value

Steve.Keen at unsw.EDU.AU Steve.Keen at unsw.EDU.AU
Tue Sep 13 23:41:25 MDT 1994


Dear Juan,

I resent any implication that I have made my case by
selective quotation, especially since you have not read
my
lished work on this subject. If you really wish to
challenge me--rather than simply rile me--then I suggest
you locate the JHET papers (1993, Vol. 15, Nos.1 & 2) and
also avail yourself of the electronic form of my thesis
(which is stored on the csd.colorado.edu ftp server under
the directory econ/Authors/Keen.Steve). Otherwise, I am
willing to send you offprints if you send me your
snail mail address.

As for whether "torturing Marx's quotations until breaking them
down to confess what the torturer wants to have them saying is
a current practice among some renowned Marxist", I would have
to say that it WAS a past practice, and it is the one which
gave us the dominant interpretation of Marx. As a sample, here
is an unabridged quote for you from the opening of _The
Contribution_

"To be a use-value is evidently a necessary pre-requisite of
the commodity, but it is immaterial to the use-value whether
it is a commodity. Use-value as such, since it is independent
of the determinate economic form, lies outside the sphere
of investigation of political economy. It belongs
in this sphere only when it is itself a determinate form."
(p. 28.)

The final sentence of the above is the one which was dropped
by Hilferding, Sweezy, Meek and Dobb in their discussions of
the foundations of the LTV. Yet it contains the implication
that use-value is, at some stage, a "determinate form"
under capitalism.

This is the lead I have followed, and in it I have been
preceded by Rosdolsky and Groll in particular, but also by
Nicolaus, Mandel, Desai, etc. I have been scrupulous in
attempting NOT to do what the Sweezy/Meek/Dobb school itself
did (I have argued that Sweezy was largely the one actively
responsible, while Meek and Dobb were more passive; and
that Hilferding was actually misinterpreted by Sweezy, but
that Hilferding's pose was easily so treated).

As for your arguments concerning the origin of surplus
value, you present a "proof" of the LTV which incorporates the
term use-value, but which I would argue is utterly different
to the method in which Marx attempted to prove the LTV. Your
argument:

"Surplus-value is then the historically specific social relation into which
the exchange-value of a quantity of any use-value produced in the
labor-time that exceeds from the abstract labor represented as the
exchange-value materialized in the mass of use-values that conform the
means of living of the labor-power (thus determining a certain amount of
labor-power's exchange value) develops."

Marx's argument (with nothing omitted):

"The past labour that is embodied in the labour-power, and
the living labour that it can call into action; the daily cost of
maintaining it, and its daily expenditure in work, are two
totally different things. The former determines the exchange
value of the labour-power, the latter is its use value. The fact
that half a [working] day's labour is necessary to keep the
labourer alive during 24 hours, does not in any way prevent him
from working a whole day. Therefore, the value of labour-power,
and the value which that labour-power creates in the labour
process, are two entirely different magnitudes; and this
difference of the two values was what the capitalist had in view,
when he was purchasing the labour-power. The useful qualities
that labor-power possesses, and by virtue of which it makes
yarn or boots, were nothing more to him than a conditio sine qua
non; for in order to create value, labor must be expended in
a useful manner. What really
influenced him was the specific use-value which this commodity
possesses of being a source not only of value, but of more value
than it has itself. This is the special service that the
capitalist expects from labour-power, and in this transaction he
acts in accordance with the 'eternal laws' of the exchange of
commodities. The seller of labour-power, like the seller of any
other commodity, realises its exchange-value, and parts with its
use-value. He cannot take the one without giving the other. The
use-value of labour-power, or in other words, labour, belongs
just as little to the seller, as the use-value of oil after it
has been sold belongs to the dealer who has sold it. The owner of
the money has paid the value of a day's labour; his, therefore,
is the use of it for a day; a day's labour belongs to him. The
circumstance, that on the one hand the daily sustenance of
labour-power costs only half a day's labour, while on the other
hand the very same labour-power can work during a whole day, that
consequently the value which its use during one day creates, is
double what he pays for that use, this circumstance is, without
doubt, a piece of good luck for the buyer, but by no means an
injury to the seller." (Capital I, p. 188)

As best as I can interpret your argument--and I find your
manner of expression excessively convoluted--you appear to
bring in the unique characteristics of labor-power as an integral
part of your proof. In the above, I argue, Marx grounds the
source of surplus value in the attributes which labor-power
shares with other commodities, not those which set it apart:
"in this transaction he
acts in accordance with the 'eternal laws' of the exchange of
commodities. The seller of labour-power, like the seller of any
other commodity, realises its exchange-value, and parts with its
use-value."

It is this logic of Marx which I have explored at great length,
and which you in your posts effectively refuse to acknowledge. I
would contrast this with my exchanges with Chris, where he has
seriously considered whether my arguments accurately reflect
how Marx devised his theory.

Instead, what I get from our debate is how Juan Inigo establishes
the LTV. With respect, I am no more interested in that than I
am in, for example, how Steve Keen establishes the LTV (if that
were my purpose). I AM interested in how Marx attempted to
establish it, and I argue that his underlying logic--what I
have called the use-value/exchange-value dialectic--was
impeccable, but that his application of it was flawed.

As for your point (a):

When I said that I could find no question in your point (a),
that was a statement concerning grammar, not logic. I
generally find your postings very convoluted and difficult
to read, with the final sentence in that paragraph being an
excellent example: to the best of my knowledge, it was
ungrammatical. Now that I have been told which phrase in
it was the question, "which is the general regulation of
present-day social metabolism process", as you've elucidated
it, I could attempt an answer. I am not particularly interested in
doing so, for the reason stated above. However, I will refer you
to the statement of Marx's I quoted at the beginning of this
post, where he says that use value "belongs
in this sphere only when it is itself a determinate form."

Clearly then, Marx believed that use-value did become a determinate
issue in capitalism. I suggest you consider both the original
references and the work of Rosdolsky, Groll and myself to see how
that occurred.

Steve Keen



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