Capital Vol 1 Reading Group: Chapters 1-2

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darren p
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Sep 24 2008 09:36
BillJ wrote:
Price is not value + surplus value. Read Vol III for that. The surplus value produced during production becomes a part of the commodities' value, and, as a rule, prices and values do not coincide (except on a total level).

Value is determined by socially necessary labor time, they are not the same thing.

A commodity is a use-value and a value, exchange-value is how this value is expressed.

And yes, the key to profit is surplus value (assuming we mean the same thing by "key")-- what else?

Ok, maybe the diagram is flawed, it's kind of a tricky thing to do without it being open to different ways of reading, but should be possible. Anyone else want to try?

I agree with most of what you say, read my previous posts.

I thought exchange value and value where the same thing? Is not price the monetary expression of value? But as I have said, value=price only potentially.

With regards to "surplus value" maybe I was using the wrong term. Is there a separate term to mean the amount gained when a commodity sells at more than its value?

I know "surplus value" still exists when a commodity sells at value because the commodity "labour-power" creates more value than its cost. This is what I was referring to as the "key" to profit.

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Sep 24 2008 08:51
jonnylocks wrote:
what's with the 'psuedo' use-value talk? isn't this making extraneous judgments on our part?

You're right "pseudo" is a value judgement. But if you drop the "pseudo" bit from what I wrote about marketing, the analysis still stands up.

The whole advertising, marketing and commodity as image and identity-role is an interesting area and one which Marx did not write about in depth. Or if he did I would like to see where.

Daniel B
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Sep 24 2008 10:18

Darren: isn't exchange-value simply the expression of one obect of use-value in the quantitative use-value of all other commodities or the universal equivalent? That is to say that something only has exchange value in so far as it is inter-changeable with all other commodities whereas value is the expression of socially necessary labour time manifest in a commodity. Though perhaps that's not as great a distinction as I thought at first.

安藤鈴
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Sep 24 2008 11:29
darren p wrote:
With regards to "surplus value" maybe I was using the wrong term. Is there a separate term to mean the amount gained when a commodity sells at more than its value?

Some refer to it as a 'supra profit' or as 'ephemeral profit.'

Quote:
Is not price the monetary expression of value?

Yes, the expression.

This does not mean, however, that price must exactly = value.

Rei,

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Sep 24 2008 13:11

Pulled this from another topic but thought it relevant to the discussion we're having here:

revol68 wrote:
[..]use values aren't independent of the world and social and relations they are put to use within, of course many use values are of use only in so much as capital has shaped and contoured the world in such as to make them so.
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Sep 24 2008 16:38

安藤鈴 and BillJ seem to have the best understanding of things so far on this thread

for most of volume 1 marx assumes not only that everything that is produced is sold, so there are no problems of under consumption, gluts, effective demand, over accumulation, crisis etc. but that everything is sold at it's value, i.e. price = value (perfect market equilibrium supply=demand etc..) This doesn't mean that he thinks the two things are the same however and he makes this very clear in the chapter on money, however for the purposes of volume 1, which is in the main a view of the capitalist system from the point of view of production, he makes this assumption so that other areas can be focussed on without the clutter of this disrupting that exposition (the other key assumptions made in volume 1 is that the capitalist who appropriates the surplus value at the point of production is the capitalist who ends up with it at the end of the day, and also that the whole world is a closed capitalist system - again just because he makes this assumption for the purposes of exposition it doesn't mean he thinks that this is the case - it's just a standard way of explaining things, assume one thing constant to look at the effects on other things - in volume II & III he looks at things from a different 'window' so the things assumed constant in volume 1 are looked at from a different point of view)

(revol if you're reading this has the contributions from these two done anything to change your view expressed on the 'theories of value' thread that exchange value (or it's money form - price) preceeds, and indeed, determines value?)

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Sep 24 2008 16:42

was a good thread on value a wee while ago here

http://libcom.org/forums/thought/theories-value-06022008

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Sep 24 2008 17:24
revol68 wrote:
My issue wasn't that the exchange value of the commodity determines the value of the commodity but that ultimately the value of a commodity is dependent on socially necessary labour time which is ultimately based on the exchange value of labour power.

but you're falling into the same trap here again, the value of a commodity is derived upon the value of the (socially necessary) labour time embodied within it, it's not derived upon the exchange value/price of the (socially necessary) labour embodied within it. If a capitalist pays below or above the value of labour, this sum of money paid is the exchange value/price, however this difference (between price and value) does not flow through into the value of the commodity, only the value does.Again it's all conceptual as fuck though, but i think it's important to get the distinction right for a proper understanding of capital

Quote:
Strangely though in my copy of Capital the intro by David McLellan states that exchange value is the amount labour embodied in a commodity, which seems to be the same as value especially since if price and exchange value are different

depends if he's starting from the assumption, that marx does in volume 1, that commodities sell at their valule

Quote:
I can see the point of exchange value and value being distinct if exchange value is the same as price but if price is distinct from exchange value and exchange value is the amount of socially necessary labour needed to produce a commodity then where does value go, it would seem to me it drops out the bottom. So yes I see the point in value in that it is an abstraction to highlight the difference between it and the price, that the amount of labour embodied in something will generally determine it's exchange value butis not the same as it for a whole host of factors.

if exchange value is expressed in money then it is the same as price, exchange value could be expressed in other things though, however for the purposes of conversations about it in the here & now, i always assume price & exchange value are the same thing, and i made that very clear on the thread we were discussing this on last time round

i feel you've come a long way since our last discussion, you can have the sex bot for less than it's value now

Dave B
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Sep 24 2008 17:26

Having just read the last posts I think I can agree with oisleep; on that in volume I everything sells at its value. I also agree with oisleeps take on why Karl does that.

Although we a rushing in early on the money thing I think, and the surplus value thing as well.

However

A coat has 40 hours of labour in it and therefore that is its value.

One ounce of gold has 40 hours of labour in it and therefore that is its value.

Commodities exchange at their value, in volume one.

Therefore in volume one the coat exchanges for one ounce of gold.

The exchange value of the coat is one ounce of gold.

The colloquial expression of one ounce of gold or another name for it is £1

Therefore we say the price of the coat is £1

So informally price, exchange value, and value are the ‘same’.

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Sep 24 2008 18:59
revol68 wrote:
I mean I could possibly replace my use of the term exchange value for value in regards to labour but then accept that value of labour power is socially contingent and essentially tautological, labour power's value is what labour power wants but then that makes a mockery of the definition of the value of labour power being that necessary to reproduce itself, as the working class doesn't simply look to reproduce itself, to simply maintain some aggregate cost of living, instead it is capable of making demands that are about it trying to escape that reproduction, of limiting the working day, of refusing to work, demanding more and more use values, and ultimately breaking the capitals circuits of valorisation and aiming towards self valorisation, through the negation of itself as labour.

I think exchange value is a more fitting term because this Value ulimately rests on the buying and selling of labour power, that is for human labour to be made equivalent to commodities, that is that value only comes into existance on the back of human labour power being made exchangeable for commodities.

in relation to this and your final paragraph of the other post (that you must have edited in after i'd replied) - we're actually both correct, it's just the perspective being taken that is different

on the other thread about the value of labour power (as a commodity) i stressed the fact that the value of labour power, i.e. the value of producing it, contains not just the basic things that allows labour to reproduce but contains a historical/moral/social element which is a result of the level of development, civilisaiton etc. within a society, a large part of that value is determined by the relative strengths of capital & labour in class struggle, and all this resolves itself into the value of labour power as a commodity, so no one is saying it's some disconnected thing that's imputed from outside) Now clearly at any point in time this will be a moving thing based on a multitude of factors, however in terms of thinking about this conceptually, marx says that at any point in time, for a particular place, for a particular branch/type of labour, that value is a given, i.e. the value of labour power (including all the class struggle that went into getting it to that level) at a single point in time is a given amount. That is the value of labour power. Now keeping that value constant for the purposes of exposition, if a capitalist pays someone above or below that given value (for whatever reason) at this point in time, this doesn't change the value of that labour power as a commodity, all that happens is that there is now a difference between the price/exchange value of labour (the amount paid) and the value of that labour power (the given value). So it's important to recognise the difference from a conceptual point of view (if you want to understand where marx is coming from, which is very much at the conceptual & abstract level). In real life however where things aren't constant & given, the two things merge into something that is not really clear to see which is which, however at the abstract/conceptual level they are very much different. It's maybe easier to think about the difference in relation to other commodities and not labour power as it contains added clutter so to speak, however the principle is the same

(as an aside, it's important to note that most increases in the exchange value/value of labour power (above inflation) these days actually have the opposite effect of breaking the cycle of reproduction as they are based on productivity deals, which means that even though labour gets more money, it is actually exploited more (i.e. more relative surplus value is extracted) which in turns leads to reproduction on an even higher scale)

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Sep 24 2008 20:47

i'll once again bow out of this discussion though as i will end up continuing to drag the topic of this thread away from what it should be which is chapters 1 & 2

i think to make this thread useful, youse should try and stick to the chapters under discussion to keep it tighter and more focussed, then as you move through it come back and revisit the earlier chapters, as once you work your way through the book these key concepts are illuminated more clearly and have more light shined on them as the book unfolds

i thought it was very much like a mystery novel that reveals more and more as you go through it, and it does so in a very logical and well laid out manner (although it may not seem like that when you are going through the first 3 chapters) and you only really understand the earlier parts once you've been through the later parts, so hang on to fuck in the first few chapters by your fingernails as it is worth it in the end

(edit: rereading one of my posts a few posts up (18:24) it looks quite muddled in the explanation - when i was talking about the value of labour that goes into the commodity and then the relation of that to the price paid for it, i wasn't talking about the total value transferred to the product by the labour process itself (i.e. the productive consumption of the use value of labour) , but only the v element (i.e. the value of labour power as a commodity) in the overall value of the commodity - where overall value = c (constant capital) + v (variable capital) + s (surplus value)

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Sep 24 2008 19:59
Steven. wrote:
I've just resumed reading capital, so I'll try to contribute to this as well. I'll check where I am with the reading, but I think it is around here.

What you've got down looks like my take on it.

That analysis in many ways seems quite obvious when it is explained to you, so it's quite surprising that it was so tricky to figure out.

I did wonder, though, if there were exceptions to this general rule. But then I suppose depending on what you define as "labour" they can be explained. For example a certain type of old car could, due to some general trend, or it being in a film, or a celebrity driving it, could suddenly become much more in demand, and much more valuable.

Although of course the amount of labour congealed in the car would be the same. Unless of course you include as abstract labour all various social processes, from things like marketing (which would clearly add value) to more generalised things like the spreading by word of mouth of spontaneous trends and fads.

Any thoughts on this? Am I missing something?

Surely this is simply a case of supply and demand, the amount of labour in the car has remained constant. Otherwise the theory is too flexible and can be used to justify anything (i.e. it's meaningless).

安藤鈴 wrote:
I'll give an example.

A worker makes 10 pots out of 10 kilograms of metal in 6 hours.

Let's say that the metal costs $10.

The worker is paid $2 - this is at the very least the minimum required to keep the worker alive & producing effectively.

Let's say that the worker consumes 1 hammer in the process of making these 10 pots, at a cost of $1 per hammer.

What would be the value of these pots produced? Well, the cost of the metal $10 + the cost of the labour power $2 + the cost of the hammer $1 = $13

The capitalist has not broken even!

But, he gets the worker to continue working another 6 hours.

The same cost of metal $10 + the cost of the hammer $1 =11.

Where's the wage of the laborer gone?

He's already been paid!

So, at the end of the day, the worker has produced 20 pots at a cost to the capitalist of $13 + 11 = $24.

YET, the value of the goods is actually worth $26.

Why? Because the value of labor and the value which it creates are two different things.

The value of the labor (i.e the wage was $2). The worker was paid this, but continued working.

Yet just because he was not being paid for this 'additional time' does not mean that he was not creating value!

He still was, and therein lies the capitalist's profit.

Why is the value of the pots defined as the amount made in 6 hours worth of labour rather than 12? i.e. Why is the value of the pots ($10 + $2 +1)*2 and not $20 + $2 + $2?

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Sep 24 2008 20:15
Joseph K. wrote:
Steven. wrote:
in the pharmaceutical industry, for example. But then again, this doesn't really affect the use-value.

actually it would, due to the placebo effect being stronger with branded pharmaceuticals than unbranded, but this is a peculiar psychological quirk rather than a flaw in Marxian theory per se

This is a valid point because the branding here has a demonstrable effect on efficacy of the drug, and thus in this context, it's utility.

[sorry, not really part of reading group but finding it interesting]

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Sep 24 2008 20:36
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Why is the value of the pots defined as the amount made in 6 hours worth of labour rather than 12? i.e. Why is the value of the pots ($10 + $2 +1)*2 and not $20 + $2 + $2?

the value of the pots contains 12 hours labour (in addition to the value of the raw materials & instruments of labour)

the value of that labour power as a commodity that was used in creating the pots was $2 (the full days wages), so this is the cost of labour to the capitalist

the value produced by that labour in the process of production (use value of labour, it's productive consumption etc..) was $4, so this is the benefit of labour to the capitalist

the value expended by capital in the market place to obtain labour & means of production is $24, the amount valorized in the production process is $2, giving $26 in commodities that will then be thrown back into circulation/the market

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Sep 24 2008 22:11

Grrrr, I wonder what the point of this topic is when everyone keeps talking about stuff that has nothing to do with the first two chapters and bringing up categories like labor power or wage (which specifically, as Marx says somewhere in the first chapter, is not present at this stage of the theory) . These discussions are certainly interesting, but will only confuse (and maybe even put off) anyone who's only read the first bits.

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Sep 24 2008 22:15

yep as i said in the post above it would be better if discussion didn't stray too much from the focus of the chapters under discussion

although above i was just answering the guys question, sorry for that like

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Sep 24 2008 23:24
oisleep wrote:
Quote:
Why is the value of the pots defined as the amount made in 6 hours worth of labour rather than 12? i.e. Why is the value of the pots ($10 + $2 +1)*2 and not $20 + $2 + $2?

the value of the pots contains 12 hours labour (in addition to the value of the raw materials & instruments of labour)

the value of that labour power as a commodity that was used in creating the pots was $2 (the full days wages), so this is the cost of labour to the capitalist

the value produced by that labour in the process of production (use value of labour, it's productive consumption etc..) was $4, so this is the benefit of labour to the capitalist

the value expended by capital in the market place to obtain labour & means of production is $24, the amount valorized in the production process is $2, giving $26 in commodities that will then be thrown back into circulation/the market

If it just stated that each pot is worth $1.3, it would be a trivial problem.

The reason for the confusion is that the value of the pots is mysteriously DEFINED by six hours' labour:

Quote:
What would be the value of these pots produced? Well, the cost of the metal $10 + the cost of the labour power $2 + the cost of the hammer $1 = $13

And I still don't see why that is the case. The value of ten pots is $13, as defined by the first six hours of labour. However the capitalist gets the worker to produce another ten pots, for a total of $26 value produce at a cost of $24 in raw materials and labour. But why oh why is the value of the pots determined by how many the worker can produce in six hours? Because six hours should be the amount necessary to work to sustain oneself? This is getting into a circular definition...

edit: looks like in the long text by Marx quoted in the original post, this was just a matter of arbitrary definition - it happens that $2 will cover the costs of the worker's living, and it happens that in half a day's work he has covered this cost by producing enough pots to break even. But Marx loves to use 2000 words where 100 will do - that's why I'm reading Otto Ruhle's condensed version.

Anyway, sorry for the distraction, back to chapters 1 and 2...

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Sep 25 2008 01:42
darren p wrote:
I thought exchange value and value where the same thing? Is not price the monetary expression of value? But as I have said, value=price only potentially.

Exchange-value and value are separate categories:

Marx, p. 139 wrote:
... we started from exchange value, or the exchange relation of commodities, in order to track down the value that lay hidden within it.

and:

Marx, p.152 wrote:
... the value of a commodity is independently expressed through its presentation as 'exchange-value.' When, at the beginning of this chapter, we said in the customary manner that a commodity is both a use-value and exchange-value, this was, strictly speaking, wrong. A commodity is a use-value or object of utility and a 'value.'

Keep reading from the above page for further clarification.

At this point in Capital, you should be assuming, along with Marx, that value equals price. Don't worry about the finer points of price until Vol. III.

darren p wrote:
With regards to "surplus value" maybe I was using the wrong term. Is there a separate term to mean the amount gained when a commodity sells at more than its value?

If there is, it is not important, especially for understanding the first two chapters of Capital.

darren p wrote:
I know "surplus value" still exists when a commodity sells at value because the commodity "labour-power" creates more value than its cost. This is what I was referring to as the "key" to profit.

Except you said surplus value wasn't the key to profit (another category that does not exist yet).

You are simply getting way ahead of yourself here, darren. You have introduced a bunch of categories into the discussion that have not yet been dealt with by Marx. Right now you guys should be talking about: use-value, exchange-value, value, abstract and concrete labor, etc. Not: labor-power, profit, surplus-value, price, etc.

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Sep 25 2008 03:44
revol68 wrote:
Well I fail to see how a discussion of use value, exchange value, value, abstract and concrete labor can avoid discussing things like labour power and price, any person actively engaging with the first two chapters is going to have plenty of questions that extend beyond simply parroting Marx's assertions.

I don't understand how you could fail to see how a discussion of these categories can exist without bringing in labor power and price: that is precisely what Marx does in the beginning chapters of Capital. I am not suggesting that anybody "parrot" Marx's "assertions." I am merely suggesting that they discuss the content of the chapter itself.

The rest of your post is based on a misunderstanding of the distinction between labor and labor power. The use-value of labor power consists in the fact that its consumption (labor) produces more value than it takes to reproduce that labor power. This is why capitalists can purchase labor power at its full value and still extract surplus value from workers.

BillJ
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Sep 25 2008 04:59
revol68 wrote:
BillJ wrote:
revol68 wrote:
Well I fail to see how a discussion of use value, exchange value, value, abstract and concrete labor can avoid discussing things like labour power and price, any person actively engaging with the first two chapters is going to have plenty of questions that extend beyond simply parroting Marx's assertions.

I don't understand how you could fail to see how a discussion of these categories can exist without bringing in labor power and price: that is precisely what Marx does in the beginning chapters of Capital. I am not suggesting that anybody "parrot" Marx's "assertions." I am merely suggesting that they discuss the content of the chapter itself.

The rest of your post is based on a misunderstanding of the distinction between labor and labor power. The use-value of labor power consists in the fact that its consumption (labor) produces more value than it takes to reproduce that labor power. This is why capitalists can purchase labor power at its full value and still extract surplus value from workers.

Well as far as I can see the only discussion possible on such terms is people simply parroting what Marx lays out, with maybe a few clarifications of misreadings of Marx's assertions, afterall what is there to talk about if not what exchange value and value mean and how can one understand them if one doesn't know how they relate to price. If exchange value is distinct from price what then is it? The socially necessary labour time embodied in a product, if so then what is value? Without knowing this it's nigh on impossible to understand the chapters, yes we can comprehend the assertions, but not why they are being made. A dead body with no explanations is a good start for a thriller but that is precisely because it immediately stirs up questions and leads us to grasp for explanations, what would people discuss on a forum centred around an ongoing murder thriller, simply that which is explicitly asserted, the dead body? No it would of course lead to suspicions, speculation of motives and perpetrators.

As for confusing labour power and labour, well I take issue that capital does purchase labour power at it's full because the value of labour power itself is historically contingent, for example Wages for Housework, if their demand had been successful would have seen capital paying more for a value it previously externalised (assuming of course capital was unable to recoup this back from assaults on other aspects of the wage, both paid and social). Not only that but a large part of the production of labour power is externalised by capital ie child rearing, socialisation, things all done formally "independent" of capital putting labour to work in reproducing it, that is labour power sets itself to work (labour) in producing more labour power. So labour power getting paid it's full value is a matter of struggle and perspective not least over what constitutes actual labour in producing it. To say labour power gets paid it's full value is little more than a tautology as the value of labour power is simply what is paid for it and that rests on class struggle, which is by and large an issue about exchange, whether hours, wages, services or commodities.

I only say that the purpose of a Capital discussion should first be "what is Marx saying here?" and then discussing it, clarifying questions, misunderstandings, etc. It is only after something is understood that it can be criticized. If that is parroting than so be it.

As for whether reproductive labor is value-producing, though an interesting discussion, here is not really the place for that discussion, -- nor do I have the time, unfortunately.

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Sep 25 2008 05:40
Quote:
rather than simply accepting assertions on the promise of all being revealed much further, infact as a paedagogical approach I find it rather woeful

well for that you have to blame the author, that's exactly the intentions of the way marx wrote the thing, his method of exposition is different from his method of enquiry, such that it seems that in the beginning he's simply stating a load of a priori things without any justification for him doing so. it can be off putting, but these things are not properly understood until you work your way through them throughout the whole book as it gradually illuminates and expands upon them as you move through it. in my experience of reading the thing, it does work. If the purposes of this discussion group is to understand capital the way marx intended it to be done, then you have to really stick to what I and others have suggested here which is to contain yourselves to the concepts introduced in each chapter without bringing in other concepts that you may well be aware off, but have not yet been introduced in the unfolding conceptual argument that goes on in the book.

this is perhaps a problem of any reading of capital by anarchists/lefties who have had a wide exposure to terminology and concepts used in capital but have never read the thing, this leads to a jumping ahead based on the preexsiting knowledge which can, as seen by a lot of the discussion above, lead to more confusion than clarification. of course it's natural to jump ahead and it's frustrating to not be able to, but that's all part of the experience of reading something which takes a very dialectical approach to it's structure & exposition. you can't change the way it's been written and the way it's been written is designed in a very specific & purposeful way which requires a certain amount of discipline in sticking to what you've actually learned first from the text that's actually been read before attempting to do anything else with it, this is especially true of the first three chapters of the thing. Also what i'm talking about here is purely to be able to grasp what marx himself actually thought about all these things, once you are in a position to know that then by all means rip it apart, but there's no point in trying to do that until you get the former cracked

(and also listen to BillJ, he's saying exactly the same things as i was saying to you on the other thread about theories of value)

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Sep 25 2008 05:46
888 wrote:
oisleep wrote:
Quote:
Why is the value of the pots defined as the amount made in 6 hours worth of labour rather than 12? i.e. Why is the value of the pots ($10 + $2 +1)*2 and not $20 + $2 + $2?

the value of the pots contains 12 hours labour (in addition to the value of the raw materials & instruments of labour)

the value of that labour power as a commodity that was used in creating the pots was $2 (the full days wages), so this is the cost of labour to the capitalist

the value produced by that labour in the process of production (use value of labour, it's productive consumption etc..) was $4, so this is the benefit of labour to the capitalist

the value expended by capital in the market place to obtain labour & means of production is $24, the amount valorized in the production process is $2, giving $26 in commodities that will then be thrown back into circulation/the market

If it just stated that each pot is worth $1.3, it would be a trivial problem.

The reason for the confusion is that the value of the pots is mysteriously DEFINED by six hours' labour:

Quote:
What would be the value of these pots produced? Well, the cost of the metal $10 + the cost of the labour power $2 + the cost of the hammer $1 = $13

And I still don't see why that is the case. The value of ten pots is $13, as defined by the first six hours of labour. However the capitalist gets the worker to produce another ten pots, for a total of $26 value produce at a cost of $24 in raw materials and labour. But why oh why is the value of the pots determined by how many the worker can produce in six hours? Because six hours should be the amount necessary to work to sustain oneself? This is getting into a circular definition...

edit: looks like in the long text by Marx quoted in the original post, this was just a matter of arbitrary definition - it happens that $2 will cover the costs of the worker's living, and it happens that in half a day's work he has covered this cost by producing enough pots to break even. But Marx loves to use 2000 words where 100 will do - that's why I'm reading Otto Ruhle's condensed version.

Anyway, sorry for the distraction, back to chapters 1 and 2...

yep, you were getting the value of labour power as a commodity and the value that is created through the labour process mixed up, they are completely different, the former is the exchange value of the commodity that is labour power, the later is the impact of the capitalist being able to utlise the use value of labour through productive consumption

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Sep 25 2008 05:45

and apologies for derailing again, that's my last post here i promise

posi
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Sep 25 2008 07:57

To the people who've read all three volumes: do you think there's any point reading Vol I if you're not going to read the other two? And possibly the Grundrisse too?

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Sep 25 2008 09:23
posi wrote:
To the people who've read all three volumes: do you think there's any point reading Vol I if you're not going to read the other two? And possibly the Grundrisse too?

the discussion with revol, and the answer to this question is on this new, general thread for discussion of Capital here:
http://libcom.org/forums/theory/capital-general-discussionnon-chapter-specific-thread-25092008

Please keep discussion here to the chapters 1 and 2 only.

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Sep 25 2008 09:43

re-posted on other thread.

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Feb 10 2009 11:43

good idea to split these things off, i know this is a bit frustrating, but we've only got to chapter 2, there are a few more before even the end of the volume, so we don't need to worry too much about resolving these questions straight away i don't think. he's only just touched on the money form and hinted at price after all. pity us poor mathematics students who had to wait until the third year of university before all the different theories and things come together and you realise "ah ha! that's how differentiation really works!"

though it's useful to discuss these things as they spring up, as long as people still have time to read chapter 3 before next monday. i think it's best if we stick to that schedule if chapter 3 is as bad as it's made out to be, we can always have a breather after that to discuss all these things. i'll get more involved in discussions tomorrow, but just i thought i'd post up the rest of my notes. i was going to add them to the original post at the top, but they're a bit bloated.

so continuing my notes on the main arguments from chapter 1 [moved so as not to clutter so much].

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Spartacus
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Sep 26 2008 12:09
Quote:
Right now you guys should be talking about: use-value, exchange-value, value, abstract and concrete labor, etc. Not: labor-power, profit, surplus-value, price, etc.

ok then, these actually seem fairly straightforward to me once marx's hammered them home:

use-value is the ability to satisfy a want (regardless of how it arises, so something satisfying the need for a stupid annoying asocial ringtone is as much a use-value as a baguette satisfying the need for a bakery item that can be used for fencing)
exchange-value is the expression of the value of a commodity in some other commodity, e.g. the fact that 1 scooter is worth ten bikes
value is the congealed, socially-necessary abstract human labour required to produce the commodity. the more labour-time required, the greater the value and vice versa. we can never see it and it only ever appears to us in the act of exchange as exchange value in either the relative or equivalent form.
concrete labour as when the type of labour is important i.e. masonry will not do if embroidery is required. abstract labour is when we take all the labour in society, average it out and just consider the fact that it is human labour and the amount of time it took, socially. i take this to mean that while the time it takes to do some skilled task may be the same as to do an unskilled task, the skilled one also required a bunch of training, is more intense, etc., so we average it all out and socially the skilled task took longer. is that right?

so there's not really anything i'm struggling to understand conceptually as far as i can tell, we'll see after reading the money chapter. then we can have more fun discussing on the general thread to test these things out before reading what he does, as although it might be confusing at first, it might help understand the rest better.

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Felix Frost
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Sep 26 2008 12:28
revol68 wrote:
Strangely though in my copy of Capital the intro by David McLellan states that exchange value is the amount labour embodied in a commodity, which seems to be the same as value especially since if price and exchange value are different.

I can see the point of exchange value and value being distinct if exchange value is the same as price but if price is distinct from exchange value and exchange value is the amount of socially necessary labour needed to produce a commodity then where does value go, it would seem to me it drops out the bottom. So yes I see the point in value in that it is an abstraction to highlight the difference between it and the price, that the amount of labour embodied in something will generally determine it's exchange value but is not the same as it for a whole host of factors.

Marx starts out the discussion in Capital with the opposition between use-value and exchange-value because this were the terms used by economists at the time. He later explains that he was just speaking in the "customary manner," and that, strictly speaking, he should have used the term value instead. He also makes the point that exchange-value is just the "form of appearance" of value. Value appears as a relation between things, as a certain quantity of one commodity being equal to a certain quantity of another commodity, but it is really a social relation, an alienated relation between independent producers. After Chapter 1, I don't think Marx uses the term exchange-value much at all, except when referring to the works of other economists.

I still don't agree with oisleep, though, when he uses exchange-value as synonymous with market price. (We argued about this on the previous thread.) Marx takes the term from the classical economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who explicitly identifies exchange-value with "natural price" as opposed to market price. For instance, Ricardo writes:

Quote:
“In making labour the foundation of the value of commodities, and the comparative quantity of labour which is necessary to their production, the rule which determines the respective quantities of goods which shall be given in exchange for each other, we must not be supposed to deny the accidental and temporary deviations of the actual or market price of commodities from this, their primary and natural price”

Of course, Marx argues that Smith and Ricardo was wrong in assuming that the average prices of commodities directly coincides with their values. So you could argue that exchange-value means average price as opposed to value. This however, has nothing to do with market prices fluctuating on the basis of supply and demand.

Dave B
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Oct 12 2008 22:17

I was a bit surprised that the following passage was not flagged up for discussion. This issue caused quite a stir on our List when we discussed it a few years ago.

Quote:
“Let us now transport ourselves from Robinson’s island bathed in light to the European middle ages shrouded in darkness. Here, instead of the independent man, we find everyone dependent, serfs and lords, vassals and suzerains, laymen and clergy. Personal dependence here characterises the social relations of production just as much as it does the other spheres of life organised on the basis of that production. But for the very reason that personal dependence forms the ground-work of society, there is no necessity for labour and its products to assume a fantastic form different from their reality. They take the shape, in the transactions of society, of services in kind and payments in kind.

Here the particular and natural form of labour, and not, as in a society based on production of commodities, its general abstract form is the immediate social form of labour. Compulsory labour is just as properly measured by time, as commodity-producing labour; but every serf knows that what he expends in the service of his lord, is a definite quantity of his own personal labour power. The tithe to be rendered to the priest is more matter of fact than his blessing. No matter, then, what we may think of the parts played by the different classes of people themselves in this society, the social relations between individuals in the performance of their labour, appear at all events as their own mutual personal relations, and are not disguised under the shape of social relations between the products of labour. “

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4

It is fairly important I think, as it is probably the origin of the ‘feudal peasants don’t produce surplus value myth’

There is a related passage in Anti-Duhring, were these mediaeval Lords are personal dependants, the toiling peasants loved them like their own children apparently!

Quote:
In mediaeval society, especially in the earlier centuries, production was essentially directed towards satisfying the wants of the individual. It satisfied, in the main, only the wants of the producer and his family. Where relations of personal dependence existed, as in the country, it also helped to satisfy the wants of the feudal lord. In all this there was, therefore, no exchange; the products, consequently, did not assume the character of commodities.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch24.htm

Karl seemed to have backtracked by Volume III;

Quote:
and, secondly, where slavery or serfdom form the broad foundation of social production, as in antiquity and during the Middle Ages. Here, the domination of the producers by the conditions of production is concealed by the relations of dominion and servitude, which appear and are evident as the direct motive power of the process of production.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch48.htm