Jacobinism and the labour theory of value | Paul Cockshott | Midwestern Marx


Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo
 


Michael Meeropol
 

I really like the whole first part of the discussion by Comrade Cockshott but I am bothered by the simple empirical investigations which purport to prove the scientific bonafides of the LTV --

Where does the MONETARY EQUIVALENT OF LABOR come from?   It cannot be the wages because if it were, there would be no surplus value.   If it is what the empiricists today call "value added" then the equation that is being tested according to the article is actually an IDENTITY -- where the "monetary equivalent of labor" is gotten by dividing the quantity of labor in a particular industrial sector into the total value for which that output is sold.

(the 98 percent correlation then becomes statistical noise)

In either case, this does not seem to prove anything to me.

NOW -- I have to admit to not having studied the LTV for quite some time so my memory of where the "monetary equivalent of labor" comes from might be very faulty ---

[The other part of my concern is I wonder if the right had side of the equation is actually talking about what Marx called "prices of production" which were NOT the same as the units of "socially necessary labor time" --- giving rise of course to the so-called "transformation problem" that has been an issue in Marxian economics since Bohm-Bawerk thought he had refuted Marx right after Volume III was published ...]

Hope there is a relatively simple way of helping me out here ....

On Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 1:02 AM Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo <kklcac@...> wrote:

https://www.midwesternmarx.com/articles/jacobinism-and-the-labour-theory-of-value-by-paul-cockshott



sartesian@...
 

On Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 12:08 PM, Michael Meeropol wrote:
 
Where does the MONETARY EQUIVALENT OF LABOR come from?

I don't know exactly what you mean here?  Do you mean where does the merchant get the money to purchase labor power?

Money long predates capital, so the physical accumulation doesn't represent a qualitative change, a new mode of production.  An examination of the "putting out" method of textile and clothing production indicates that.  The real question is how does money come to represent the power to command labor as labor power, to compel the formation of labor into a commodity, labor power, for exchange?

And that is the result of dispossession of the direct producers from the means of producing for their own subsistence.  The problem and its resolution are not found in balance, equations, or prior accumulation, but in that new social organization of labor.


gilschaeffer82@...
 

I have a related question, Capitalism is the first economic system in the history of humankind to consistently raise the productivity of labor. Just a one percent increase in productivity per year would result in a noticeable increase in the standard of living in a single lifetime. Can Cockshott's aggregate labor time capture the importance of this magic one per cent? I think not. The focus is wrong and misses what is most important about capitalism. 


Barry Brooks
 

If we define value as expended labor the LTV is true by definition. Accepting that definition there is no need for an empirical inquiry to prove it.

That definition of value as expended labor was an act of class war in economics. Economics must be a field of ideological combat. The recent trend to trying to make economics scientific is doomed to failure, because the most important things can't be measured. That trend toward focusing on measurable economics is also ideological class warfare.

Accounting is a black art in any economic system. If we must think in terms of money, then the value of free natural resources must be excluded from empirical economics. That makes empirical economics useless for maximizing social will being. A functional economy would leave some resources for the future, but free resources will be squandered if we only count the cost of production based on short-term money flows.

What is the opportunity money cost of not raping the planet in a few generations? Empirical economics can answer that lost money, but what is the social and moral cost of trying to create as much money wealth as possible by moving natural resources to the land-fill as soon as possible.

As we fight over money and power we agree over our goal... maximum income, while we ignore the possible goal of maximum wealth. Money income is our rate of consumption, but wealth is not a rate, but a stock.

Our wealth is what we have not consumed. Making things last longer is bad for the economy?

Matthew 9:37 holds the harvest is abundant and the workers are few, but today it is the opposite. Like Matthew 9:37 producing as much as possible is obsolete. Producing more that we need just to stay busy is folly. Keep your can opener busy full time? The output could be measured, but is it smart?

stuff stolen from nature - what we consume (waste) = our increase in physical wealth.
In a robot economy all income would be profit, reflecting that we are parasites on nature, like idle fleas with blood pumps. More flea labor will not create more blood. Harvesting is not creation!

Barry Brooks













Mark Baugher
 

On Jun 20, 2022, at 9:08 AM, Michael Meeropol <mameerop@...> wrote:

Where does the MONETARY EQUIVALENT OF LABOR come from?
I thought he was referring to the "Transformation Problem."

Mark


sartesian@...
 

On Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 02:42 PM, Barry Brooks wrote:
In a robot economy all income would be profit, reflecting that we are parasites on nature, like idle fleas with blood pumps. More flea labor will not create more blood. Harvesting is not creation!
In a robot economy there is no appropriation of human labor as labor time, hence no value, hence no surplus value.  That's one.  As for two, the notion of human beings as parasites is a false notion as a parasite has no means of creating the means of its own subsistence. 

Human beings qua human beings  are no more like a parasite than any other animal that reproduces, and sustains itself,  by obtaining food from the surrounding environment.  You might as well call lions parasites on antelopes and zebras, and giraffes parasites on trees.

Human beings as capitalists are parasitic but in relation to the appropriation of labor, not in relation to nature.  


sartesian@...
 

On Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 05:04 PM, Mark Baugher wrote:
I thought he was referring to the "Transformation Problem."
Maybe, I thought he was asking how the wage is determined; that's an historical issue based on the time necessary to produce the subsistence of the laborers, mediated by the development of each class, and the struggle between them.

Transformation is a whole other ball of wax, and is a conundrum as Marx actually claims that the law of value only governs prices prior to the development of industrial capitalism; that the law governs BEFORE labor time is compelled to present itself as a commodity for exchange.  I think Marx does resolve the transformation problem with the introduction of production prices-- but he introduces them unnecessarily as price differentials are essential for creating profit rate differentials, not a general rate of profit,  and differences in profit rates are essential for the development and movement of capital among, between, different sectors.

I mean an average or general rate of profit is conspicuous for the most part, only in its absence, taking on an assumed life only as an abstraction.

I tried to sort it at https://anticapital0.wordpress.com/law-ofvalue-production-prices-and-average-rates-of-profit-part-1/  and https://anticapital0.wordpress.com/problems-with-the-law-ofvalue-production-prices-and-average-rates-of-profit-part-2/ and the best I can come up with is pointing out the contradictions Marx produces in his analysis.  


Michael Meeropol
 

My memory is that the "transformation problem" only exists if one wants the LTV to be a MICRO-ECONOMIC analysis of price determination --- but since most prices are determined NOT by "supply and demand" but my large businesses administering a mark=up (their ability to do so is determined by Kalecki's "degree of monopoly") I don't think anything related to the "transformation problem" is relevant ...


On Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 5:42 PM <sartesian@...> wrote:
On Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 05:04 PM, Mark Baugher wrote:
I thought he was referring to the "Transformation Problem."
Maybe, I thought he was asking how the wage is determined; that's an historical issue based on the time necessary to produce the subsistence of the laborers, mediated by the development of each class, and the struggle between them.

Transformation is a whole other ball of wax, and is a conundrum as Marx actually claims that the law of value only governs prices prior to the development of industrial capitalism; that the law governs BEFORE labor time is compelled to present itself as a commodity for exchange.  I think Marx does resolve the transformation problem with the introduction of production prices-- but he introduces them unnecessarily as price differentials are essential for creating profit rate differentials, not a general rate of profit,  and differences in profit rates are essential for the development and movement of capital among, between, different sectors.

I mean an average or general rate of profit is conspicuous for the most part, only in its absence, taking on an assumed life only as an abstraction.

I tried to sort it at https://anticapital0.wordpress.com/law-ofvalue-production-prices-and-average-rates-of-profit-part-1/  and https://anticapital0.wordpress.com/problems-with-the-law-ofvalue-production-prices-and-average-rates-of-profit-part-2/ and the best I can come up with is pointing out the contradictions Marx produces in his analysis.  
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Mark Baugher
 

On Jun 20, 2022, at 2:42 PM, sartesian@... wrote:

Maybe, I thought he was asking how the wage is determined; that's an historical issue based on the time necessary to produce the subsistence of the laborers, mediated by the development of each class, and the struggle between them.
I don't know. Maybe someone should ask him. The article was fun to read, but I don't think it's important. I used to think that "value theory" is something that Marshall and his ilk grafted on the work of their predecessors, the classical economist, Marx included.

Mark


sartesian@...
 

On Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 05:48 PM, Michael Meeropol wrote:
only exists if one wants the LTV to be a MICRO-ECONOMIC analysis of price determination
No, it exists as the mechanism for establishing the general rate of profit, which Marx considers a fundamental characteristic of capitalism.  He starts from that, the general rate of profit, as the problem that must be solved. 

 I think the average or general rate of profit only exists as a mathematical calculation and that sectors indeed have different rates of profit which a)dictates the flow, the redistribution of capital, i.e. prior accumulation, via investment b) propels dramatic disruptions of "equilibrium" periods (something that also exist only momentarily and as an abstraction) like for example, increases in energy prices to try and reverse the lower rate of profit in this most technically intensive sector of capital.


Barry Brooks
 

On Mon, 20 Jun 2022 14:23:44 -0700
sartesian@... wrote:

In a robot economy there is no appropriation of human labor as labor time, hence no value ...
There would still be physical output, but that has no value?
Strange definitions lead to strange statements.

the notion of human beings as parasites is a false notion as a parasite has no means of creating the means of its own subsistence.
Like other parasites we have no way to "create" the natural wealth we depend on. We take from nature like a flea takes blood from a dog. Honesty requires our humility since we are parasites. Creation is above our pay grade. Pride does lead to a fall. It's time for humility and gratitude; not pride, number one of the seven deadly sins.

Human beings qua human beings  are no more like a parasite than any other animal that reproduces, and sustains itself,  by obtaining food from the surrounding environment.
Human are parasitic, and we are exploiting our host, the planet, efficiently. Harmless, or even symbiotic, parasites exist, but we are less like fleas and more like a plague. Yes, it all goes back to the fact fungus, fleas, lions, and humans are totally parasitic. All life is parasitic on the planet.

We have inherited the natural world, the fruits of evolution, knowledge, organization. Belief that all that we have been given, labor free, has no "value" that means that ...
Strange definitions lead to strange statements.

Let value be value again to help reveal the value of the imperfect Marx. Do a find/replace of "value" with "expended labor" and it all makes sense again.

Barry Brooks


Frederick Harris
 

I am unsure about the criticism of Marx's theory of value. 


1. If there were robots and no human labour, and human beings continued to live, then value would not exist since value is produced by abstract labour while not being at the same time social labour. Value is, among other things, the expenditure of labour that is not social beforehand. It requires a further process--an exchange process--if it is to be social labour. The exchange process is thus both "internal" to abstract labour in that if the labour were not abstract labour, there would be no need for a further social process. On the other hand, the exchange process is external in that it is both presupposition and consequent of the abstract labour process. 

2. Alfredo Saad-Filho has an interesting article that makes a distinction between the normalization of labour, the synchronization of labour and the homogenization of labour ("Concrete and Abstract Labour in Marx's Theory of Value," (1997),Review of Political Economy, 9: 4, 457-477),  I am not sure that I understand accurately these distinctions, so any justified criticisms would be welcome. 

Normalization involves the reduction of different skilled and presumably intensified labour that produces the same commodity to one qualitatively same kind of labour during the same period of time. Synchronization pertains to labour that produces the same kind of commodity, but synchronization of labours includes past labour that produces the commodity. Homogenization, on the other hand, pertains to the reduction of all commodities to values across different industries. The first two processes--normalization and synchronization--still do not constitute abstract labour and yet they are necessary for abstract labour to exist. The first two pertain to the expenditure of labour (and thus oppose the "purely abstract labour" proponents who treat the exchange process as the process where abstract labour is produced. On the other hand, the first two are ahistorical definitions of abstract labour whereas the third aspect (homogenization) is historical (and this third aspect opposes the "embodied" definition of labour expended--as if the mere expenditure of labour produced value rather than certain social relations). 

 

Fred Harris

 

 

 


Mark Baugher
 

There would still be physical output, but that has no value?
Strange definitions lead to strange statements.
"Value" is a term of art. I get value from reading this list, but not economic value. Marx inherited the centrality of labor in his model from the British economist who preceded him. They were preceded by a school of French economists who studied economic reproduction, simple reproduction and growth, which was pretty universally considered a good thing. The concept of surplus describes what's left after all the costs of production are recovered. Smith investigated the nature of surplus accumulation, or "wealth," and came to the conclusion that labor was the source of wealth, including the division of labor, labor-saving trade advantages, and the difference between what the worker is paid and the revenue the product generates. National wealth came from labor rather than stolen Peruvian silver in the (original) British economic models.

From these concepts, Marx developed the Law of Value. There are people on this list who can explain this better than I can. Suffice it to say, that the physical output of robots produces no value to the owner because there is no labor from which to extract a surplus.

Mark


Charlie
 

M. M. asks, "Where does the MONETARY EQUIVALENT OF LABOR come from?" Cockshott defined it: "...Marxist economists term the Monetary Equivalent of Labour Time. This parameter can be fixed by looking at the total monetary value of output in an economy versus the total labour used." That is, the total monetary value is the sum of final prices. The total labor used is, for Cockshott, the total hours put in.


Michael Meeropol
 

Charlie, that doesn't work --- because labor time is in hours --- we still need a way to turn those hours into a "monetary equivalent" --- if we are using an LTV approach then "labor hours" includes living and "dead" labor (labor congealed in fixed capital and inventories) --- so what dollar figure do we use to multiply the number of labor hours by --- that was my original question ...

the quote from Cockshott says you find the monetary equivalent of labor time by dividing labor hours into total output which BY DEFINITION "proves" the LTV by turning the "evidence" into a tautology --- that is what is confusing me ....that cannot be what Cockshott means ....



On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 10:24 PM Charlie <charles1848@...> wrote:
M. M. asks, "Where does the MONETARY EQUIVALENT OF LABOR come from?" Cockshott defined it: "...Marxist economists term the Monetary Equivalent of Labour Time. This parameter can be fixed by looking at the total monetary value of output in an economy versus the total labour used." That is, the total monetary value is the sum of final prices. The total labor used is, for Cockshott, the total hours put in.
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sartesian@...
 

On Thu, Jun 23, 2022 at 09:46 AM, Michael Meeropol wrote:
Charlie, that doesn't work --- because labor time is in hours --- we still need a way to turn those hours into a "monetary equivalent" --- if we are using an LTV approach then "labor hours" includes living and "dead" labor (labor congealed in fixed capital and inventories) --- so what dollar figure do we use to multiply the number of labor hours by --- that was my original question ...

That is established in and by the process of exchange, in the conversion of value to price.  Money is the detached representation of value in exchange.  Price is value expressed in money terms; labor time becomes value when its appropriated, or "mediated" by the  wage relation. Value is made manifest as price in markets, in the process of exchange.   We can calculate wages (and benefits) exchanged for production hours.  Is it a bit circular?  Probably.