Re: measurement of abstract labor

From: Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Sat Jun 26 2004 - 22:34:56 EDT

On Tue, 22 Jun 2004, Paul Cockshott wrote:

> Fred:
> We measure the weight of objects by quantities of iron THAT HAVE THE SAME
> WEIGHT.  Similarly, in Marx's theory, with commodity money and at the high
> level of abstraction of Part 1 of Volume 1, the labor-time contained in
> commodities is measured by quantities of the money commodity THAT CONTAIN
> THE SAME QUANTITY OF LABOR-TIME.  The "measure" of the labor-times
> contained in commodities discussed in Chapter 3 is indeed reduced to a
> "simple comparison" of the labor-times contained in commodities and money
> (not a conscious comparison, of course).
> ---------------
> Paul Cockshott
> This is a live issue in contemporary metrology.
> Currently the kilogram is defined in terms of the standard kilogram
> in a vault in Paris. It is held to be a poor basis since one does
> not know that the kilogram is an invariable standard of mass since
> it may be accreting mass from the atmosphere.
> Serious attempts are being made to replace the kilogram with other
> standards of mass based on electro magnetic effects. There was a
> review of the problem in Science in may
> Metrologists want a standard of weight that does not itself
> 'contain' weight.

Hi Paul, thanks for your reply, which is very interesting.  I will read
this article soon.

Of course, the analogy between socially necessary labor-time and weight is
not complete, as Marx pointed out, because weight is a natural property,
and socially necessary labor-time is a social property, but it is
interesting that the natural property of weight might not require that the
measure of weight has to possess weight.

I would also emphasize again that the weight of an object is NOT DIRECTLY
OBSERVABLE AS SUCH, i.e. by just looking at the object.  Weight can only
be measured INDIRECTLY, by SOMETHING ELSE.  And yet, even though weight is
not observable, objects are assumed to possess weight in definite
quantities, and conclusions are derived about the "laws of motion" of
objects on the basis of this assumption.

The same thing is true of socially necessary labor-time.  Socially
necessary labor-time is NOT OBSERVABLE AS SUCH, i.e. as quantities of
labor-hours, and can be measured only INDIRECTLY by quantities of
MONEY.  And yet, even though socially necessary labor-time is not
observable, commodities are assumed to possess socially necessary
labor-time in definite quantities, and conclusions are derived about the
"laws of motion" of capitalism on the basis of this assumption.

Thanks again.


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