what is labour and what is value

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Tue Nov 1 07:35:54 MST 1994

So, value is more a political/moral concept than an accounting one, or a
theory of relative prices?


Doug Henwood [dhenwood at panix.com]
Left Business Observer
212-874-4020 (voice)
212-874-3137 (fax)

On Mon, 31 Oct 1994, Hans Ehrbar wrote:

>   Doug asks:
>    Aside from the theoretical points, is there any practical political
>    importance to the value controversy?
>   My answer:
>   Yes, or course there is.
>   Alone on the ideological level.
>   Some people have lots of money, and some have very little.
>   From a neoclassical point of view, those with lots of money
>   have this money because they have increased the level of utility
>   of many other people;  they deserve therefore what they have,
>   their income is society's reward for their services.
>   If money is labor, however, then the question arises how
>   these people have the command over so much of society's labor.
>   This is a question about which there is a strict taboo in
>   our society.  You are not supposed to think the obvious.
>   This is why the first pages of CAPITAL seem so hard to understand.
>   The question whether or not a precise value accounting can be done
>   in which every penny of profit by a capitalist can in principle be
>   traced back to a second of surplus labor elsewhere in society
>   also has implications for the question whether value is real.
>   Is value a social reality which has independent causative powers,
>   or is value a paradigm which organizes our thinking about complex
>   social-economic realitits, as Laibman wrote on p. 25 of his book
>   Value, Technical Change, and Crisis, Sharpe 1992?  I consider value to
>   be as real as a shark.  it does more than organize our thinking,
>   it organizes society, it subjects material production to its own
>   thirst for self-espansion.  But it cannot be real if its quantity
>   is for logical reasons not clearly definable.
>   By the way, Justin asked me to give a substantive rundown
>   of the New Solution;  I will do that as soon as I find the time.
> Hans G. Ehrbar                                    ehrbar at econ.utah.edu
> Economics Department, 308 BuC                     (801) 581 7797
> University of Utah                                (801) 581 7481
> Salt Lake City    UT 84112-1107                   (801) 585 5649 (FAX)


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