Fred B. Moseley (email@example.com)
Fri, 24 Dec 1999 00:27:10 -0500 (EST)
I am on my way out of town for ten days, but I want to try write a quick
reply to John's comments and questions in (1974) (thanks, John). We can
discuss further when I return.
1. As I understand it, Marx assumed that skilled labor is some multiple
of simple labor, as did Ricardo before him (with many different kinds of
skilled labor and hence many different multiples). Marx did not explain
how these multiples or "reduction coefficients" are determined. Instead,
he just took them as given, again as did Ricardo. In the Critique (p.
31), Marx said: "The laws governing this reduction do not concern us
2. In the passage from vol. 1 of Capital that John quotes, Marx does not
say that these reduction coefficients are determined by market exchange.
Rather, he says that the market exchange of commodities as equivalents is
evidence that this reduction is made in some way. The reduction
coefficients are MANIFESTED in market exchange, but they are NOT
DETERMINED by market exchange. Remember that this passage is in the
context of a general discussion of "the nature of value INDEPENDENTLY OF
ITS FORM OF APPEARANCE" (p. 128, Vintage edition) (with a return to the
"form of appearance of value" in Section 3).
3. Marx briefly returned to the issue of skilled labor in presenting his
theory of surplus-value in Chapter 7. Recall that in this chapter (Sec.
2), Marx first calculates the quantity of abstract labor, in units of
labor-hours, required as a social average to produce first 10 lbs. of yarn
(30 hrs.) and then 20 lbs. of yarn (60 hrs.). All this is independent of
prices. Then assuming that the money-value-added per labor-hour is 0.5
shillings, Marx determines the price of each of these two quantities of
yarn as the product of the number of labor-hours and the money-value-added
per labor-hour (i.e. P = mL).
Marx mentioned early in this section that he is assuming, for the sake of
simplicity, that spinning labor is simple labor (p. 296). He adds:
"Later it will be seen that the contrary assumption would make no
Then labor in this section, he returns to this point (pp. 304-06). Here
Whatever the difference in skill there may be between the labor of
a spinner and the labor of a jeweler, the portion of his labor by
which the jeweler merely replaces the value of his own labor-power
does not in any way differ in quality from the additional portion
by which he creates surplus-value. In both cases, the surplus-
value results only from a quantitative excess of labor, from a
lengthening of one and the same labor process: in the one case,
the proces of making jewels, in the other, the process of making
In other words, no matter what the reduction coefficients of skilled labor
to simple labor are, skilled labor produces surplus-value in the same way
as simple labor: by a quantitative extension of the working day beyond
necessary labor (i.e. S = m ( Lc - Ln)).
I know there is much more to discuss here and I look forward to continuing
the discussion when I return.
Happy holidays everybody and happy new millennium!
May it be a socialist millenium!
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