From: Ian Wright (iwright@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Wed Apr 13 2005 - 19:48:53 EDT
Sort of a response to Andy and Paul but this touches on other posts ... As a quick sketch, the reason I'd give why human labour alone is the substance of value is that changes in the flow pattern of money control the manifestation pattern of abstract labour. Value refers to abstract labour, has these objective semantics, in virtue of the regular causal connections between a representation (value) and an object (abstract labour). The flow pattern of value is the control signal of an adaptive system that functions to continually reallocate social labour in response to changes in the composition of demand. New concrete forms of labouring activity appear in response to new flow patterns of value. The continual feedback in the control system creates kinds of people, types of concrete activities, which are use-values for each other. All societies must allocate resources, and distributed money flows are the language of the unconscious plan implemented by market societies. But the language of value is understood only by humans, and its directives can only be implemented by humans. It therefore only talks to them, and therefore is only about their causal powers. We don't need specifically capitalist relations for the above to hold, although it is capitalism, with the pursuit of profit as the overarching goal, which really makes the control relations sing. Hence value does not refer to machine labour-power or animal labour-power because this kind of labour-power cannot keep up with the plan -- it is non-innovating: It neither causes or responds to disequilibrium price signals by changing its concrete form in order to adapt to new economic circumstances. This explanation is quite different from Marx's argument in Vol I: the common thing left over. I think most of it, however, is in Rubin: his "transmission belt" that makes an economy a functioning whole, and his strange kind of "barometer" that not only measures the weather but corrects it. It is implicit in Marx's "every child knows" letter. Andy, would you agree this general approach? Do you still think as much weight should be placed on Marx's common substance argument of Vol I, as you did in your thesis, compared to his transhistorical requirement that societies must implement schemes to organise their labour? The problem is to make the Marx-Rubin qualitative theory of value quantitatively precise, and this is not helped by the fact that the majority of formalisations of Marx's theory have been static and have ignored what I take to be the central point of their theory: the causal connections between money and labour allocation out of equilibrium, and how value controls the manifestation of abstract labour. One of the more difficult points of the theory, which I am grappling with, is that value primarily refers to an absence, a negativity, rather than a positive presence. A plan is a series of steps to bring into being something that does not yet exist, and hence a plan refers to absences. If the pattern of flow of value implements a kind of plan then prices have plan-like semantics, that is somehow refer to configurations that should exist, not configurations that do exist. A clue can be found in even the simplest control systems, such as the lowly thermostat, which has a representation that refers to a temperature that does not exist, an absent temperature. I am not yet clear on this. But this seems very different to most other economic theories I have encountered, and therefore I am wary of formal theories that view prices solely as measures (either as indices of scarcity or distributional variables). From the Marx-Rubin perspective, this has got to be an incomplete picture. Paul wrote > That is why the first step in discussing this has to be to establish > that you actually do have a theoretical object : robot value. If > you don't have this as a well defined concept there is nothing to > discuss. For the sketched reasons I do not think value can refer to robot labour because robot labour (at least for the foreseeable future) will not have the causal powers of abstract labour and therefore will be restricted in the kinds of concrete labour it can manifest. Robots will not be able to do the value dance with us. So, Paul, this is the background to why I objected to your phrase about "defining" value. But I agree that the qualitative theory of value should also be quantitative and make predictions about actual prices in capitalism. -Ian. P.S. I've just read Christopher Arthur's post about "empty forms". An interesting ontological possibility ... as are "negative forms", that is representations of absences.
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