charles1848 at sbcglobal.net
Mon Feb 18 13:09:13 MST 2013
Paul Cockshott wrote: "If you reject the independent measurability of
labour inputs then you reject any possibility of putting the labour
theory of value to the test. It is impossible to prove that value rather
than energy for example is the source of value."
No, a theory can be tested by comparing developments it logically leads
to with what actually happens - all while a basic entity of the theory
is not directly measurable, not observable. For example, statistical
mechanics in the nineteenth century theorized tiny particles and their
motion without being able to observe or measure them individually. The
theory derived verifiable macro-quantities of gases, extending Boyle's law.
Similarly, the labor theory of value leads to explanations of crises and
other macro-economic developments that accord with actual history -
without measuring the _abstract_ labor in commodities.
Of course you can look at actual hours of labor input, examine the fate
of firms using one technology and another, bring in other conditions
like firms' access to credit and distribution channels - and perhaps
offer an explanation of individual prices. This would be analogous to
the progress of physics, now able to make microscopic measurements of
individual molecules that had previously been a concept within a theory.
One difference is that social measurements at individual firm level are
hidden by the secrecy of the firm. No one says that Farjoun and Machover
should not examine data.
Physics has driven its investigations to smaller and smaller distances.
(It has probed trans-galactic distances, too, but with fewer and less
solid results.) That has been very fruitful in practical inventions. In
contrast, the practical task of historical materialism is deeper
understanding of the broad sweep of national and international history
today, such as explaining the historic decline since 1973 of workers'
real earnings in the U.S. (See No Rich, No Poor.)
The above statement by Cockshott is closer to the positivism of Karl
Popper than to historical materialism.
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