Re: [OPE] Reply to critics

Date: Fri Oct 15 2010 - 21:40:36 EDT

> So let's proceed logically with a simple example. Suppose a worker turns a
> pile of cotton into shirts within three hours. Then three hours of that
> worker's labor are embodied in the shirts (as shirts, ie, abstracted from
> the cotton, machines and tools used up, etc). And by 'embodied' I mean,
> literally, that the shirts are the objective product of that worker's
> expenditure of labor, they are his labor-time turned object, crystallized
> into things. Once the shirts are made, once they acquire this objective
> reality separate from the human labor process that produced them, we cannot
> go back in time and reduce the amount of labor that it took to make them.
> The three hours' labor are done. But of course the labor we're talking about
> here is specific, concrete labor.
> Now suppose the shirt factory is operating with outdated technology and
> that, under standard conditions, it really should have taken the worker two
> hours rather than three to make the shirts. Then the value of the shirts (as
> shirts) is equal to two hours' average labor-time, even if the worker
> actually labored for three hours. It is only now that the concept of value
> is introduced, but if it can be introduced at all, it is because the
> worker's labor had, in addition to its concrete, also an abstract aspect.
> And both aspects are in fact embodied in the shirts, because both aspects
> have contributed to the physical transformation of cotton, tools, etc into
> shirts, ie, to the production of a new object.
> In sum, it seems that the solution to the conundrum (how the labor-time
> embodied in a commodity can fall and yet cannot possibly fall, or how there
> can be different 'labor values', as Anders puts it) lies in the distinction
> between concrete and abstract labor.

Hi Paula:

The solution to the conundrum, imo, lies in the character of SNLT and how it
can change over time. I think Anders is correct to point to the importance of
looking at this as a dynamic process (and, hence, beyond the scope of the
period analysis which Marx used in his formal examples).

> Jerry wrote:
>> In any event - as far as I know - when he is talking about *productive
>> labor* he is very clear: it is labor which is productive of surplus value.
>> Insofar as the passage I cited, Marx leave no room for doubt as to his
>> meaning.
> He wrote: "The former's labour (that of the actors or a clown, JL) is
> exchanged with capital, the latter's (jobbing tailor, JL) with revenue.
> I'm afraid it's not as easy as that. For instance, in Vol III Chapter XVII
> Marx writes about the labor bought by mercantile capital and says that it is
> "immediately *productive* for it", in the sense that "it does not create
> surplus-value but enables [the merchant] to appropriate surplus-value,
> which, in effect, amounts to the same thing with respect to his capital". So
> in the passage that you cited, the labor of the clown and the actor could be
> *productive* in this same "immediate" sense. After all, the labor of
> mercantile workers (as Marx explicitly notes) is also exchanged with
> capital, not revenue.

Nope. In the passage I cited Marx did not refer to the appropriation or
transfer of s; he said it produces a S.
"the former's labour produces a surplus-value; in the latter, revenue is
You're not suggesting that the labour of the actors or a clown (employed
by a capitalist firm) isn't production of s but rather represents a redistribution
of s, are you? I don't see how this can be, although, the issue of whether
individual groups of workers help capitalists to produce s or simply
redistribute s amongst themselves is an important one. For a financial
capitalist, her/his workers might seem productive to the extent that
they assist that capitalist in the acquisition of s, but workers are
only productive of s if they themselves create s. This is an important
issue related to the theory of rent.
In solidarity, Jerry
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Received on Fri Oct 15 21:42:10 2010

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