[OPE-L:1995] A possible paradox in the theory of value

Paul Cockshott (clyder@gn.apc.org)
Thu, 30 Dec 1999 22:33:27 GMT

I have thought of a possible paradox in value theory.

Let us assume
1. That the value of a product is the aliquot share of the
   total social labour time required to reproduce it.
2. That labour power requires inputs to reproduce it.
3. That the inputs required to reproduce different concrete
   labours differ.

Thus to produce 10,000 hip replacement operations over a year would require
the labour time of operating staffs plus the labour time allocated to
reproducing these people as surgical teams. The reproduction of the surgical
team would include obviously their food and clothing plus the time that
society has to allocate to training sufficient nurses and doctors to
replace those who retire or leave the profession over the year.

Suppose that each operation requires 100hours of direct labour, and
that a total national staff of 1000 people work for 1 million hours directly
on these operations. They consume goods worth 500K hours, and
society has to allocate a further 400K hours to keep up the training
levels of the teams. Assume that the materials used up amount to 100K hours.

Thus to reproduce 10,000 hip operations per year requires
2million hours of labour, and the value of each operation is
thus 200hours.

The paradox here is that the share of the social labour required
to produce the 10,000 hip operations is 2 million hours, whereas the
standard method of calculation used by Marx would make it 1.1 million
hours ( the million hours of direct labour plus the 100k of indirect
labour in the titanium hip joints.)

The implication is that if we define the value of a product to be
the share of total social labour required to reproduce it, then we
have to include the wage as labour time that is passed on in just the
same way as marx treats raw material inputs. This is a paradox
given the standard interpretation.

In this scheme of accounting all direct labour constitutes the surplus
value, wages are no longer accounted for as being paid out of current
direct labour.

In this accounting scheme there is no problem of defining skilled
labour multipliers, all direct labour counts as simple labour. One
can obviously model it for an economy of n products and m concrete
labours by a (n+m) square matrix of technical reproduction coeficeints
for both labour and products. There would be the usual L vector of
direct labour inputs, but the first (n) elments of the L vector would
be null.

Can fellow list members see an error in this paradox.
Paul Cockshott (clyder@gn.apc.org)

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