From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@WFU.EDU)
Date: Thu Jun 15 2006 - 22:36:56 EDT
On Thu, 15 Jun 2006, Ian Wright wrote: > Why do you think labour-values should be independent of the > real wage? "The value of a commodity, or the quantity of any other commodity for which it will exchange, depends on the relative quantity of labour which is necessary for its production, and not on the greater or less compensation which is paid for that labour." Thus Ricardo starts Chapter 1 of the Principles. But seriously, this is not a trivial question to answer. Marx started from Ricardo's point of view, and was troubled by the discrepancy between labour-values, so defined, and prices of production. He saw prices of production as a mechanism for the redistribution of surplus value, and reckoned that this redistribution left total price equal to the total of labour-values, and total profit equal to total surplus value. As we all know. But the math didn't work out that way -- as again we all know. You're offering Marx a solution, but it's not at all clear it's one he'd take. In the context of the present argument (simple reproduction with a surplus that's consumed by the capitalists), you're arguing (I think) that labour-values and prices of production are _identical_ (even if organic compositions differ). That obviously preserves Marx's two equalities, but at too high a cost: the distinction between labour-values and prices of production is effaced. Labour-values are no longer "quantities of labour necessary for production", other than in what I see as a tricksy sense. In fact, I see your analysis as back-handedly supporting Smith's old argument: that the labour theory of value ceases to apply with the emergence of profits on stock. With this twist: it's not that prices cease to correspond to labour-values, but that "labour-values" have to be redefined so that they no longer correspond to the labour-times required to produce things -- which latter quantities are left orphaned, without any valid theoretical status ("Sraffian values", based on an accounting error). Prices of production are "correct" and labour-values have to be redefined to match. I want labour-values to be based on production technology and direct labour-time requirements alone, as per the classics, and to be independent of distributional variables. That way they're (in principle) capable of explaining the pattern of commodity exchange ratios in a particularly strong sense. A robust materialist sense. Of course, it's an empirical matter whether they actually do so. Allin.
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