LTV (again)

Wed Aug 10 13:42:54 MDT 1994


I don't know how Glen fared in his attempts to get your papers,
but the JHET isn't in the library here, and even the condensed
version of your thesis wouldn't ship here from either source you
gave (no doubt because the e-mail system here can't handle
documents of that length).  I will have to try interlibrary loan
to get them.

In your previous post, meanwhile, you write that

>I've omitted consideration of some of your critiques... because
>I have addressed similar interpretations, particularly in the

If so, then I think it's fair to ask you to respond to the
interpretation I've presented, instead of trying to explain your
own interpretation again. I trust my version of the LTV (and its
compatibility with the use-value/exchange-value dialectic) has
come through in my previous responses to your posts.  Here's a
condensed version to respond to, in case not:

Marx uses the LTV to explain surplus-value, which arises not from
the production process alone (i.e. as a matter of "production-
inputs and -outputs"), but only from the "complete" (yet ever-
ongoing) cycle of production -> consumption/reproduction ->
production.  This is why I called Marx's LTV *dialectical*.

Take as a point of departure the capitalist's purchase of labor-
capacity as a commodity: he parts with its exchange-value (pays a
wage), in order to use its use-value in production.  This use-
value in production *exceeds* the exchange-value paid for it, the
latter being (like that of all commodities) determined by its
cost of production.  This may sound as if use-value and exchange-
value are suddenly comparable  -- but no (as you rightly insist,
they are not): only exchange-values are quantifiable and
comparable; to say that labor's use-value exceeds its exchange-
value is short-hand for saying that the exchange-value
*eventually* realized, through the capitalist's sale of the goods
produced, on the labor-capacity used in producing those goods
exceeds the exchange-value *initially* expended on that labor-

One advantage of this dialectical LTV is that it doesn't have to
attribute to labor (or to machines, for that matter) any "occult"
power of "transferring" value to goods.  The value of any
commodity is its cost of production.

I have called Marx's LTV *critical* because it locates the source
of surplus-value in the purchase and productive use of labor-
capacity as a commodity, and identifies it as exploitation.
"Productive labor" *qua capitalist commodity* is defined by Marx
as labor that produces surplus-value.  This is not to say that
capitalist production doesn't produces "goods" as well (nor that
capitalist accounting may not have ingenious ways of assessing
the "net value" of those goods): but that's just not the focus or
the interest of Marx's critical LTV.

Gene Holland


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