exchange vale as field etc

Paul Cockshott wpc at
Thu Jun 20 02:53:18 MDT 1996

>2. Exchange value is an emergent property of complex commodity
>exchange. The concept of an emergent property, not unreal,
>but not mechanically linked to the concrete phenomena, needs to
>be understood subtly.

Hello? Run that by me again please, defining emergent property, unreal in
what terms, complex commodity exchange, which concrete phenomena. Unsubtly.

Paul C:
I suggest you have a look at Farjoun and Machover's book The Laws of
Chaos, published by Verso. They argue that the formulation of value
theory in marxist debate has been hampered by the adoption of a
determinist formalisation whereby people attempt to derive prices
of production from input costs plus a given average rate of profit.
They argue that the appropriate mathematical formalism to analyse
something as disordered as a capitalist economy is not this sort
of determinist model but the statistical mechanics of Boltzmann.

They reformulate the law of value as a stochastic law, and arrive
at a number of empirically testable predictions. The most interesting
of which is that in real capitalist economies, the simple labour
theory of value of volume 1 is likely to be a better representation
of reality than the theory of prices of production.
Empirical investigations seem to bear this prediction out. This
is highly significant, in that they have for the first time established
an underlying mechanism for the labour theory of value.


Exchange value as a field? I wonder what you exactly mean.

Paul C:
The usage derives from Mirowski's book, More Light than Heat, which
focuses on the borrowing of concepts from physics by economists.
Refering to Marx, he argues that Marx had two value theories the
substance of value theory wherebye labour time is defined in terms
of the past labour embodied in a commodity, and what he
calls the field theory. In this, value is defined in terms of the
labour necessary to reproduce the commodity.

In principle the two measures can diverge, since technical change
tends to make the second measure smaller than the first.

Mirowski makes an analogy between the substance theory and the first
conceptualisations of energy in thermodynamics as a conserved substance,
and says that the field theory of value is analogous with latter treatments
in physics that focus instead upon the gravitational, electrostatic etc
fields, with energy then being defined in terms of integrals over
paths through fields.

It should be noted that it is 'value' not exchange value that is being
spoken of as a field.

Again for the purpose of illustration, I find it cute to say that the law of
value stipulates market-prices will revolve around the labour-content, a
strange attractor. Just cute though, I've no more analytical claim in this

Paul C:
Whether the attractor is strange is a moot point. I have seen no argument
as of yet that this is necessarily the case.
Paul Cockshott

wpc at

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