Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Apr 25 2005 - 17:39:24 EDT

Here is a response to Andrew that I am working on.

I am with you with respect to what you call creativity
I would call it adaptability or re-trainability.
 Why did the bourgeois class succeed in replacing horse-power
with steam power, but not be able to completely replace
workers by machines.

It is not that they did not want to, but that as each
task was mechanized, the working population has just
been displaced into tasks that have not yet been mechanized.

This did not happen with horses - except insofar as they
were retained as a badge of class by the horse-riding
landed gentry. Horses, whilst stronger than workers
were not adaptable. To return to a previous thread, 
although a slave might legally be defined as instrumentum
vocalis, their species being as a human made them
educable and trainable and adaptable to any task that
their social superiors could do.

I don't get your focus on visible features of the final
product though. Why does electricity not make a particular
mark on the use value of a product - you have used
an aluminium coke can I imagine? 
That aluminium metal bears the unmistakable mark of
electricity. The issue is not whether an object has
a visible or material mark on it, but what actually
determines its exchange value.

-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Andrew Brown
Sent: 25 April 2005 14:52
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

Hi Paul,

You write:

One can construct a consistent electrical theory of value,
the problem is not its internal consistency, but that it
is a shit theory when it comes to predictiong what actually
happens to prices. When you look at real prices, only
labour will cut it.

I reply:

This quantitative aspect that you mention does, in some sense, come into
my argument on the LTV (though I'd never put it in terms of 'prediction'
as you are very committed to doing). However, this quantitative argument
first comes in when considering the commodity as a use value. Here we
think of a commodity in terms of the material qualities that constrain
and enable its uses. Thinking in these terms, there are 'candidates' for
a theory of value such as height, weight and age which are universal to
commodities (where the latter are restricted to material things). They
are obviously not quantitatively related to price magnitude however,
hence they can be excluded from consideration on grounds similar to the
ones you go through above. 'Electricity' doesn't come into it here,
because it does not leave any particular mark on the use value of the
commodity. We have to consider the commodity as a product (rather than
as a use value, an item of consumption) for us to consider electricity.
But then the key qualitative point is that the labour input, rather than
electricity input, is directly 'decided upon' by society: it is via
(constrained) labour 'choice' that humanity influences the course of
production and reproduction, hence influences the allocation of all
other inputs such as electricity, at any point in time. This qualitative
point requires us to recognise not just the universality but the also
the creativity of labour (in my view - following Ilyenkov - the
recognition of creativity takes us from Spinoza to Marx and Engels). The
quantitative point you make is a separate point, though could be
considered to be related to the qualitative one I make.

Still, on the empirical side, Andrew Kliman seems to put up a reasonable
response to your quants, in the latest CJE... (I can't work out who I
agree with in that exchange!)

Many thanks


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