Re: [OPE-L] questions on the interpretation of labour values

From: Diego Guerrero (diego.guerrero@CPS.UCM.ES)
Date: Wed Feb 21 2007 - 18:31:04 EST


Hi Ian,
 
Your question is one of the typical questions that due to the ambiguity of 
 the terms (ambiguity in which all of us fall) can be misleading and generate 
 many misunderstandings. However it is a crucial question that deserves to be 
 answered after trying to reduce ambiguity to a minimum.
 
 The answer is yes or not, depending on what is what you are exactly meaning 
 by "labour-values" and "price magnitudes". This is not a joke. All of us 
 should be extremely careful with the terms. Let me explain in what sense I 
 say this. We have on the one hand market prices (m), production prices (p) 
 and direct prices (w), and on the other hand market values (mH), production 
 values (pH) and direct values (wH). The three later are measured in hours of 
 labour, the three former in euro. Let's call wH, pH and mH "A values", and 
 call w, p, and m "B prices". Now you must clarify whether you are asking if 
 A values can be calculated independently of B prices, or if wH and w can be 
 calculated independently of mH and m.
 
 The following table can help in the understanding of this point:
 
  
     A values
     B prices
     
      I

      Values and prices with profits proportional to variable capital
      

      wH
      

      w
     
      II

      Values and prices with profits proportional to total capital
      

      pH
      

      p
     
      III

      Values and prices including different rates of profit in each sector
      

      mH
      

      m
     


 
 B prices are the "form of value" of A values. We don't need B for 
 calculating A.

But note that your question could also be interpreted as if you wanted to 
 know if "I" can be calculated independently of "III". The answer is "no".
 
 The reason is that we shouldn't write "values" as traditionally:
 
 (1) wH = wHA + lH
 (or w = wA + l in monetary terms),

but as
 
 (2) wH = mHA + lH
(or w = mA + l in monetary terms).
 
 Let's call (1) the traditional formula, and (2) the "correct" formula. My 
 point is that if (1) has replaced (2) in the historical debate is due to the 
 fact that Marx assumes in Capital I and II that m = w (which is a legitimate 
 assumption), and in Capital III that m = p (which is a legitimate 
 assumption). But he knew that in general m is different from w and p, so 
 that the "general" expression need to be (2).
 
 The debate about the TP registers different interpretations. Most authors 
 believe that the transformation is the pass from wH to p, Shaikh thinks that 
 it is the pass from w to p, Dumnil thinks that it is the pass from wH to 
 pH. My view is that: 1) it affects both columns and 2) it is "double". 
 Therefore the transformation goes from I to II, and then from II to III.
 
 Now I can come back to your question. The value of a commodity includes 
 direct labour plus indirect labour, but the latter has to be computed as the 
 labour countepart (mH) of the money spent in purchasing the inputs at their 
 market price (m). Marx insisted: it doesn't matter which valuation we use 
 for the inputs since the important thing is the process of creation of new 
 value. In my opinion, in a general context where the State, the ground rent, 
 etc. are present, it is market prices (market values), including taxes and 
 rents among other things, what has to be used for valuating the inputs.
 
 This is why I conclude that "values" (i.e. values and prices "I") cannot be 
 calculated independently of prices (i.e. values and prices "III").
 
 
 Best wishes,
    Diego
 


 ----- Original Message ----- 
 From: "Ian Wright" <wrighti@ACM.ORG>
 To: <OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU>
 Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 6:29 PM
 Subject: Re: [OPE-L] questions on the interpretation of labour values
 
 
> Hi Diego
>
>> In my opinion, values and market prices determine each other mutually.
>
> In your approach can the labour-values of commodities be calculated
> independently of price magnitudes?
>
> Best wishes,
> -Ian. 


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