[OPE] value and measuring labor time

From: howard engelskirchen <he31@verizon.net>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 18:55:54 EDT

Toward the beginning of the Grundrisse's Notebook VII (Nicolaus: 704-712;
v. 29: 90-98) there are a number of passages relevant to recent discussions
of the measure of labor time and value during the transition period. They
would appear to raise some provocative questions.

1. 704 (v29 90): "The exchange of living labour for objectified labour -
i.e. the positing of social labour in the form of the contradiction of
capital and wage labour - is the ultimate development of the value relation
and of production resting on value."

Comment: To argue that socialism will replace capitalism but still operate
in terms of value would appear to mean we were going to back off the
"ultimate development" of a thing to some less than full realization of it.
Does that make sense? Would it be, say, reactionary? Wouldn't going beyond
the full development of value mean transforming the thing altogether? In
the text the passage goes on to notice that with large industry real wealth
depends less and less on labor time and more and more on the agencies of
social labor set in motion.

2. 705 (v29 91): "As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the
great well-spring of wealth, LABOUR TIME CEASES AND MUST CEASE TO BE ITS
MEASURE, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use
value." Emphasis supplied.

3. 708 (v29 94): "For real wealth is the developed productive power of all
individuals. The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way,
labour time, but rather disposable time."

Comment: NOT ANY LONGER IN ANY WAY?! How do we do a social and economic
calculation in terms of DISPOSABLE TIME? What is implied here?

4. 711: The translation at v. 29 97 is better because 'Genuss' is
translated as 'enjoyment' rather than 'consumption': "[The saving of labour
time] is identical with the development of the productive power. Hence in
no way renunciation of enjoyment but development of power, of the capacity
to produce and hence of the capacity for and the means of enjoyment. The
capacity for enjoyment is a condition for it, and hence the basic means for
it, and this capacity is created by the development of an individual
disposition, productive power.

"The saving of labour time is equivalent to the increase of free time, i.e.,
time for the full development of the individual, which itself, as the
greatest productive force, in turn reacts upon the productive power of
labour. From the standpoint of the immediate production process, it can be
considered as the production of fixed capital, this fixed capital of being
man himself."

Comment: (a) These snippets don't do justice to the pages taken as a
whole. But they do suggest that a concept of measurement appropriate to the
period of transition would not lean on individual labor time but would
instead want to take into account the contribution of the agencies of social
productive power to the creation of wealth, e.g. general social knowledge,
the general intellect, the developed powers of combined social labor. It
seems also it would want to take into account and measure disposable time,
the full development of the individual. How do we do all this?

Consider this passage at 705: "In this transformation, it is neither the
direct human labour he himself performs, nor the time during which he works,
but rather the appropriation of his own general productive power, his
understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as
a social body . . . . "

(b) But if the direct contribution of individual labor and its duration
become more and more irrelevant to measuring social wealth, and dramatically
so, doesn't this suggest that any use of individual labor time as a measure
after capitalism is not really an economic calculation at all. At best it
would address issues of equity in the workplace - ie it would address a
moral problem. No doubt the moral problem is real, but we would surely want
to ask whether the abstraction of how hands move on a clock would be
derivative of old social relations or look forward to new ones. Ultimately
"from each to each" looks to a divorce of work from reward. Perhaps
corresponding moral shoots would emerge.

(c) And what if we take Marx seriously here? I suggested earlier that
there was a theoretical point in recognizing that you couldn't measure
without a concept of what it was that was being measured. We can even ask
what the scientific domain is. Is it even economic? If what's at issue is
disposable time and the full development of the individual are we talking
about eudemonics instead? In other words, maybe a social and economic
calculation would itself look to a transition from a science concerned with
the production and distribution of material wealth to an ecological science
of human flourishing.


howard engelskirchen


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Cockshott" <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <ope@lists.csuchico.edu>
Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 5:06 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE] question re published letters Engels

> howard engelskirchen wrote:
>> Hi Paul,
>> Okay for your usage on 'value form'. This makes it equivalent to value's
>> manifestation in exchange, e.g. Tauschwert.
>> But the social relation of value underlying this is a composite of
>> activity and form -- the reciprocal relation of commodity producers with
>> respect to the expenditure of their labors. Underlying that in turn is
>> the social relation that provokes attention to value and this also is a
>> composite of activity and form: the labor that produces commodities, ie
>> products as bearers of value, is structured as a relation of independent
>> producers producing for private exchange.
> I agree that this is the condition of existence of commodities as
> specified by Marx. It is also the condition of existence of commodities
> assumed by Stalin in his Economic Problems. This has some basic truth in
> it. So long as the USSR had a semi private peasant economy, food still
> took the form of commodities and thus wages had to exist as well. But this
> does not explain why an economy at a later stage of socialist development
> : say CSSR or Bulgaria in the late 70s, would also have money and the sale
> of products for money.
> What would be your explanation for this?
>> I agree you still need to calculate labor expenditure, this is clear, but
>> can you just take over the category of socially necessary labor time and
>> give it naked application? Socially necessary labor time as we know it
>> is determined by the production of surplus value, relative and absolute,
>> and by competition among autonomous producers.
> By determined here I assume you mean that the value of socially necessary
> labour time is arrived at by these means.
> But surely it also depends on the state of scientific knowledge and on
> the existence of particular skills, and also on the existence of certain
> means of production?
> If you change the ownership structure of an economy very rapidly during a
> revolution, these technical conditions abide.
> This then raises two slightly different issues.
> 1. How best can a non capitalist economy change the technical
> conditions of labour so that scientific knowledge both advances
> and gets effectively applied to production.
> 2. How, given the existing state of technology do we determine the
> socially necessary time to produce let us say
> * 1 kilowatt hour of electricity
> * a particular microprocessor chip
> In the first case the product is homogenous and is produced by multiple
> sites, in the second case the product is highly specific and may be
> produced at only one site.
> Another point is whether when computing the socially necessary labour time
> one should take the average or the marginal socially necessary time?
>> What labor will count as productive?
> I would say that any labour whose product enters into either the
> reproduction of the workforce or into the reproduction of the existing
> technical base.
>> The whole question -- the theoretical point -- is developing a
>> "theoretical space" that allows us to rethink what counts as productive
>> and necessary in function of the transformation underway.
> Are you sure you wanted to be as specific at this: "productive and
> necessary in function of the transformation"
>> "Naked" I think is traditional political economy's notion -- there are
>> no 'naked' social relations; they are always socially specific.
> In one sense you are right, perhaps I should have said defetishised. But
> of course any number that one arrives at for socially necessary labour
> cost of a product will be the result of including only certain data, so
> one can always question whether the data taken into account is sufficient.
> But what I am saying is that compared to the revelation of socially
> necessary labour time in market exchange value, the direct quantification
> of labour time is relatively naked.
>> We need a theory clothed with concepts of what is being measured as
>> socially necessary.
> I agree, and I am all in favour of us debating what this theory is.
>> howard
>> howard engelskirchen
>> he31@verizon.net
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Paul Cockshott" <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>
>> To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <ope@lists.csuchico.edu>
>> Sent: Sunday, May 10, 2009 2:34 PM
>> Subject: RE: [OPE] question re published letters Engels
>> Howard
>> "Only the products of mutually
>> independent acts of labour, performed in isolation, can confront each
>> other
>> as commodities." This social relation underlies value and the commodity
>> form.
>> ---------------
>> paul writes
>> Sure, if you have a planned allocation of labour and no private producers
>> you
>> no longer have commodity production, but if Marx's scheme in the critique
>> of the Gotha program is write you still have to calculate in terms of
>> embodied
>> labour and use quantities of embodied labour in the distribution of the
>> product.
>> -----------Howard
>> That is, what Engels is saying is that before people produced
>> independently
>> and after they produce independently, the value form will simply not be a
>> relevant category for conducting a social and economic calculation.
>> ------------
>> Paul
>> What is the value form?
>> It is the way that embodied labour is represented in the use value of
>> another commodity in an exchange. If the socially nessessary labour time
>> is made evident as an explicit number of hours, this is naked value,
>> value
>> no longer hiding behind a form.
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