[OPE-L:1974] Re: Value Form (OPE-L 1972)

John Ernst (ernst@pipeline.com)
Wed, 22 Dec 1999 08:40:33

In his query to Chris, Fred wrote:

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.

Comment: In Vol 1, Chap 1, Sec 2, Marx writes:

"Skilled labour counts only as simple labour intensified, or rather,
as multiplied simple labour, a given quantity of skilled being
considered equal to a greater quantity of simple labour. Experience
shows that this reduction is constantly being made. A commodity may
be the product of the most skilled labour, but its value, by equating
it to the product of the simple unskilled labour, represents a definite
quantity of the latter labour alone."

Can the quantities of abstract labor be determined independently
of price? To determine the degree to which skilled labor counts
as abstract labor, Marx seems to be looking at the exchange of
the products of the two types of labor--skilled and unskilled.
This would seem to call into question the idea that abstract labor
"determined independently" of prices. How one tells the difference
between skilled and unskilled labor without reference to prices is,
at best, unclear to me.

The same issue arises when Marx writes:

"The average intensity of labour changes from country to country; here
it is greater, there less. These national averages form a scale, whose
unit of measure is the average unit of universal labour. The more
intense national labour, therefore, as compared with the less intense,
produces in the same time more value, which expresses itself in more
money." (Vol. 1, Ch 22, Para 3)

So far so good. But then Marx goes on:

"But the law of value in its international application is yet more modified
by this, that on the world-market the more productive labor reckons as the
the more intense, so long as the more productive nation is not compelled
to lower the selling price of its commodities to the level of their value."
(para 4)

Thus, If competition does not reduce the social value to
the individual value, then one is forced to look at the labor
involved as "more intense" than the average. The key here is
that reference is made to market forces in making a determination
of the quantity of abstract labor.



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