Re: [OPE] intermission: value of knowledge

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Mon Dec 28 2009 - 06:55:20 EST

2009/12/28 Paula <>

> What is compared under capitalism is not labor as such, but the amount of
> time socially required to make each kind of good. The system of commodity
> production is the necessary condition for this comparison to be made on a
> regular basis
I think this is a mistake. It is an assertion made on the basis of a
preoccupation with capitalism.

Jurriaan Bendien referred more than once to pre-capitalist modes of
production that regulated labour in the abstract:

"For example, a balanced account of the labor provided by 37 female workers
in the year 2034 BC indicates the different activities in which they were
involved. Milling work took up 5,986 labor-days. The time dedicated to this
task was calculated on the basis of the amounts of their finished products,
that is, flour of different qualities. The source tablets for the balanced
account provided the total amounts of the different types of flour milled.
The time needed to produce these was calculated on the basis of standardized
performance expectations. The accountant knew, for example, that 860 liters
of fine flour had been produced during the year. As it was expected that one
woman milled 20 liters of that type of flour in one day, it was easy to
calculate that 43 labor days had been involved." (Marc van de Mieroop,
"Accounting in Early Mesopotamia: some remarks", in Michael Hudson and
Cornelia Wunsch, Creating Economic Order: Recordkeeping, standardization and
the development of accounting in the ancient Near East". Bethesda: CDL,
2004, p. 56).

On the basis of their input, output and labor accounting, the Sumerian
analysts, particularly from the Ur III period, were evidently able to
estimate, in quantitatively accurate terms, how much labor it took to
produce a certain quantity of output, and therefore how many workers you
needed for a given interval of time. They lacked a money commodity, in the
sense of a universal equivalent for exchanging goods, but nevertheless "The
concept of value equivalency was a secure element in Babylonian accounting
by at least the time of the sales contracts of the ED IIIa (Fara) period, c.
2600 BC." (Hudson/Wunsch, op. cit., p. 38).

In other words, in planned economies, both ancient and modern, the
comparison could be made on a regular basis.

//Dave Z

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Received on Mon Dec 28 07:01:27 2009

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