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
critique of Sweezy's THEORY OF CAPITALIST DEVELOPMENT.
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.
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
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:
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.]
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.
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.
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
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.
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