Spain: colonizer and colonized

Nicholas Siemensma nsiemensma at
Fri Jul 4 20:26:38 MDT 2003

Julio Huato wrote:  

> >For the value of labour to be commensurated within
> production, for the 
> >value of labour to be known, there must indeed be

> The value of labor?  Labor is the substance of
> value.  It's like talking 
> about the speed of time.  The former is one unit of
> labor time per unit of 
> labor time.  The latter is one second per second.

That's beautiful Julio, thanks for that, I see you'll
quickly help us regress to the level of the classical
economists and their labour theory of value.  In fact,
this serves as a useful example of the whole problem
of your analysis.  

You show above the circularities which David Ricardo
and Adam Smith struggled with in their theories of
embodied labour time: how do you define the value of
*labour*?  If labour is the measure of value, what's
the measure of labour?  Ricardo and Smith never
satisfactorily answered this question, having no
theory of the wage - but you can't elide it by
pretending it's a tautology from the start.  After
all, it's pretty important for your argument about
free wage labour as the dominant form (and more) of
capitalist labour, no?

The classicals had no solution to the problem of wages
and prices, and had the fatal flaw of being unable to
explain the price of labour.  I think you have the
same problem in being obsessed with the immediate
process of production and ignoring how it is embodied
in a constellation of social instances, allowing
"unfree labour" an important role in the circuits of
capital accumulation.

Marx, distinguished from all bourgeois economists
before and after, confronted the problem of
price-formation from the direction of value-production
(within the labour process) and from the direction of
price-formation (within markets).  He never ignored
the functioning of markets, and as such managed to
show how the price of labour was derived, how values
were transformed into prices, and form a general
equilibrium model.  

Any classicals left were meanwhile still stuck in
their circularities, because they had missed a crucial
step in deriving their labour theory of value.  While
they had said that the value of a commodity depended
upon the amount of labour-time it embodied, the latter
always varied with different concrete labours.  Only
the market could do the averaging-out necessary for
labour-time commensuration.  Marx revealed the market
as an essential social institution at the very heart
of his analysis of capitalism.  The market averaged
out differences through the creation of a world market
which derived the correct price for a commodity, ie
what was embodied in a commodity was not just
"labour-time" but socially necessary abstract labour
time.  Marx helped to solve one of the key problems
left by Ricardo and Smith by incorporationg the
price-setting mechanism of the market, and the
formation of prices of production as a crucial step in
relative price formation.

If values are embodied socially-necessary abstract
labour-time, it's obvious that by definition this is
different from the labour-time of any particular
individual worker.  Marx's value theory is not the
simplistic "labour theory of value" of Ricardo and
Smith, and doesn't go around in circles like the
classicals trying to show how labour was priced, the
wage from labour and labour from the wage.  Marx
critically liquidated this problem by showing that
society distinguishes between, on one side, the work
of the individual worker, and on the other the
socially-average work done by a group of workers in eg
a particular industry: the worker doesn't get paid for
his or her own time, but instead for the
socially-average quality of his or her time.  And the
price of the worker's labour capacity is set by the
market, where the wage merely buys the "consumption
basket" of sufficient quantity to ensure that the
labour-power will reappear on the market.

By ignoring in typical neoclassical *nominalistic*
fashion these socially- and globally-mediatory
mechanisms necessary for capital accumulation - ie the
socialisation of every concrete labour in what George
Bush calls every "dark corner of the globe" - Julio
neglects how even unfree labour can be commensurated
within production and have its value determined by the
market.  Free labour is the *necessary and dominant
form*, but unfree labour in a global system with an
equilibrium point which is the general rate of profit
contains embodied surplus labour which can be
valrorised as capital, and thus can still participate
in capitalist production: self-expanding value through
reinvestment of surplus for valorisation in

Nick "just wasted half an hour of my Saturday morning"
Siemensma - Yahoo! Mobile
- Check & compose your email via SMS on your Telstra or Vodafone mobile.

More information about the Marxism mailing list