Positive side to anti-LTV case

Steve.Keen at unsw.EDU.AU Steve.Keen at unsw.EDU.AU
Sun Sep 25 22:55:54 MDT 1994

This is a quick reply to some questions posted recently by Paul
Cockshott (I'm at a conference and away from my references).

The questions he posed were (a) whether I could think of social relations
which would make uv and ev commensurable, (b) whether I thought that
the value of lp was socially determined, (c) a test to distinguish my
interpretation of Marx from the LTV.

(a) Yes, pre-capitalist and pre-imperialist exchange, when exotics
were swapped between cultures which had no idea of the means by which
the commodities were produced (see Hilferding on this in his
reply to BB). Also, in my original post on this I tried to indicate
ways in which this dialectic "folds back into itself", like any
dynamic system will do: workers will demand wages that exceed value,
but obviously there's going to be pressure in the other direction;
and money/assets are priced at their use-value.

Also, my use of commensurable is "non-standard". I use it to mean
not causally related, as well as different. Generally, uv and ev are
incommensurable because one is qualitative and the other quantitative;
in production, the use to which commodities are put is quantitative,
therefore incommensurability there translates as quantitative

(b) Yes, I do think that the value of LP is socially determined--but
this basis reflects the level of technology as well (the level of
training, health, etc., is affected by ther level of technology).
The level of payments above (or below) value is also socially
determined. I think there's "value" in separating the two (which was
Sraffa's original intention, BTW), but that it is probably too
difficult to do in practice (the decision Sraffa also reached).

(c) I made a reply on this earlier--your own work, Paul. From memory
you said that there was "little to choose" empirically between a
Sraffian prices basis and the LTV; that is support for one as much
as for the other. But also, the transformation problem is poerhapsd
the strongest assertion of the LTV in a testable sense. If one could
ever control for the differences in pay rates between labor intensive
and capital intensive industries, and some how statistically
separate values out of price data, then perhaps you could test the
assertion that profit rates are higher in labor-intensive industries
(and I'm being colloqiual here) than in capital-intensive.
Steve Keen


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