (wrongly equating science with numbers) conclude there is no possibility of
> economic science. But I never saw R&W say that. Rather on p.63 I read
> "Labour time creates value". This suggests to me there is an order of
> quantitative determination implicit in their work.

Well, if so, I wish R-W would spell this out in greater detail.

> When accepting the equation I did not say 'abstract labour' exists
> separately. Like Andy I am uncomfortable with that. One thing is surely
> clear. AL cannot have an entirely separate existence from the value form if
> the qualifcation 'abstract' is understood as indicating the labour is given
> already value formed qualitatively, and likewise 'socially necesary' is
> quantitatively relevant only because of value relations.. It is the value
> form that determines how to 'take' labour and how to count it.

Let me try again:

What I mean by the "independent existence" of abstract labor is the

1. abstract labor is defined independently of prices, i.e. the unit of
measure of abstract labor is not prices.

2. the quantity of abstract labor (socially necessary labor time) is also
determined independently of prices. If the quantity of abstract labor
were determined in some way by prices, then the equation P = mL would not
be a theory of determination, or a relation of causation, but would
instead by a tautology.

I agree that "abstract labor is quantitatively relevant only because of
value relations." But it is still true that, for Marx, the quantity of
abtract labor is defined and determined independently of prices.

Do you agree or disagree with these two points? If you agree, then that
is what I mean by "independent existence." If you mean something else by
"independent existence", then please tell me what and maybe I will agree.
But the important issue for me is the above two points, not the term
"independent existence".

> But people sense that there is some closer connection than that of external
> causality. This is probably why Marx used 'substance' talk and spoke of
> immanent measure. Rubin reproves him for this last, pointing out that this
> concept is unknown to science, and reading it, following Bauer, as a
> reference to a causal relation (like fred?).
> But it might mean value has no actuality except as it mediates itself in
> labour and therewith is consubstantial with it.
> Comradely
> Chris A.

I don't understand why you call causation an "external relation". Please
expalin further.

I am talking about causation, not correlation, and causation that has been
explained as necessary. According to Marx's theory, prices are determined
by abstract labor, because in capitalism private labor is regulated
through prices. In what sense is this causation "external"? And please
explain what is the "closer connection" beyond necessary causation.

Thanks very much.


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