Re: measurement of abstract labor

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Mon Jun 14 2004 - 09:26:27 EDT

--- Fred Moseley <fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU> wrote:
> On Sun, 13 Jun 2004, ajit sinha wrote:
> > --- Fred Moseley <fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU> wrote:
> > > > You asked me how do I measure the L in Marx's
> > labor
> > > theory of value?
> > > I answered that the total current labor-time is
> > > taken as given, including
> > > adjustments for different skills and unequal
> > > intensities.
> > __________________
> > My question is what do you mean by "given"? Let's
> > leave the skill part aside--it's just unnecessary
> > complication.
> But we cannot put skill aside in this discussion,
> because different skills
> in the main reason why quantities of socially
> necessary labor time are not
> observable - because we don't know and can't observe
> the skill multipliers
> that converts hours of different types of skilled
> labor into equivalent
> quantities of simple unskilled labor.
Well, can you conceive of a capitalist society with
only unskilled labor or is it logically impossible? If
it is logically possible, then the value category
should be applicable to such a society. Thus, in that
case, it should be possible to develop the concept of
value without introducing skilled labor in the
equation. My only point is that why complicate an
issue when we have dispute regarding a fundamental
concept. By introducing skill multiples you are only
complicating your own life. If you insist on doing so,
I have no problem.
> What I mean by "L is taken as given" is this:  it is
> assumed that the
> capitalist labor process results in L hours of
> socially necessary labor
> time, in units of simple unskilled labor.  We don't
> know what this
> quantity is, but it is assumed that it exists, and
> that it determines the
> quantity of money new-value produced during this
> period (along with the
> MELT), according to the equation:
>         N   =   (MELT)  L
I don't know what N stands for, but whatever it is, I
presume it is a determined variable. It is, according
to your equation, determined by the product of (MELT)
and L. By your own admission, you don't know how much
the L is. And up till now you have not told us how is
the MELT determined. So at present, the above equation
translates as "nonsense" in plain English.

> > > Then you asked how do I EMPIRICALLY MEASURE the
> L in
> > > Marx's theory.
> > > And I answered that, one CANNOT EMPIRICALLY
> > > the L in Marx's
> > > theory, because that L is a SOCIAL AVERAGE,
> socially
> > > necessary labor-time,
> > > not actual labor-times that are observable.
> > ____________________
> > But we all know that averages are generally
> observed,
> > but there is well known and accepted methods of
> > deriving averages from given data. So to say you
> > cannot empirically measure it is wrong.
> Methods of deriving averages do not work for
> different levels of skills,
> nor for different intensities across industries.
> Which methods of
> averaging do you have in mind?  How would they deal
> with unequal skills
> and unequal intensities.?
In my above quote, as you have correctly understood, I
mean "averages are generally not observed" instead of
"observed". As I said above, for the sake of getting
an understanding of such a fundamental concept, can we
conceive of a capitalist society with only unskilled
labor and equal intensity across sectors? I think this
is not logically impossible. So why not simplfy our
theoretical world and get on with developing the
understanding of the concept of value. We can
introduce these complications once the first step is

> > > And I asked you in turn: does you question about
> how
> > > L is empirically
> > > measured indicate that, in your view, a theory
> of
> > > price must be in terms
> > > of observable variables only?
> > __________________
> >
> > No. I don't think so. The neo-classical theory has
> a
> > theory of demand that is based on the notion of
> > utility that is not observable.
> I don't understand anymore why you are asking me how
> L is measured.
Because it is the requirement of your equation, not
mine. According to your own equation you need to know
L as certain amount of labor-time. So your equation
begs the question: how much is the L and how do we
come to know that this is how much it is?
> What are the implications that you would draw, if L
> could NOT be measured?
In your theory, the implication is that your theory is
> What are the implications that you would draw, if L
> COULD be measured?
Then we could move toward a meaningful understanding
of the concept of value in Marx. Cheers, ajit sinha
> Thanks.
> Comradely,
> Fred

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