Re: measurement of abstract labor

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Thu Jun 03 2004 - 08:35:48 EDT

--- Fred Moseley <fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU> wrote:
> I have been very interested in the current
> discussion of Marx's theory of
> value and money between Rakesh, Hans, Ajit, Howard,
> Ian, Riccardo, and
> others (greetings to all).  I have been trying to
> find the time to join
> the discussion.  This has been OPEL at its best.
> I would like to begin by responding to Ajit's
> important question: "how
> does one arrive at the measure of 10 hours of
> labor?"  In other words, how
> does one measure abstract labor?
> My answer will be in terms of how I understand
> Marx's theory deals with
> this question.
> 1.  Marx assumed that the basic unit of measure of
> abstract labor, as the
> "substance of value", is one hour of simple,
> unskilled labor, of average
> intensity, and using average conditions of
> production.
Fred, I'm glad to see you moving firmly in my
direction. So you agree that
"the basic unit of measure of abstract labor, as the
"substance of value", is one hour of simple, unskilled
labor, of average intensity, and using average
conditions of production." This is what I have been
belaboring for ages. Now, this measure does not need

When it comes to reduction of skilled to unskilled
labor, the problem is a problem of higher level of
complication. As far as defining value is concerned,
one can assume a world with only unskilled labor.
Secondly, Both Ricardo and Marx (Smith did not have a
LTV) believed that the reduction could be made by
taking the wage differentials as multipliers. Whether
it is correct or not is a different question and what
other ways one can use to effect the reduction or to
what extent this does the LTV in etc. are separate
theoretical questions. We should be able to define
value in a world of only unskilled labor. And in this
case, as you agree now with me, money has no role to
play. Cheers, ajit sinha

> 2.  Marx assumed further that, in the production of
> value, one hour of
> skilled labor is equivalent to (or counts as) a
> multiple of one hour of
> simple, unskilled labor (with different multiples
> for different kinds of
> skilled labor).
>         "More complex labour counts only as
> intensified,
>         or rather multiplied, simple labour, so that
> a smaller
>         quantity of complex labour is considered
> equal to
>         the product of simple labour, hence it
> represents only
>         a specific quantity of simple labour."
> (C.I. 135)
> Algebraically, Marx assumed in effect that
>                 Lu   =   ks Ls
> where Ls is the hours of skilled labor, ks is the
> specific skill
> multiplier for each type of skilled labor, and Lu is
> the equivalent hours
> of simple, unskilled labor.
> 3.  Marx did not explain what determines these
> "skill multipliers" (the
> ks's), that convert hours of skilled labor into a
> equivalent number of
> hours of simple labor, but instead took these
> multiples as given, as had
> Smith and Ricardo before him.
> 4.  Ricardo's justification for taking these
> multiples as given was that
> the precise magnitudes of these multiples DID NOT
> CONCLUSIONS OF HIS THEORY.  Specifically, they did
> not affect the trends
> of relative prices over time, especially the
> relative prices of
> agricultural goods and manufactured goods, and the
> resulting trend in the
> wage and profit shares in the UK economy, on the
> assumption that the Corn
> Laws continue to be in effect.  In other words,
> Ricardo's main question
> was: what effect will the continuation of the Corn
> Laws likely to have on
> the relative shares of wages and profit?  The
> precise magnitudes of the
> skill multipliers are not likely to have much effect
> on this conclusion.
> 5.  I think that Marx's assumption of given skill
> multipliers can be
> justified on similar grounds - that the precise
> magnitudes of these
> THEORY.  The main
> conclusions of Marx's theory are:
>         1.  money is the necessary form of
> appearance of abstract labor.
>         2.  total surplus-value is proportional to
> total surplus labor
>         3.  inherent conflict over the length of the
> working day
>         4.  inherent technological change
>         5.  technological changes causes the rate of
> surplus-value to rise
>         6.  technological changes causes the
> composition of capital to rise
>                 faster than the rate of
> surplus-value
>         7.  therefore, technological changes causes
> the rate of profit to
>             fall.
> I don't think that the precise magnitudes of the
> skill multipliers are
> likely to have much effect on these conclusions.
> Whatever these
> magnitudes are, and whatever determines these
> magnitudes, they either have
> no effect (nos. 1-4) or not likely to have much
> effect (nos. 5-7) on these
> conclusions.  Therefore, they are unimportant in
> Marx's theory.
> 6.  The lack of an explanation of the determination
> of these skill
> multipliers has long been considered a serious
> problem in Marx's theory
> (from Bohm Bawerk on), and even a "fatal" weakness.
> But this is not
> true.  The precise magnitudes of the multipliers
> have little or no effect
> on the main conclusions of Marx's theory.
> 7.  I think Howard made a similar argument in a post
> on 28 May in which he
> said that the "causal potency of the theory [Marx's
> theory] does not
> depend on my being able to conceive it [the
> reduction of skilled to
> unskilled labor]".  In other words, the causal
> potency of Marx's theory
> does not depend on it providing an explanation of
> the reduction of skilled
> to unskilled labor.  The particular reduction does
> not affect the main
> conclusions of the theory.
> Howard, what do you think?
> 8.  These presumed quantities of labor-times are
> then used in Marx's
> theory to determine the PRICES of commodities.  More
> specifically, the
> prices of commodities (Pi) are determined by the
> relative quantities of
> labor-times in these commodities (Li ) and in the
> money commodity
> (e.g. gold) (Lg ), as represented by the equation:
> (1)             Pi   =   Li / Lg
> These prices that are determined by relative
> quantities of labor-time in
> Volume 1 are very abstract.  They are certainly not
> actual market
> prices.  Nor are they the actual long-run
> equilibrium prices, because they
> do not take into account the equalization of profit
> rates across
> industries (this more concrete phenomenon is explain
> in Part 2 of Volume
> 3).  But at the high level of abstraction of Volume
> 1, this is the
> "labor" theory of price that is presented by Marx.
> I think I will stop there for now, and see what
> others have to say.
> I also would like to eventually get back to the
> question of Marx's theory
> of money, and especially his explanation of the
> endogenous necessity of
> money.  But I hope the above gives us enough to
> discuss for now.
> Ajit and Howard and others, I look forward to your
> responses and to
> further discussion.
=== message truncated ===

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