[Marxism] Non-subscribers on the Heinrich discussion
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 17 11:39:06 MST 2013
When Cockshott says:
In a socialists as in a capitalist society copper will be less valuable
than silver, and we will choose to wire up houses and
motors with copper rather than silver wire in consequence.
he shows just how close to Ricardo, and far from Marx he is. In a
socialist society copper will not be less "valuable" than silver,
because value cannot exist apart from alienated, expropriated, wage
labor. Cockshott here, as everywhere, confuses time with value. Value
is a specific social expression of time. Marx notes that “Wealth is the
disposition over time” and that “all economy is the economy of time.”
But not all wealth is capitalist wealth. Copper and silver will no
longer be exchanged for the purpose of accumulation, of control over the
labor time of others. Silver and copper will be parties to the
process of accumulation.
Socially necessary labor time will, in effect, be emancipated from the
accumulation of private property, and then production will be organized
for use, and need. Copper will have more social utility based on a)
certain physical characteristics b) less demand, requirement, for human
labor, for social time per unit.
All economy is the economy of time. Not all economy of time is the
economy of value.
There are in fact not two, but at least three concepts of value in
1) The Ricardian one of embodied labour (labour contained), summing
direct and indirect labour costs, which is used by Marx for pedagogic
purposes (used by neo-Ricardian Marxists like Paul Cockshott).
2) Some sort of average or equilibrium money-price, a “standard price”
which Marx uses as a shorthand (used by Fred Moseley and his school).
3) The correct finished concept, which is the current reproduction
(replacement) cost of commodities, measured as labour hours, or sums of
money, or as a trading ratio (used by Ian Wright).
As regards 3) Marx says explicitly "...the value of a commodity is
determined not by the quantity of labour actually objectified in it, but
by the quantity of living labour necessary to produce it." –( Capital,
Volume I, Penguin, p. 676-677).
"...the value of commodities is determined not by the labour-time
originally taken by their production, but rather by the labour-time that
their reproduction takes, and this steadily decreases as the social
productivity of labour develops." (Capital, Volume III, Penguin ed., p.
Very clearly, Marx distantiates himself from the Ricardian conception
here, and, actually, he notes that the concept of value as an “average
price” is also wrong:
“The continual oscillations in prices, their rise and fall, compensate
each other, cancel each other out, and carry out their own reduction to
an average price which is their internal regulator. This average price
is the guiding light of the merchant or the manufacturer in every
undertaking of a lengthy nature. The manufacturer knows that if a long
period of time is considered, commodities are sold neither over nor
under, but at, their average price. If, therefore, he were at all
interested in disinterested thinking, he would formulate the problem of
the formation of capital as follows : How_can we account for
the origin of capital on the assumption that prices are regulated by the
average price, i.e. ultimately by the value of commodities? I say
'ultimately'— because average prices do not directly coincide with the
values of commodities, as Adam Smith, Ricardo, and others believe.”
(Marx, Capital Vol. 1, p. 269 Penguin).
Marx uses the Ricardian concept and the average price concept only for
pedagogic purposes, knowing very well that they are only approximations
to the concept of product value.
The fully formed concept of value becomes apparent really only in the
discussion of land rents, where Marx notes for example that “It is
possible for agricultural products to be sold above their price of
production and below their value, while, on the other hand, many
industrial products yield the price of production only because they are
sold above their value.”
Michael Heinrich is a nice guy and he is open to argument, but his
interpretations of Marx’s theory of value are a scholastic mistake. The
main problem with the Neue Marx-Lekture is, in fact, its scholastic
obscurantism. That obscurantism arises I think mainly because the
obscurantists fail to understand the questions Marx aimed to answer.
Simply put, they don’t understand the problem to which the text was an
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