From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Fri Feb 10 2006 - 12:54:35 EST
Hi Paul On 2/9/06, Paul Cockshott <email@example.com> wrote: > Otherwise the theory of value is subjective. Not subjective in the > sense of utility theory, but subjective relative to classes. The > theory of economic value is then merely a social construction. Do you > really think that if workers are militant and successful in their > reformist struggles, and get more of the net product, then "their" > value-theory becomes more true? > --------------------- > Yes this drops right out of F&M's model I think this is an absurd conclusion, so let's rewind a bit. F&M wrote "Laws of Chaos" as a response to the TP. They are both highly technical mathematicians (amongst other things). So no doubt they had a good hard look at the neo-Ricardian critique of Marx's value theory. Indeed, Emmanuel in the collection "Ricardo, Marx, Sraffa" has a good work-out with the Sraffian theoretical framework, and points out how sensitive the results are to the assumption of uniform profits. But as far as I can tell, F&M do not reject the N-R critique on its own terms. They accept what it says. Their response is, IMHO, groundbreaking, because the alternative theoretical framework they sketch -- probabilistic political economy -- is original, very promising and still under-developed to this day. This much we know. However, I have always thought that their defence of the labour theory of value is the weak part of their book. They derive the results regarding correlation between labour-content and price. They note that other real-cost measures, e.g. oil-content, might have similar properties. However, they decide labour-content is the appropriate theoretical measure because (i) other commodity-types may come and go, but labour persists, and (ii) political economy is essentially about people. You also show that other commodity real-cost measures aren't as well correlated with price. So empirically the labour-content theory is a best fit to the data. The problem, in my mind, with this defence of the LTV is that it is ultimately about empirical correlations. Marx's value theory (which may be wrong -- I am not begging the question only pointing out a difference) is intended to explain how or why social labour *necessarily* manifests in "dazzling money-forms", or how labour-time acquires a value-form via objective, causal relations. In my view, the semantics of representations (e.g., the meaning of the hour-hand of a clock, the meaning of a temperature on a thermostat, the meaning of the dollar in my pocket etc.) can only be explained via (loop-closing) causal theories of objective semantics, and not simply correlational theories. So, at best, F&M's correlational theory provides strong evidence and strong reasons for holding a LTV (and a promising re-representation of economic relations), but it is not the whole story. I am not sure if the conclusion you draw regarding value-theory really does drop out of F&M's model (it may do -- you may be drawing out what is implicit in it). But given that I do not think F&M have established a LTV in the strong sense (causal, objective etc.) then it might not be too surprising that their version of the LTV can't sustain the concept of an objective value-theory for capitalism, invariant over class perspective. Stretching the analogy a bit: although it's conceivable that the semantics of clocks depends on who's reading the hands, it is a fact that the semantics of clocks is fixed and invariant in our society. There aren't proletarian clocks and capitalist clocks. Is there a proletarian meaning of 1$ and a capitalist meaning of 1$? Best, -Ian.
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