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

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Thu Feb 22 2007 - 13:43:54 EST

--- Ian Wright <wrighti@ACM.ORG> wrote:

> Hi Ajit
> Welcome back. Thanks for your comments on the
> history of this concept.
> > In any case Marx accused Adam
> > Smith for maintaining the proposition that at some
> > stage labor alone produces somethig--i.e. there
> was no
> > commodity residual. According to Marx this had to
> be
> > the case for his additive theory of value to be
> > meaningful. I'm not sympathetic to Marx's reading
> of
> > Smith on this point, but I think Sraffa is more
> > sympathetic.
> Considering the simpler case of simple commodity
> production, Sraffa's
> `reduction to dated quantities of labour' formula
> (with r=0) does
> entirely eliminate the commodity residual. This is
> nonsense if
> interpreted as describing an actual historical
> process. But useful,
> however, when viewed as a hypothetical
> interpretation of an
> instantaneous property of technology field (just
> like the definition
> of the potential energy of a point in an electric
> field).
This is not making sense to me. Srafa's 'dated labor'
resolves prices into wages and profits only as Smith
tried to resolve prices to wages, profits and rent. If
you put r=0 in Sraffa's dated labor equation, it will
resolve all prices into wages only. That's all. In any
case, If you put rate of profit equal to zero, then
Sraffa's prices (dated labor or simultaneous equations
alike) will be exactly equal to Marx's labor values
and there will be a commodity residue. How do you
calculate labor values? Let's say it takes 5 units of
corn plus 5 hours of labor to produce 1 unit of iron.
The labor value of iron will be 5 hours of labor plus
you go to the corn sector and see how much of direct
labor and the constant capital elements for corn is
taken to produce 5 units of corn. You add this live
labor to your 5 hours and then go into the sectors of
constant capital used in production of corn. Collect
the live labor needed to produce the amount of
constant capital elements used in producing 5 units of
corn. Add those live labors to your collection of
labor hours and then again go in to the sectors that
produced the constant capital elements of the constant
capital elements of corn and collect the live labor
elements from there and add them to your labor hour
collection. This way you keep going back and back and
the amount of constant capital elements keep becoming
smaller and smaller. When they become so small as to
be negligible,i.e; their limit tends to zero, then
your live labor hour collection gives you exactly the
same measure of labor value as simultaneous equations
would. If my memory serves me right, Morishima's
method becomes relevant in joint production cases--as
you must know, in cases of joint production you cannot
always determine labor-value of a commodity. Cheers,
ajit sinha
> As an alternative, Morishima interprets
> labour-values as employment
> multipliers, i.e. how much direct and indirect
> employment is generated
> by a unit increase in output of a given commodity.
> But the concept of
> employment multipliers is similarly counterfactual
> in its own way, but
> I'd be interested to know if anyone has thought much
> about this
> interpretation, or worked with it.
> > Keep in mind that if there is no
> > commodity residual, that is if commodity could be
> > produced solely by labor, then the maximum rate of
> > profits would become infinite. You must have a
> > commodity residual to have an upper bound on the
> > maximum rate of profits. Now I think I have
> confused
> > Ian more than he was before--but I have tried to
> > clarify a point in my own humdrum manner.
> I think we discussed this issue before. You could
> try again if you
> feel that I missed your point.
> Best wishes,
> -Ian.

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