utopia/Freeman's dynamics

John R. Ernst ernst at pipeline.com
Mon Oct 16 00:20:37 MDT 1995

I think you will admit that this discussion has now  
taken a strange turn into the world of what is value  
from whether or not it is simultaneously determined. 
We started from your response to Jim Miller's  
comments concerning Freeman's efforts to correct the 
idea that values are simultaneously determined in  
Marx's CAPITAL.  In the post below, you take up the 
the idea that abstract labor is not the sole creator 
value in Marx's work. I have no doubt that this 
is not a new issue for you.  Again, I assume that 
you will admit it is not the standard neo-Ricardian 
critique of Marx's concept of value.  That is, for 
Steedman, the concept of value is, at best, redundant. 
In his MARX AFTER SRAFFA, there is no suggestion that 
machines, tools, etc. are sources of value that Marx 
As you know, Rosdolsky's piece on use-value is a 
Sweezy maintained that use-value plays no role in an 
analysis of capitalism. Rosdolsky takes him to task by 
showing that, for Marx, use-value plays an important  
role in the Marxian framework. 
Now let's look at what you are saying. 
Steve says: 
That labor is such a commodity, a source of surplus-value: 
"The past labor that is embodied in the labor power, and the living  
labor 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 labor power, the  
latter is its use-value.*" (p. 188) 
[In other words, labor-power is purchased at its exchange-value 
and its use-value is transferred to the product. Logic correctly 
John says: 
I take some exception to your idea that the use-value of the  
commodity labor power is TRANSFERRED to the product.  The 
use-value of labor-power is labor itself.  There is no  
transfer going on here at all. 
But you say that somehow use-value is transferred.  What 
does that mean?  Are we not now adding use-values and 
exchange-values?  Why?  For Marx, there is no problem as 
he sees the act of labor as something other than the  
"transfer" of use-value.  You then go on to find 
Marx's logic faulty in the following fashion: 
Steve says: 
His foul-up in logic in deciding that non-labor inputs are 
not such commodities, and therefore not sources of surplus-value: 
"If we now consider the case of any instrument of labour 
during the whole period of its service, from the day of  
its entry into the workshop, till the day of its  
banishment into the lumber room, we find that during  
this period its use-value has been completely consumed,  
and therefore its exchange-value completely 
transferred to the product." (p. 197) 
[In other words, a machine is purchased for  
its exchange-value and its exchange-value is transferred  
to the product. Logical error--use-value neglected.] 
John says: 
By noting that the instrument of labor is completely  
worn out, Marx is hardly ignoring its use-value.  
Indeed, he says it no longer has any.  Given it is  
of no use, he assumes its exchange value is completely 
transferred to the product and preserved in that product. 
Thus, the value of the means of production is preserved 
in the product as the living labor is added to that  
value in the process of production.   Use-value does  
play a role in the analysis of production.  
You then move back into Marx's earlier work of the  
GRUNDRISSE to prove your point. 
Steve says: 
But getting it right in the Grundrisse: 
"It also has to be postulated (which was not done above) that *the  
use-value of the machine significantly (sic) greater than its value*;  
i.e. that its devaluation in the service of production is not  
proportional to its increasing effect on production." (p. 383.  
Emphasis added.) 
John says: 
Here I will admit that Marx is unclear as opposed to 
"right."  What is he saying?  For me, the passage 
you cite obtains some clarity if you keep reading. 
Marx compares two processes producing the same  
product.  One has a machine with twice the exchange 
value of the other and with that machine workers 
are able to produce 3 and 1/3 times as much output. 
Thus, if we look at what Marx is saying from the  
"i.e."  to the end of the sentence, it is clear 
that given a standard time of depreciation or  
devaluation, "its devaluation in the service of 
production is not proportional to its increasing 
effect on production."  True indeed.  I hardly  
think that proves that machines create value or 
that Marx maintains that they do. 
Later in the Book I of CAPITAL, Marx is clearer on 
labor that is enabled by using better machinery.   
That is, he attributes to that labor a greater  
capacity to create "social" value  compared with 
the less productive labor.  The individual labor 
of the less productive labor may be greater then 
the social labor whereas the opposite is the case 
with the more productive labor.     
Thus, it would seem that for Marx to it right we 
need to  
1. Assume that the use-value of labor-power, labor, 
   is transferred to the output like that of a 
2. That the wearing out of the instruments of  
   production and the role that that process plays 
   in the analysis is tantamount to ignoring  
   the role of use-value.  
3. That the comparison Marx makes between the  
   increase in productivity and the increases in 
   devaluation or depreciation as capital grows 
   somehow shows that machines create value. 
On 10/16 

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