Re: [OPE] peanut butter value-form theory

From: Ian Wright <>
Date: Wed Apr 01 2009 - 16:16:23 EDT

> Ian W., your particular position concerning LTV seems to be limited to the
> framework of Das Kapital. i.e. that there is such a thing like the
> gravitational force of labor which allegedly eliminates the difference
> between the labor content of a commodity and its price turning the
> price/labor value ratio equal to unity.

Yes, I believe that economic phenomena are ultimately governed by the
law of value.

But it must be stressed: this conception is not at all limited to Das
Kapital, but is very much embedded in classical political economy, for
those willing to see.

> This assumption leads you to think that labor itself does confer value. But
> then a problem arises with ‘dodgy crackers’ which contain labor but can’t be
> valuable (I would like to hear your reflection on this).

The crackers have a labor-value, since labor is required to produce
them. But since no-one will buy them they cannot command any labor in
exchange. As I have mentioned to you before, and as clearly explained
by Rubin, such mismatches between labor-embodied and labor-commanded
are an essential moment of the law of value. If the producer of
crackers can't sell their goods they need to start doing something
else quick. Simplifying, this is the mechanism by which the law of
value allocates the total labor of society to meet social demand.
Cracker produces start doing something useful for others.

> I don’t understand your reluctance to accept this. It would be the first
> step in order to avoid the problem. You just have to take a small step ahead
> recognizing that value ultimately depends on subjective preferences held by
> consumers.

But here you are completely confused, and is why I included the link
to Rubin's chapter where he directly addresses this issue. Your
confusions are not new; they are very old.

Of course there are causal relations between social demand and
labor-values. For example, high demand can generate high profits
leading to changes in the scale of production and hence changes in the
objective conditions of production. But this does not mean that labor
value "ultimately depends on subjective preferences" since what can be
subjectively preferred and consumed by the community is clearly
constrained by the total labor force and its causal powers, i.e.

Labor-values do not depend on the subjective preferences of consumers
at all. No matter how much we subjectively would like to wish away the
objective cost structure of the economy we cannot: planes cost more
than pencils for a reason entirely independent of our subjective

> That’s ok if you don’t want to follow this way, but then you have to
> undertake a huge revision of LTV which necessarily will take you away from
> your formal models. They are built upon rotten bases. You need to evolve
> toward an institutional approach.

Yes, I know that you think Marx's theory of value is a "rotten base".
But to engage in such a critique you first need to understand the
object of your attack. You are not demonstrating that, trust me.

Best wishes,
ope mailing list
Received on Wed Apr 1 16:21:56 2009

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