Re: [OPE] devaluation and revaluation of variable capital

From: Alejandro Agafonow (
Date: Thu Feb 07 2008 - 12:23:10 EST

Thanks for the reference! Jerry.
Paul, my argument against Ian is in “[1] Marxian equilibrium & reply to Wright”. The textual evidence that I sent in “[2] Marxian equilibrium & reply to Wright”, only tries to give an answer to the Wright’s assertion that «[…] it is not possible that the "market mechanism depreciates [the] labour content" of a commodity.»
However, if my reading were right this could be a crack in labour value theory as far as labour at the same time appears as being assed by preferences and not as the primary source of value, isolated from what consumers think. And I think that Marxists have overlooked this possible crack because of the importance they attach to that alleged equilibrium point in the long run.
I think that there is a connection between commodities’ labour devaluation below their value when appears overproduction or when commodities fail in the provision of utility, and the usage Marx made of natural price or production price in Capital. Owning to the fact that prices fluctuation and production accidents produce economic surpluses, natural price could not be reached but in the long run, when more efficient production methods discovered by few entrepreneurs allegedly end to be generalized. The research programme proposed by Marx focus on the natural price or production price:
«If demand and supply balance, the oscillation of prices ceases, all other conditions remaining the same. But then demand and supply also cease to explain anything. The price of labour, at the moment when demand and supply are in equilibrium, is its natural price, determined independently of the relation of demand and supply. And how this price is determined is just the question.» (Capital, Vol. I, Marxist Internet Archive).
But before reaching this Marxian equilibrium that is the only time when labour content matches prices, labour theory has to offer a logical criterion to evaluate that suboptimal production state. The logical candidate is the useful effect that owing to capitalistic disequilibrium doesn’t reach an identity with labour time putted in their production. That is, labour that allegedly is the source of value suddenly appears harmed by market failures that impeded useful effect to hit the target: the consumer.
But I have to think more about this and I promise a paper dealing with the problem (hopefully in English).
Kind regards,
Alejandro Agafonow

----- Mensaje original ----
De: Paul Cockshott <>
Para: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <>
Enviado: jueves, 7 de febrero, 2008 15:55:53
Asunto: RE: [OPE] devaluation and revaluation of variable capital

I have checked the original

Toute nouvelle invention qui permet de produire en une heure ce qui a été produit jusqu'ici en deux heures déprécie tous les produits homogènes qui se trouvent sur le marché. La concurrence force le producteur à vendre le produit de deux heures à aussi bon marché que le produit d'une heure. La concurrence réalise la loi selon laquelle la valeur relative d'un produit est déterminée par le temps du travail nécessaire pour le produire. Le temps du travail servant de mesure à la valeur vénale devient ainsi la loi d'une dépréciation continuelle du travail. Nous dirons plus. Il y aura dépréciation non seulement pour les marchandises apportées sur le marché, mais aussi pour les instruments de production, et pour tout un atelier. Ce fait, Ricardo le signale déjà en disant :

    En augmentant constamment la facilité de production, nous diminuons constamment la valeur de quelques-unes des choses produites auparavant  [21].

I was wrong in what I wrote earlier, what marx was talking about was the way that the labour value
Of commodities becomes depreciated by new inventions. So 'la loi d'une dépréciation continuelle du travail'
Means in this context the law by which the labour content of a commodity is continually reduced by

I am not quite sure why this is seen as counting as an argument against Ian though.

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Gerald Levy
Sent: 07 February 2008 14:18
Subject: Re: [OPE] devaluation and revaluation of variable capital

Hi Paul C and Alejandro A:

"Depreciation of labour"  may not be the exact phrase used by Marx
in _Capital_, but there is a discussion of the "revaluation and devaluation 
of the variable capital" in Volume III, Chapter 6, Section 2.  After
explaining the release and tying-up of constant capital, he goes on to
discuss variable capital later on in the section (beginning on p. 209 in 
the Penguin/Vintage edition).    

Note the reference to "moral depreciation" earlier in that same page.

In solidarity, Jerry

> To be sure one would have to look at the original french and then 
> compare the usage with what
> was current in mid 19th Century french literature.

> By the phrase 'depreciation of labour, I think Marx meant, in those 
> passages, a decline in the payment
> to labour or a decline in wages. This is something different from a 
> depreciation of commodities below
> their value.
> It must also be born in mind that this is a relatively early text, and 
> his economic terminology at
> this stage is not quite the same as he used later on in Capital.

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