Re: [OPE] "lies, damned lies, and underconsumptionist statistics"

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Tue Sep 28 2010 - 05:15:06 EDT

  Hi Jurriaan,

I suspect you are criticising a caricature of a theory and not the views
held by Paul or myself. At least this is what comes out of your last post.

you wrote:
> The physicalist theory of value (a mechanical materialist theory of value)
> is essentially a type of Ricardian "embodied" labour theory of value,
> according to which the value of the commodity is expressed by the direct
> living labour performed to produce it and said to be incorporated into it,
> plus the value of materials it contains, expressible in quantities of
> indirect (dated, past or dead) labour. It sounds sexy, but it can be proved
> to be a false theory.
> Marx rejected the physicalist theory of value, on three main grounds.
> *First, Marx regards the attribution of value as purely social - economic
> value contains "not an atom of matter" as he says.
> *Second, the value of products refers according to Marx to the relevant
> quantities of labour which are currently necessary to perform them. This has
> nothing to do with Sraffa's idea of "dated labour" because it does not
> concern "the value which a commodity contains" ("the past and present labour
> incorporated into it" but rather "the current social valuation of the
> commodity", i.e. the total quantity of labour-time currently required to
> produce it, a synchronic and not a diachronic reality.

To clarify:

    I do not subscribe to this 'raw embodied labour' theory of value.

'Embodied' is indeed a wording that misleads the reader. My view is in
fact quite similar to your rendering of Marx's views, if you bother to
read the following: I take 'labour-value' as the quantity of social
labour *necessary* to reproduce a good or service at the existing
technical conditions of production.

If it isn't clear enough already, it means that the actual labour-time
expended in a specific commodity is not relevant to the definition, but
rather what labour-times are technically required at a given point in time.

Ian Wright has recently given a quite elegant formulation of this,
explicitly drawing on Marx:

    A labor-value therefore is simply the total amount of coexisting
    labor required to reproduce a commodity, where the coexisting labor
    works in parallel to produce a unit of output and also replace the
    used-up means of production. In this interpretation the concept of
    'dead' labor 'embodied' in the form of means of production has *no
    role*. (p.18, emphasis added)

and provides further a fascinating discussion and analogy from physics
of labour-value as a 'field property' (sec. 12.3). Ian's paper can be
found here

I agree with his general views in the discussion in sec. 12, so you may
stop implying otherwise.

> Paul Cockshott and his circle want to emphasize that the production of
> material, tangible things is the basis for all other production and
> distribution occurring in the economy. It is just that this "material
> production", regarded as the productive activity, could not even occur
> without much non-material production.

This too is a caricature, nowhere in our article on productive labour
did we even suggest that 'material production of tangible things is
regarded as the productive activity'. On the contrary, our analysis
concluded that the production of, say, F-22 Raptor fighter jets ---
presumably hard 'material, tangible things' --- is an *unproductive
activity*. That should be quite clear to any reader who actually bothers
to read the paper. Let's try to get the facts right.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Tue Sep 28 05:18:12 2010

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