The German Debate on the Monetary Theory of Value

61 posts / 0 new
Last post
Angelus Novus
Offline
Joined: 27-07-06
Nov 3 2009 21:07
The German Debate on the Monetary Theory of Value

A good summary:

http://de.scientificcommons.org/51941306

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 25 2017 10:13

working link: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00422620/document

Kolja Lindner. The German Debate on the Monetary Theory of Value: Considerations on Jan Hoff’s Kritik der Klassischen Politischen Okonomie. Science & Society, 2008, 72 (4), pp.402-414.

Lindner wrote:
Engels takes as his premise the notion that there was a historical period in which money and commodities existed without capital: 'the Marxian law of value holds generally, as far as economic laws are valid at all, for the whole period of simple commodity production–that is, up to the time when the latter suffers a modification through the appearance of the capitalist form of production' (ibid.). The political consequence of this dissolution of the conceptual bond between commodities, money, and capital is that Engels takes simple commodity production as the model for not only the pre-capitalist, but also the post-capitalist period.

Recognising the law of value in SCP doesn't lead to the political position of market socialism. Diquattro is an example of a market socialist who firmly rejects the law of value in SCP. Not only that, but it seems he even buttresses his market socialism precisely by rejecting the law of value in SCP, characterising it instead as a "moral economy":

The Labor Theory of Value and Simple Commodity Production. Arthur Diquattro. Science & Society Vol. 71, No. 4 (Oct., 2007), pp. 455-483.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/40404443?seq=1#fndtn-page_scan_tab_contents

(And of course Engels himself wasn't a market socialist.)

--
For some references to the Italian debate en passant, see this article originally published in 1984 (taking the anti-Engels position, and the author probably by that time already defined himself not as a Marxist):
MARCELLO MESSORI
The Theory of Value Without Commodity Money? Preliminary Considerations on Marx's Analysis of Money https://www.jstor.org/stable/40470701

Dave B
Offline
Joined: 3-08-08
Apr 25 2017 19:19

This is just bollocks!

Quote:
The political consequence of this dissolution of the conceptual bond between commodities, money, and capital is that Engels takes simple commodity production as the model for not only the pre-capitalist, but also the post-capitalist period. In Anti-Dühring, he affirms that society, too, from the moment it 'enters into possession of the means of production and uses them in direct association for production' (Engels, Anti-Dühring), must know 'how much labour each article of consumption requires for its production' (ibid.). In short, the political goal is the realization, at last, of freedom and equality, that is to say, equal exchange. The sole difference is that, for Engels, equal exchange will not be based on private property.

Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels 1877
Engels' Notes

[Referring to what he said and anti exchange- which was Duhring’s neo Proudhonist position]

As long ago as 1844 I stated that the above-mentioned balancing of useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions concerning production was all that would be left, in a communist society, of the politico-economic concept of value. (Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, p. 95) The scientific justification for this statement, however, as can be seen, was made possible only by Marx's Capital

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/notes.htm#n*15

What that means is that in communism we will still wish to minimise the amount of labour time required to produce a ‘useful effects’.

stuff

As we will be faced with an array of options or possibilities to produce something often with multiple potential components produced in different ways it will be necessary to calculate the amounts of labour time required using the different options.

In order to make the optimal decision of the production process etc.

Calculating the amounts of labour time required is calculating, albeit probably approximately, value.

Capital Vol. III Part VII
Revenues and their Sources
Chapter 49. Concerning the Analysis of the Process of Production

Quote:
Secondly, after the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, but still retaining social production, the determination of value continues to prevail in the sense that the regulation of labour-time and the distribution of social labour among the various production groups, ultimately the book-keeping encompassing all this, become more essential than ever.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch49.htm

It has a flip side on consumption.

If in free access communism and there is Canadian Ice wine and glugging industrially mass produced plonk in a bottle on the shelves.

Which do I choose if they both taste the same to me and get you pissed?

The one that takes 2 hours to produce or the one that takes 10 minutes?

There is nothing more bourgeois than not thinking or caring at all about how much effort it takes to make something (its value) that you want to consume and only how much you have to pay for it.

And naturally what follows is; if you don’t have pay you don’t have care about anything at all including its 'value'.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Apr 27 2017 19:57

I'm not sure who, if anyone, first claimed that SCP does not even exist. I think the argument of the "anti-traditional marxists" was just about Marx's method in Capital, eg:

Rubin wrote:
This means that the transition from labor-value or simple commodity economy to production price or the capitalist economy is a method for grasping the concrete, i.e., the capitalist economy. This is a theoretical abstraction and not a picture of the historical transition from simple commodity economy to capitalist economy.

(also quoted by Perlman in his introduction)

But from the same chapter it is clear that Rubin thinks SCP is a real thing:

Quote:
In the simple commodity economy, the value of commodities is expressed by the formula: C = c + (v + m).1 The craftsman subtracts the value of the means of production which he used, namely c, from the value of the finished product, and the rest (v + m), which he added by his labor, is spent partly for his own and his family's subsistence goods (v) and the remainder represents a fund for the expansion of consumption or production (m).

craftsmen are not some abstraction...

The following passage leaves no doubt that Rubin believed that SCP was real historically and that it transitioned into capitalism:

Quote:
Marx reaches the same conclusion in a different way. He uses the method of comparison which he often uses to explain the characteristic properties of the capitalist economy. In the given problem, the question of the average rate of profit, he compares the developed capitalist economy to 1) a simple commodity economy, and 2) an embryonic or hypothetical capitalist economy, which differs from developed capitalism by the absence of competition among capitals in different spheres of production, i.e., each capital is fixed within a given sphere of production.
Quote:
Diagram No. 2 is not a picture of an embryonic capitalism which existed in history, but a hypothetical theoretical schema derived from Diagram 1 (simple commodity economy) by means of a methodological procedure which consists of changing only one condition of the schema, all other conditions remaining the same. In schema No. 2, compared to No. 1, only one condition is changed. It is supposed that the economy is not run by petty commodity producers but by capitalists.
....
In our opinion, the transformation of the intermediate logical link, schema 2, into a picture of an economy which existed in history as a transition from simple commodity production to developed capitalist production, is erroneous.

So while Rubin claims Diagram 2 was just a theoretical scheme of Marx, he also says that it was derived from Diagram 1 (simple commodity economy), ie something real.

  • 1. C means the value of the commodity; c = constant capital; v = variable capital; k = the whole capital; m = surplus value; m' = rate of surplus value, p = profit; p' = rate of profit. The categories c, v, and m are relevant only when they are applied to the capitalist economy. We use these categories in a conditional sense when we apply them to a simple commodity economy.
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Jul 17 2017 17:02

Some time ago on the Christianity thread Khawaga claimed that there can be no evidence for simple commodity production. I basically replied that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; an ordinary peasant selling his surplus produce would unlikely leave an archeological trace, unlike say market transactions of the big and mighty (kings etc. recorded in histories).

A simple commodity producer is someone who owns his means of production (or land) and who sells part of his produce on the market (this includes barter).

I gathered quotes here that attempt to show that simple commodity production was quite widespread, perhaps even dominant, in Europe for 1500 years, except possibly for a couple of Medieval centuries, up to the beginning of the modern time.

I will select some highlights:

Even when economies "revert to barter," as Europe was said to do in the Middle Ages, they don't actu­ally abandon the use of money. They just abandon the use of cash. In the Middle Ages, for instance, everyone continued to assess the value of tools and livestock in the old Roman currency, even if the coins themselves had ceased to circulate.

Banaji points to [Dopsch, who] never accepted the theory of a reversion to natural economy in the third century which then supposedly dominated the whole subsequent epoch till well into the Middle Ages.

[One popular view is] that medieval feudalism emerged as a fully formed system out of the villas of the Roman Empire as aristocrats settled peasants on their land as ‘colloni’ under their control. [Wickham] shows that, although the colloni existed, in many regions they were a minority among free ‘allodial’ peasants. It was not until half a millennium after the collapse of the empire that feudal exploitation became so widespread as to be near-universal. There was no simple continuity between what existed in the 5th and the 11th centuries.

In the greater part of France, the Rhineland, the Low Countries, England, Italy, and Spain, free holdings, usually known as allods, ... formed so many inviolable and independent lordships in the midst of the seigniorial estates. By means of intimidation, threats, persuasion, force, the feudal powers set themselves to bring about their disappearance and transformation into fiefs. They were only partially successful in Germany, Spain, and Italy, but they succeeded more effectively in England, the Low Countries, and France.

In Germany free properties diminished in number in the Rhineland, but survived in a large measure in Switzerland, the Tyrol, Upper Bavaria, Swabia, Thuringia, Saxony, Frisia, and Holstein ... In Northern Spain, in the shelter of their wild valleys, the communities of the Pyrenees, groups of foresters and shepherds owned their own woods and pastures ... In the Basque provinces of Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Vizcaya, and even in Castile, whole territories, the behetrias, were peopled with freemen owning their own lands ... Even in other parts of Northern Spain groups of free landowners were to be met with. ... In Italy free proprietors also survived from place to place, particularly in Lombardy and Tuscany, where they were known as ahrimanns, and in the two Sicilies, where the Normans called them alleutiers, after the French fashion.
..
In other parts of the West, where feudalism was more strongly organized, or where the struggle was more difficult for the small proprietors, it usually ended to their disadvantage. In France the allod maintained itself sporadically in Normandy, where the legendary kingdom of Yvetot is a survival of it, and where burgage tenure (tenure en bourgage) seems to have been a form of free property, as was that of the vavasours. The same thing happened in Nivernais, Brittany, Auvergne, and, above all, in Aquitaine, Guienne, Gascony, Béarn, Bigorre, Dauphiné, and Languedoc, where the allodial owners sometimes formed themselves into defensive associations. In the Low Countries, Zeeland, Holland, Frisia, maritime Flanders, Campine, and Eastern Brabant, free property persisted by reason of the energy of their population of sailors and pioneers, and of their isolation in the midst of marsh and heath. But everywhere else victory went to feudal property, such a victory as was won in England after the Norman Conquest, which, indeed, only completed the work of the Anglo-Saxon period. In 1086, the Norman terrier, Domesday Book, recorded only 44,531 free landowners out of a total of 1,500,000 inhabitants in the Anglo-Norman kingdom. ...

As the thirteenth century approached, the absolute freedom of these small properties tended to disappear throughout the West, and the allodial estate tended to approximate either to noble land or to peasant land (terre roturière), to some of the obligations upon which it was already bound.

--
Prussia under the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth and in the first half of the fourteenth centuries; .... [had] an exceptionally wide and early resort to the use of money ... The economic links between town and country in Prussia are well-authenticated and provide an explanation of how peasants could make money payments.

To every hide there belonged a house plot with yard
and garden in the village itself. These hides were distributed by lot
to the newly arrived Franconian (Rhenish Franconian and Dutch),
Saxon and Frisian colonists; in return the colonists had to render
very moderate, firmly fixed dues and services to the founder, i.e.
the knight or baron. The peasants were hereditary masters of
their hides as long as they performed these services.
... This was the average condition of the German peasants from the Elbe to
East Prussia and Silesia. And this condition was on the whole
considerably much better than that of west and south German
peasants at the time, who were already then engaged in a violent,
continually recurring struggle with the feudal lords for their old
hereditary rights

--
The late medieval social crisis, triggered by catastrophic population collapse resulting from the arrival of bubonic plague in the mid-fourteenth century, enabled the peasantries of the Mediterranean, Western European, English, and western German regions to shed (or, at any rate, greatly loosen) the legal bonds of medieval serfdom. Mostly this was a negotiated process, but in part it entailed peasant revolt (as in the late fifteenth-century Catalan revolt, or the German Peasant War of 1525 and its regional antecedents). Seigneurialism in these regions of Europe slowly turned into a landlordism that itself underwent commodification, falling frequently through sale or lease into non-noble bourgeois or gentry hands.
..
Outside the realm of central and east European commercialized manorialism – that is, in France, England, the Low Countries, western Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, and the Balkans – the post-medieval family farmer possessed the advantage, ideal-typically, of having escaped servile status’s worst economic disabilities and vulnerabilities. In many cases he had attained a personal freedom upon which landlordly powers could impinge only through the exploitation of local monopolies, as of lower court jurisdiction, milling, or hunting. To village lands formerly held under longstanding customary, often servile, tenure, a regime of fixed money rents now commonly applied, whose long-term erosion through price and monetary inflation favoured tenants. Sometimes these farmers gained virtual allodial (or undivided) property rights in such holdings, as widely occurred in France and England, though in law they qualified only (though still favourably) as hereditary leaseholds. ...

[full-holding family farmers might be de facto freeholders. ... They ] were the dominant rural social group in Switzerland and Scandinavia. Across the countryside of western, central, and southern Germany, post-Reformation state policy sought to maintain such farms as the pillars of their fiscal systems, tolerating a residual and fossilized noble landlordism, but blocking the path to the bourgeois purchase of village farms. What proportion of Europe’s landed peasantry belonged to such a yeomanry or large-holding family farmer stratum on the eve of 1789? In East Elbian Europe, including Russia, probably half the villagers holding arable farms possessed full holdings yielding them and their dependents, in peaceful times, a socially acceptable standard of living and liquid assets or otherwise transferable surpluses (as of livestock and other farm capital) adequate to launch the next generation into marriage and house-holding. There were many village patriarchs who died with coin-filled strongboxes and long lists of debtors.

In Balkan Europe, heavy post-sixteenth century Ottoman taxation and local power struggles among elites, both Muslim and Christian, converted increasingly numerous village farmers into hard-pressed and vulnerable tenants of chiftlik (market-supplying) landlords. Yet surplus- harvesting full holders and independent, market-oriented pastoralists, alongside a politically protected frontier peasantry, were nonetheless numerous.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Jul 30 2017 06:19

Other past opponents here of the notion of simple commodity production like Ocelot, jura, Angelus Novus, or now perhaps Craftwork, are welcome to state if they revised their positions now (nothing wrong with that).

Zanthorus's picture
Zanthorus
Offline
Joined: 3-08-10
Jul 30 2017 19:04

It seems like the essence of the debate is the relation between theory and history. Engels primary claim is that Marx's Capital is essentially history "stripped of the historical form and diverting chance occurrences." (Review of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) The article given at the start seems keen to emphasise the 'logical' development of Marx's categories, asserting that Engels' view of Marx's method, for example, implies some disconnect between commodity relationships and capital which engenders a notion of the possibility of some form of market socialism.

Now, obviously on the one hand this is a total fabrication of Engels' political outlook, and I think it's hilarious how groups who pride themselves on such close textual readings of Marx can be so cavalier whenever it comes to Engels, foisting all the evils of 20th century Marxism on the latter.

But what there is also no discussion of is the link between theory and history in Hegel's Logic. Hegel's Logic after all, presents us with a process of the development of philosophical concepts. And many of the stages of the development bear a striking resemblance to definite phases in the history of Western philosophy, resemblances which Hegel himself confirms.

To take a key example - the first volume on the 'Objective Logic' concludes with absolute substance, whose relational mode is necessity. This viewpoint of absolute substance bears a striking resemblance to the philosophy of Spinoza. But more than that, Hegel confirms in the preface to the second volume that it is essentially the doctrine of Spinoza, and that the sublation of that stage of the Logic and the transition to the stage of the Concept constitutes the true refutation of Spinozism.

This is because for Hegel, philosophy is not a collection of various opinions that people have about various broadly defined subject matters. It is the activity of Thought with a capital t. Philosophers appear as merely the vehicles for the inner activity of the absolute Spirit. And the content of philosophy itself as expressed in the Logic, and the history of philosophy, are essentially the same thing - "the study of the history of Philosophy is the study of Philosophy itself" - only the former is the presentation of the inner essential relationship, while the latter is the presentation of external forms.

An extended quote in which Hegel brings out the essential identity between the Logic and the histor of philosophy:

Hegel wrote:
"Now in reference to this Idea, I maintain that the sequence in the systems of Philosophy in History is similar to the sequence in the logical deduction of the Notion [Begriff] - determinations in the Idea. I maintain that if the fundamental conceptions of the systems appearing in the history of Philosophy be entirely divested of what regards their outward form, their relation to the particular and the like, the various stages in the determination of the Idea are found in their logical Notion [Begriff]. Conversely in the logical progression taken for itself, there is, so far as its principal elements are concerned, the progression of historical manifestations; but it is necessary to have these pure Notions in order to know what the historical form contains."

I think all of this bears on Marx's Capital, because I think that Marx saw that Hegel's conception of an absolute Spirit which accomplished it's aims in spite of the real agents who actually constituted bore striking parallels with his own conception of capital as an 'automatic subject' which has a logic separate from that of the aims and intentions of the agents who constitute capitalist society. I think Marx saw his book as doing for alienated labour in the form of wage-labour what Hegel saw his Logic as doing for philosophical activity (a form of activity which Marx in his 1844 manuscripts also analyses as a form of alienated activity). I think the relation between theory and history in Capital can be understood in reference to the relation between theory and history in Hegel's Logic, and since the latter presents the logical development as history stripped of it's contingency I think - here the comes the corker - that Engels was right in his evaluation of Marx's method.

This is all pretty rushed thought, it's a brief summation of some things I've been pondering over the last few weeks without being able to fully work out.

My question for anyone that opposes the idea that Marx's development contains an element of historical progression is this:

(1) How do you conceive the relation between theory and history in Marx's Capital?
(2) How do you conceive the relation between theory and history in Hegel's Logic?
(3) How do you conceive the relation between the Logic and Capital, in other words, what constitutes the dialectical method, the nexus that links Marx and Hegel?

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Jul 30 2017 20:23
Noa Rodman wrote:
Other past opponents here of the notion of simple commodity production like Ocelot, jura, Angelus Novus, or now perhaps Craftwork, are welcome to state if they revised their positions now (nothing wrong with that).

My "position" is that the first three chapters of Capital on "simple circulation" contain something like a general theory of pure commodity production. And of course commodity production has existed for centuries. However, I don't think there's any evidence that there ever was a pre-capitalist mode of production based purely on commodity production ("based" in the sense that most use-values produced and consumed in those societies were produced for the market). In pre-capitalist societies, commodity production was embedded in other kinds of relations of production.

So while some elements of the theory of "simple circulation" may be useful in understanding some aspects of what was going on in pre-capitalist commodity production (the nature of exchange-value/money, fetishism, functions of money, debtor-creditor relations, the spontaneous emergence and expansion of impersonal relations etc.), I'm very sceptical towards the idea that value regulated economic life in pre-capitalist societies, or even that socially necessary labor time regulated commodity production in these societies. I just don't see the regulating "mechanism" – other than Engels' conscious calculation of averages, which I think is a silly idea that runs counter to the whole fetish-argument.

Edit: Maybe a good way of putting it is that the "pure" theory may partially correspond with commodity production in pre-capitalist societies (i.e., with certain aspects of it), but only fully corresponds with bourgeois society (or rather its "surface"). Any (empirical) claims on the validity of Marx's theory of value for precapitalist modes of production would have to be backed with data on prices as well as a description of the mechanism through which socially necessary labor time regulated these prices.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Jul 30 2017 20:42

On the relation of theory and history, I don't think the question really is whether the progression of (some) categories in Capital corresponds roughly to historical development. I think the correspondences are numerous. One only need to look at the ordering of absolute and relative surplus value, or the chapters on cooperation, manufacture/divison of labor and machinery. I think the debate about the "logical-historical" method is much more specific than that and boils down to empirical claims about precapitalist societies (5000 years of value and all that) and the emergence of a general rate of profit.

Edit: But generally speaking, the idea that there's a neat chronological progression is misleading. Marx starts with a commodity without a price. There's no such thing (I think Marx even explicitly says that barter is not the exchange of commodities, and that the two things confront each other in barter as use-values, not as values). Marx didn't do this to mirror some chronological progression ("commodity – money – price-determined commodity"), but to solve certain conceptual problems (what is price, what is money etc.). Also, Marx quickly moves to industrial capital and only shows its historical origins in primitive accumulation much later. He only mentions the two preceding forms of capital, merchant's and usurer's capital, in passing and does not develop industrial capital out of the former two. Quite the contrary, the modern forms of the former two are later developed out of industrial capital (in Volume 3). There are more examples of the progression in Capital being the converse of the historical progression.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Jul 30 2017 20:54
Jura wrote:
of course commodity production has existed for centuries. However, I don't think there's any evidence that there ever was a pre-capitalist mode of production based purely on commodity production ("based" in the sense that most use-values produced and consumed in those societies were produced for the market). In pre-capitalist societies, commodity production was embedded in other kinds of relations of production.

So if simple commodity production does not imply that all products are marketed (and all "traditional" Marxists themselves have stressed that it exists in combination with different modes of production), you have no problem to say that simple commodity production existed for centuries?

Jura wrote:
I'm very sceptical towards the idea that value regulated economic life in pre-capitalist societies, or even that socially necessary labor time regulated commodity production in these societies.

There shouldn't be an "or" in your sentence; the first claim (which nobody makes) is totally different from the second.

Quote:
I just don't see the regulating "mechanism" – other than Engels' conscious calculation of averages, which I think is a silly idea that runs counter to the whole fetish-argument.

Here we come already to the substantial question, but which in a zeal (or panic) to rule-out any discussion of, has led some here to the adoption of the position that SCP never even existed. It's as if were one to admit that simple commodity production/exchange exists, this by itself already strongly implies that it is regulated by the law of value. Actually this collapse of two different questions into one makes sense, because according to what other logic would exchange in SCP occur than the law of value; was it perhaps rather based on pure chance much like marginal utility?

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Jul 30 2017 21:14
Noa Rodman wrote:
So if simple commodity production does not imply that all products are marketed (and all "traditional" Marxists themselves have stressed that it exists in combination with different modes of production), you have no problem to say that simple commodity production existed for centuries?

At this point I'm not even sure what it implies. Engels used the term to describe a precapitalist mode of production in which producers exchange commodities for prices which express, pretty directly (disregarding fluctuations in supply and demand), the labor time socially necessary to produce them. I don't think this existed, although I'm open to being persuaded by evidence. I'm sceptical, though, as I don't see how it would have worked (i.e., what is the mechanism).

Noa Rodman wrote:
There shouldn't be an "or" in your sentence; the first claim (which nobody makes) is totally different from the second.

And? "Or" is a connective that you can use to connect totally different claims. I think it actually works best with different claims, as opposed to "It will rain or it will rain".

Noa Rodman wrote:
It's as if were one to admit that simple commodity production/exchange exists, this by itself already strongly implies that it is regulated by the law of value. Actually this collapse of two different questions into one makes sense, because according to what other logic would exchange in SCP occur other than the law of value; was is perhaps rather based on pure chance much like marginal utility?

I'm not sure I understand the argument here. Are you taking a step back first ("well it's not necessary for the law of value to regulate it"), to then take a step forward ("it clearly must have been regulated by the law of value")?

Anyway, as I said, I think the first three chapters contain a theory of simple circulation. That theory makes certain claims about prices and values and their relations. To me, these claims only make sense when connected to some other claims in Volume 3. I don't see how these claims would work without certain mechanisms described in Volume 3. So if we take the theory of simple circulation as a whole, I don't see how it's empirically applicable to precapitalist societies (on it's own, the theory is incomplete even with relation to capitalism). I think the idea that it's a theory of some precapitalist society out of which capitalism developed is wrong. But as I said, I think you can take some elements from chapters 1-3 and use them to describe and explain what was going on in commodity production in precapitalist societies.

In a sense, socially necessary labor time always regulates production. Every society must produce and allocate time to production and there's always only so much time. But Marx's theory of value makes a much more specific claim that in capitalism, this necessary labor time takes the form of a property of things. This happens, ultimately, because people do certain things, like "invest" "capital" into different branches of production based on "profitability". At the bottom of all this, we eventually arrive at relations of production in which immediate producers are separated from means of production. I don't think people were supposed to do that and be like that in precapitalist commodity production as described by Engels. And in precapitalist commodity production as described by historians, there always seem to be these outside factors intervening, like price controls, impediments on mobility, a great deal of autarky (exchange of surpluses), habitual behavior, etc. Hence I don't see how the same sort of regulation through SNLT described by Marx for capitalism would work in precapitalist commodity production.

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Jul 30 2017 23:55

Noa, do.you also have evidence for a historical stages of simple reproduction? Anything Marx puts simple in front of is a logical construction he uses to progress in his presentation of categories; a didactic tool if you will.

Sure, commodities had to exist prior to capitalism, but from page one of Capital Marx is analyzing the capitalist MoP in a logical unfolding. There's a reason why the historical stuff is at the end, all of which is explained in the appendix (i.e. the immediate results stuff). It's also, as Zanthorus points out, heavily endebted to Hegel.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Jul 31 2017 10:29
Jura wrote:
At this point I'm not even sure what it implies. Engels used the term to describe a precapitalist mode of production in which producers exchange commodities for prices which express, pretty directly (disregarding fluctuations in supply and demand), the labor time socially necessary to produce them. I don't think this existed, although I'm open to being persuaded by evidence. I'm sceptical, though, as I don't see how it would have worked (i.e., what is the mechanism)

The point was that it's not a MoP where all products are exchanged, and it always existed in combination with other MoPs (eg consumption for own use). You cannot seriously maintain that Engels perhaps implied that SCP was the only mode of production before capitalism and that it covered the whole of production. So again, you hurriedly move on to the different question of whether the law of value applied to it.

Quote:
And? "Or" is a connective that you can use to connect totally different claims. I think it actually works best with different claims, as opposed to "It will rain or it will rain".

"It rained, or it did not rain" are claims about the same question. Your sentence was like: "It rained, or the rain season occurs in March-August".

Quote:
I'm not sure I understand the argument here. Are you taking a step back first ("well it's not necessary for the law of value to regulate it"), to then take a step forward ("it clearly must have been regulated by the law of value")?

The error here committed of conflating two different questions is so obvious, that it is difficult to understand why intelligent blokes as yourselves even make it. I speculate the reason is that once you admit to A (existence of SCP), you secretly fear that B (SCP was governed by the law of value) automatically, like a slippery slope, must follow (which it doesn't), but you're right that once we discuss B on its own, your arguments do run the risk of being more easily challenged (i.e. without me having to be distracted by A, which acts like your defensive wall). So I was being a bit dialectical, not only pointing to the error, but what causes the error. I feel I still have to get that definitively out of the way first, before we can have a proper discussion on the question of the application of the law of value in SCP.

Quote:
I think the first three chapters contain a theory of simple circulation. That theory makes certain claims about prices and values and their relations. To me, these claims only make sense when connected to some other claims in Volume 3. I don't see how these claims would work without certain mechanisms described in Volume 3. So if we take the theory of simple circulation as a whole, I don't see how it's empirically applicable to precapitalist societies (on it's own, the theory is incomplete even with relation to capitalism).

The "mechanism in volume 3" doesn't apply to SCP, the point being that the law of value in SCP is not the same as in capitalism (where exchange is regulated by price of production). And the claims in the first chapters make sense on their own. Despite posing as a defender of a purely logical reading, in your view the forms of value even "logically" don't make sense – iirc you are inspired by Castoriadis's critique.

Quote:
I think the idea that it's a theory of some precapitalist society out of which capitalism developed is wrong.

Nobody claims that. Rather the exposition of forms of value is a theory of how money developed from barter. It disproves exactly that exchange was something eternal, and that money always existed.

Quote:
But as I said, I think you can take some elements from chapters 1-3 and use them to describe and explain what was going on in commodity production in precapitalist societies.

That "element" being the commodity (and money), i.e. the whole point. Marx explicitly writes in chapter 6:

Marx wrote:
Had we [..] inquired under what circumstances all, or even the majority of products take the form of commodities, we should have found that this can only happen with production of a very specific kind, capitalist production. Such an inquiry, however, would have been foreign to the analysis of commodities. Production and circulation of commodities can take place, although the great mass of the objects produced are intended for the immediate requirements of their producers, are not turned into commodities, and consequently social production is not yet by a long way dominated in its length and breadth by exchange-value. The appearance of products as commodities pre-supposes such a development of the social division of labour, that the separation of use-value from exchange-value, a separation which first begins with barter, must already have been completed. But such a degree of development is common to many forms of society, which in other respects present the most varying historical features.

.

Jura wrote:
But Marx's theory of value makes a much more specific claim that in capitalism, this necessary labor time takes the form of a property of things.

If commodities/money existed before capitalism, so did commodity fetishism.

Quote:
This happens, ultimately, because people do certain things, like "invest" "capital" into different branches of production based on "profitability".

Commodity fetishism is not caused by investment decisions, not that you'd disagree (I hope).

Quote:
At the bottom of all this, we eventually arrive at relations of production in which immediate producers are separated from means of production.

In SCP the producers are not yet separated from the means of production.

Quote:
I don't think people were supposed to do that and be like that in precapitalist commodity production as described by Engels.

Engels is not making a normative claim that the law of value "should" apply in SCP. But the law of value does happen to be a "just" norm:

Dunaevsky wrote:
The best illustration of the historical veracity of the position of Engels: the numerous "statutes" of magistrates, regulating the relations of production of the craft of a city, and the economic doctrine of the canonists, summarising the real economic relations of their time. The teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas about "Justum pretium" (just price) is devoted to the proof of the need to maintain relations of equality of commodity producers. In legal and ethical form the doctrine of "Justum praecium" presented the commitment of exchange on the basis of equal equivalents and equality of the subjects of exchange.

Moreover, for Marx still in the first stage of communism the logic of the law of value applies, even more than it did in capitalism, namely the actual producers get a share of the social product equal to their labour (or closer to it than in capitalism).

Jura wrote:
And in precapitalist commodity production as described by historians, there always seem to be these outside factors intervening,

Of course, but so there are monopolies, state intervention, etc. in capitalism.

Khawaga wrote:
Noa, do you also have evidence for a historical stages of simple reproduction?

1500 years in Europe, see my post #5. But if you mean evidence in Marx, see eg my quote from chapter 6.

Quote:
Sure, commodities had to exist prior to capitalism, but from page one of Capital Marx is analyzing the capitalist MoP in a logical unfolding.

He is analysing the commodity. If you believe it's capitalism then you believe exchange/money=capitalism, so naturalising capitalism for all past epochs like bourgeois economists.

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Jul 31 2017 12:29

Oh come on, the first fucking page says that in societies in which the capitalist MoP prevail,.wealth takes on the form of an immense accumulation of commodities and therefore the analysis must start with this form, which is also the germ or cell.from which all other forms/categories are.derived. You know, dialectics and all that Marx coquetted with.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Jul 31 2017 15:39
Noa Rodman wrote:
The point was that it's not a MoP where all products are exchanged, and it always existed in combination with other MoPs (eg consumption for own use). You cannot seriously maintain that Engels perhaps implied that SCP was the only mode of production before capitalism and that it covered the whole of production. So again, you hurriedly move on to the different question of whether the law of value applied to it.

Whatever, Noa. The point about the law of value in precapitalist societies still stands. This is the key question. I'm not disputing the existence of commodities and money before capitalism. I don't remember ever disputing that. I don't think a literate person can do that. But the key issue is what regulated precapitalist commodity production: Was it the law of value? Was abstract labor the form taken by the individual labors of producers? How was value constituted, or was it at all? How did all this work without the competition of capitals? It's up to proponents of "simple commodity production" (if they want to go beyond "there were commodities before capitalism" which, duh, was never under dispute) to solve these questions.

The usual interpretation is that in simple commodity production, long-term price = value, i.e., value regulates prices. Only with the competition of capitals and the formation of a general rate of profit do prices deviate from values, and long-term prices are regulated by prices of production which somehow express values. I don't know if this is in Engels' preface to Volume 3 (or whatever it was) and I can't be bothered to go check now. But I take this as the standard interpretation. Without a description of what made prices reflect socially necessary labor time, I'm not willing to seriously consider it as more than a fairy tale.

BTW I don't care what Marx wrote about this in this or that manuscript. He was often lazy and inconsequent. Let's take a scientific approach. The theory in Capital makes some empirical claims about capitalism. It provides a description of a mechanism that has considerable explanatory power and enables you to see why these other claims are true or at least plausible. All of this holds for capitalism. Moving to precapitalist commodity production, we have to take away the mechanism, because the conditions were different. If you want to make similar claims, you have to provide a description of another mechanism.

Please note that I never said anything about "all" products being exchanged, only "most".

Noa Rodman wrote:
"It rained, or it did not rain" are claims about the same question.

OK, now you even misquoted what I wrote and turned it into a tautology. Anyway, it's perfectly possible to use "or" with propositions that are about different things. "Noa did not built an arch or Dennis Rodman was a basketball player" is a perfectly normal sentence (and true, by the way). I mean, look at any textbook in propositional logic. What do you think those truth tables would be for if "or" could only be used with equivalent sentences?

Noa Rodman wrote:
I speculate the reason is that once you admit to A (existence of SCP), you secretly fear that B (SCP was governed by the law of value) automatically, like a slippery slope, must follow (which it doesn't), but you're right that once we discuss B on its own, your arguments do run the risk of being more easily challenged (i.e. without me having to be distracted by A, which acts like your defensive wall). So I was being a bit dialectical, not only pointing to the error, but what causes the error. I feel I still have to get that definitively out of the way first, before we can have a proper discussion on the question of the application of the law of value in SCP.

OK, before you go all dialectical on me, as I said, I have no problem admitting that commodity production existed before capitalism. I won't call it "simple commodity production" for terminological reasons.

Noa Rodman wrote:
The "mechanism in volume 3" doesn't apply to SCP, the point being that the law of value in SCP is not the same as in capitalism (where exchange is regulated by price of production). And the claims in the first chapters make sense on their own. Despite posing as a defender of a purely logical reading, in your view the forms of value even "logically" don't make sense – iirc you are inspired by Castoriadis's critique.

Well if there's some "law of value" in precapitalist commodity production, it's up to the proponents of "simple commodity production" to specify its operation. I've hardly ever read any Castoriadis, so that would have to be a coincidence.

Noa Rodman wrote:
Nobody claims that. Rather the exposition of forms of value is a theory of how money developed from barter. It disproves exactly that exchange was something eternal, and that money always existed.

I don't think the analysis of the form of value is about barter at all, but I guess that's a different discussion. Barter is not a case of exchange of commodities. In barter (in a society without money), the products of labor are not commodities at all (not according to Marx, see chapter 2).

Noa Rodman wrote:
That "element" being the commodity (and money), i.e. the whole point.

Not at all. Without a specification of 1. how socially necessary labor time actually emerges and 2. how it regulates production, the theory in the first three chapters is mostly descriptive and tells you next to nothing about the "laws of motion" of the society in question. Marx provided an account of points 1 and 2 in Volume 3, but it only works for capitalism.

The quote from the unpublished chapter only "confirms" what we already know (i.e., there had been commodity production before capitalism, a point I don't dispute). There's a similar passage in chapter 4 (in the original numbering), so no need to dig up the manuscripts.

Noa Rodman wrote:
If commodities/money existed before capitalism, so did commodity fetishism.

I meant something else. I mean that prices ("properties of things") come to express socially necessary labor time, and hence regulate the way in which a society allocates labor. I.e., "the law of value" operates. This is executed in capitalism through the formation of a general rate of profit, the competition of capitals etc. You can't refer to these things in precapitalist commodity production. So either the law of value did not operate, or you have to specify some other way through which it was executed, or you have to define the law of value anew (but then it won't be the law of value).

Noa Rodman wrote:
The teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas about "Justum pretium" (just price) is devoted to the proof of the need to maintain relations of equality of commodity producers. In legal and ethical form the doctrine of "Justum praecium" presented the commitment of exchange on the basis of equal equivalents and equality of the subjects of exchange.

Equivalents, as in equal amounts of abstract labor? Or individual labor? Was it through conscious calculation? How do you square that with fetishism, i.e., the law of value operating behing the backs of producers? Or it wasn't labor but something else altogether? How can you tell? Where's the evidence? Where are the mechanisms?

Noa Rodman wrote:
Moreover, for Marx still in the first stage of communism the logic of the law of value applies, even more than it did in capitalism, namely the actual producers get a share of the social product equal to their labour (or closer to it than in capitalism).

I don't think this is relevant to the present discussion at all, unless you want to suggest that precapitalist commodity production was consciously and socially planned.

Noa Rodman wrote:
Of course, but so there are monopolies, state intervention, etc. in capitalism.

Sure, and the operation of law of value is therefore more or less deformed. But at least we know there's a mechanism (including the competition of individual capitals) and there are obstacles to it. But what's the mechanism in precapitalist commodity production?

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Jul 31 2017 15:48

That the development of the value form shows how money developed out of barter is utter nonsense; read the first paragraph in the section on money as means of circulation where Marx explains how contradictions are resolved. Reading the genesis of money as historical is completely missing the point of Marx's analysis of the value form.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Jul 31 2017 20:16
Jura wrote:
But the key issue is what regulated precapitalist commodity production: Was it the law of value? Was abstract labor the form taken by the individual labors of producers? How was value constituted, or was it at all?

Yes the law of value (not law of price of production), or else you must conclude that there can be commodities/money without value (=socially-necessary labour time), and consequently the labour theory of value will be a mere noumenon, an unprovable, unknowable thing, just a pretty hypothesis. So permit me the very naive question: is it possible for commodities and the value-form to exist without value?

Quote:
How did all this work without the competition of capitals? It's up to proponents of "simple commodity production" (if they want to go beyond "there were commodities before capitalism" which, duh, was never under dispute) to solve these questions.
...
Without a description of what made prices reflect socially necessary labor time, I'm not willing to seriously consider it as more than a fairy tale.

At one point you already accept the existence of socially necessary labor time in SCP, the question becoming simply: did prices reflect (/oscillate around) it? Even if you hold that prices didn't oscillate around value, you'd have implicitly accepted a value to make the comparison, though we're far from actually constructing/presenting historical market/production data to argue whether prices did reflect value, or didn't. At another point, as a dogmatic axiom, you seem rather to reject even the possibility of there being empirical proof that exchange in SCP happened according to the law of value. Though you open the door a bit for the possibility that the law of value in SCP could exist as a simple fact (indeed, would anyone exchange his cow for a chicken or make other obvious unequal exchanges?):

Quote:
Well if there's some "law of value" in precapitalist commodity production, it's up to the proponents of "simple commodity production" to specify its operation.

only to shut it again by insisting that it's impossible to explain without the competition of capitals. For the record, I asked you first: explain what then regulated exchange in SCP? It's fine if you reject the law of value, but then you present no explanation instead (which you should, if you sincerely care about the subject).

Quote:
Anyway, it's perfectly possible to use "or" with propositions that are about different things.

Yes, I just wanted to stress they are different questions.

Quote:
the theory in the first three chapters is mostly descriptive and tells you next to nothing about the "laws of motion" of the society in question.

The reason he doesn't talk yet about the mechanism of prices of production is because he's analysing the commodity, which existed also in pre-capitalist society. And a rather weak defense of a purely logical reading it is to say that the first chapters are mostly "descriptive".

Quote:
I don't think the analysis of the form of value is about barter at all, but I guess that's a different discussion. Barter is not a case of exchange of commodities. In barter (in a society without money), the products of labor are not commodities at all (not according to Marx, see chapter 2).

The simple form of value starts from barter and then historically (hence the name's reading) moves progressively onward to the establishment of an exclusive product that functions as the measure of value, money. Or to quote from chapter 2:

Marx wrote:
The historical progress and extension of exchanges develops the contrast, latent in commodities, between use-value and value. The necessity for giving an external expression to this contrast for the purposes of commercial intercourse, urges on the establishment of an independent form of value, and finds no rest until it is once for all satisfied by the differentiation of commodities into commodities and money. At the same rate, then, as the conversion of products into commodities is being accomplished, so also is the conversion of one special commodity into money.
...
Nomad races are the first to develop the money-form, because all their worldly goods consist of moveable objects and are therefore directly alienable; and because their mode of life, by continually bringing them into contact with foreign communities, solicits the exchange of products.
...
In proportion as exchange bursts its local bonds, and the value of commodities more and more expands into an embodiment of human labour in the abstract, in the same proportion the character of money attaches itself to commodities that are by Nature fitted to perform the social function of a universal equivalent. Those commodities are the precious metals.
...
We have seen how the progressive development of a society of commodity-producers stamps one privileged commodity with the character of money.

And barter can continue even after the existence of money, it's just that money need not be present as actual coin but merely as unit of account.

Jura wrote:
The quote from the unpublished chapter only "confirms" what we already know (i.e., there had been commodity production before capitalism, a point I don't dispute).

It confirms more than just that, ie it confirms that his analysis of the commodity in the first chapter applies also for the commodity in SCP, still a very modest point perhaps. It simply follows that all the things about SLNT, abstract labor etc. he wrote there apply as well to the commodity in SCP.

Quote:
[prices] regulate the way in which a society allocates labor. I.e., "the law of value" operates. This is executed in capitalism through the formation of a general rate of profit, the competition of capitals etc. You can't refer to these things in precapitalist commodity production.
So either the law of value did not operate, or you have to specify some other way through which it was executed, or you have to define the law of value anew (but then it won't be the law of value).

The law of value undergoes a fundamental change in capitalism, so yes the form of the manifestation of the law of value is modified. Actually this is a point of criticism that Dunaevsky directs at Rubin in the article I translated.

Also here's a link to an earlier discussion on redmarx (btw I actually went to the trouble to find the Loria passage that originally prompted Engels to write the controversial addendum to Capital 3).

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Jul 31 2017 22:00
Noa Rodman wrote:
Yes the law of value (not law of price of production), or else you must conclude that there can be commodities/money without value (=socially-necessary labour time), and consequently the labour theory of value will be a mere noumenon, an unprovable, unknowable thing, just a pretty hypothesis. So permit me the very naive question: is it possible for commodities and the value-form to exist without value?

I don't know what the "law of price of production" is. Prices of production are simply the mode of expression of socially necessary labor time in capitalism. I don't think there's a "law of price of production" separate and different from the law of value.

And yes, commodities surely can exist without value. There are plenty of examples even in capitalism. A thing can have a price ("exchange value" expressed in a money commodity) without having value. And a thing can be exchanged for an amount of money that has nothing to do with the labor time socially necessary to reproduce it. My guess is that precapitalist commodity exchange, always embedded and relatively limited as it was, was a mixture of controlled prices, habitual prices, "political" markups and prices based on unique opportunities, "profit upon alienation" and simple cost accounting + markups. I guess there weren't any principled "laws of motion". To the extent that competition developed, obstacles were removed and the market grew to include more and more basic goods, there may have been a movement towards prices as expressions of SNLT. But at that point, I think you would find that early capitalist development in agriculture was already under way. But who am I to guess, I'd be more interested in seeing what theory of regulation of precapitalist commodity production the proponents of SCP propose (aside from "conscious calculation"). So far we've only seen dialectics (in the original Greek sense).

Noa Rodman wrote:
At one point you already accept the existence of socially necessary labor time in SCP, the question becoming simply: did prices reflect (/oscillate around) it?

In a sense, socially necessary labor time always exists, even for Robinson. All societies apportion total social labor within definite limits. The real question here is whether SNLT assumes the form of a property of things, which are then exchanged, the result of which itself co-determines SNLT, and also the decisions of producers, and hence regulates this apportioning. This is more or less how commodity production works in capitalism. The question is whether this is how precapitalist commodity production operated, as things can be exchanged for money or bartered without any of that having to happen.

Noa Rodman wrote:
Even if you hold that prices didn't oscillate around value, you'd have implicitly accepted a value to make the comparison, though we're far from actually constructing/presenting historical market/production data to argue whether prices did reflect value, or didn't.

What I meant is that I don't see the mechanism that would make precapitalist commodity prices have any necessary connection to socially necessary labor time (which, in principle, is "always there", even if only as something that a planning committee arriving by a time machine could have calculated).

Noa Rodman wrote:
At another point, as a dogmatic axiom, you seem rather to reject even the possibility of there being empirical proof that exchange in SCP happened according to the law of value. Though you open the door a bit for the possibility that the law of value in SCP could exist as a simple fact (indeed, would anyone exchange his cow for a chicken or make other obvious unequal exchanges?):

I don't reject the possibility. I'm simply saying that I won't be convinced unless proponents of SCP actually do some empirical work rather than parrot Engels. Asking about a cow and a chicken is not empirical work, that's a thought experiment.

Noa Rodman wrote:
only to shut it again by insisting that it's impossible to explain without the competition of capitals. For the record, I asked you first: explain what then regulated exchange in SCP? It's fine if you reject the law of value, but then you present no explanation instead (which you should, if you sincerely care about the subject).

This is preposterous. You are a true believer: there's a hypothesis by an authority (Engels), and although it is not backed by anything (empirical work, nor any real theoretical work on how it could have operated), you accept it, since people who critize the lack of evidence for that hypothesis don't have a better hypothesis. I guess not even the "wealth" of interesting historical work that the SCP-hypothesis has produced so far (in, what, over a 120 years?) will convince you.

Noa Rodman wrote:
The reason he doesn't talk yet about the mechanism of prices of production is because he's analysing the commodity, which existed also in pre-capitalist society. And a rather weak defense of a purely logical reading it is to say that the first chapters are mostly "descriptive".

I'm not defending anything. You seem to have this crazy fixation on philological debates. I don't care much about all that anymore. Marx's theory is either an empirical theory or it isn't. The only way it works as an empirical theory is as a theory of capitalism, because the "surface implications" are only fully (well, technically not fully) worked out in Volume 3. Like I said, you are welcome to accept Chapters 1-3 for precapitalist commodity production and work out the rest (how it actually operated). But without this step, you are left with an very incomplete theory that makes a lot of promises but doesn't cash them out. It simply postulates what value is (a quantity of socially necessary labor time), but it doesn't even show how it is decided which labor time will count as socially necessary. We know that in capitalism this aren't always the most efficient producers. Marx could afford to do that because he knew he would be writing beyond Chapters 1-3, and he knew he was writing a theory of capitalism. But if you cut this rest off, you're left with definitions and also some claims whose connection to experience is dubious.

Noa Rodman wrote:
The simple form of value starts from barter and then historically (hence the name's reading) moves progressively onward to the establishment of an exclusive product that functions as the measure of value, money. Or to quote from chapter 2:

OK, I'm not interested in this discussion and won't engage in it beyond this post as it's tangential. I'm not interested in any of this W. F. Haug stuff. I was referring to this from Chapter 2:

Marx wrote:
Let us look at the matter a little closer. To the owner of a commodity, every other commodity is, in regard to his own, a particular equivalent, and consequently his own commodity is the universal equivalent for all the others. But since this applies to every owner, there is, in fact, no commodity acting as universal equivalent, and the relative value of commodities possesses no general form under which they can be equated as values and have the magnitude of their values compared. So far, therefore, they do not confront each other as commodities, but only as products or use-values. In their difficulties our commodity owners think like Faust...
Noa Rodman wrote:
It confirms more than just that, ie it confirms that his analysis of the commodity in the first chapter applies also for the commodity in SCP, still a very modest point perhaps. It simply follows that all the things about SLNT, abstract labor etc. he wrote there apply as well to the commodity in SCP.

As I said above, you can pretend they apply, but unless you (or Marx) can show how it worked, I don't see why anyone should be interested in that. How can you say some empirical claims apply to something without really having a way to test those claims? At this point, you can at most say that Marx himself thought they apply. But that is philology.

Noa Rodman wrote:
The law of value undergoes a fundamental change in capitalism, so yes the form of the manifestation of the law of value is modified.

Well, again, you can talk about fundamental changes, the three laws of dialectics or whatever, but it doesn't mean anything to anyone outside philological circles. Specify the two laws clearly, show the transformation, point to the evidence. I really can't be bothered to look at the links.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Aug 1 2017 13:46
Jura wrote:
And yes, commodities surely can exist without value. There are plenty of examples even in capitalism. A thing can have a price ("exchange value" expressed in a money commodity) without having value. .

I have in mind reproducible products, but even for things without value, the money itself has a value (or represents a value).

Quote:
And a thing can be exchanged for an amount of money that has nothing to do with the labor time socially necessary to reproduce it.

But then it has a value, the price simply doesn't match with it.

Quote:
My guess is that precapitalist commodity exchange, always embedded and relatively limited as it was, was a mixture of controlled prices, habitual prices, "political" markups and prices based on unique opportunities, "profit upon alienation" and simple cost accounting + markups. I guess there weren't any principled "laws of motion".

I too guess that there weren't any principled "laws of motion".

The claim (/"postulate/ "definition") is just that the exchange happened more or less on an equivalent labour basis. It should be possible to empirically reject or verify it, so indeed let's not get lost in philological debates. It's still a better claim than "pure randomness" in exchange relations.

Quote:
there's a hypothesis by an authority (Engels), and although it is not backed by anything (empirical work, nor any real theoretical work on how it could have operated), you accept it, since people who critize the lack of evidence for that hypothesis don't have a better hypothesis. I guess not even the "wealth" of interesting historical work that the SCP-hypothesis has produced so far (in, what, over a 120 years?) will convince you.

If you demand just empirical work, I consider this a fair point, but it applies to everyone. The detractors of the law of value in SCP have not either done any historical work. As I casually noted before, we're both far from constructing/presenting data (/estimates). This hasn't anything to do with a fault in anyone's hypothesis, just a result of lack of data.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Aug 1 2017 20:31

To sum up, there's no reason as of now to believe in the existence of the standard version of "simple commodity production" as I described it above, i.e., an epoch of several thousands of years in which actual or long-term average prices of commodities were equal to the labor time socially necessary to produce them.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Aug 2 2017 06:53

What the balance of exchange was – whether it was symmetric – between pastoralists and eg grain producers (to take a fundamental specialization) or between the latter and urban craftsmen, is something for anthropology to study. It's unreasonable to expect here "hard evidence".

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Aug 2 2017 06:57

I'm fine with qualitative, anthropological evidence, though.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Aug 2 2017 08:53

Dunaevsky mentioned e.g. the 'just price' of Aquinas, and this is found back in (Jewish) antiquity:

Jacob Neusner (Brill, 2002), The Mishnah: Social Perspectives. I will spare you excerpts of Talmudic tractates, just give some points by the author.

Quote:
In denying the notion of an objective or absolute or intrinsic value,
Schumpeter calls that notion "a metaphysical entity most welcome to
people with philosophical propensities and most distasteful to people
of a more positive' type of mind." In due course, we shall see how
that notion comes to expression in the economics of Judaism. There,
the conception of a true value is not murky or obscure but expressed
in simple and plain words: concrete rules, which people (merchants
in the market) had to observe.

.

Quote:
The principles that all transactions are really acts of barter, that money has no meaning other than an instrument of barter, and, consequently, that money (e.g., silver, gold) is merely another commodity—all these conceptions express in detail the substitute, within distributive economics, for the notion of the market as the mechanism of exchange. And not one of them will have surprised Aristotle, who, as we recall, firmly maintains that money merely substitutes for grain or beasts in barter. Accordingly the initial statement of the economics of Judaism imagined a barter-economy and provided for the mechanism of the barter of commodities of an intrinsic value in equal measure from one party (no longer buyer) to the other (no longer seller). For that purpose, as Aristotle, but not Plato, will have understood, coins serve only as a bushel of corn served, as matters of intrinsic, not merely symbolic, worth.

.

Quote:
This brings us to the complementary question: what sorts of things lack a true or intrinsic value? Given the logic that imposes upon all transactions the fiction that a barter of equal value has taken place, we should anticipate that things that are not subject to barter will lack, also, an intrinsic value. Commodities are bartered, because we can measure (so it is imagined) the intrinsic worth of things. But what has no intrinsic worth, such as a piece of paper, or what has no worth readily treated as standard for purposes of measuring equivalency, such as a person, or what is not a commodity at all, such as real estate, or what is not subject to a this-worldly evaluation as something accessible to human utilization at all, such as what has been sanctified to heaven—these will not be subject to barter and therefore also will not be given the status of commodities bearing intrinsic value for purposes of exchange.
jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Aug 2 2017 15:13

Sure, there are plenty of examples of reflections on "just" exchange and the "proper" uses of money in antiquity. I think there must have been plenty of normative ideas around which stated what the "proper" proportions should be. This what I meant by "habitual" prices. Come to think of it, it's an element of planning that was probably in place to secure the reproduction of producers (i.e., them not falling into debt etc., but we know how that usually turned out). You can also see in the quotations that some things were treated as inherently non-commodities, i.e., land. I'm pretty sure we could find other examples. This shows how limited and embedded precapitalist commodity exchange was. And I think that the more limited it was (either to particular kinds of commodities, or to surpluses, or geographically etc.), the more "random" (not literally random) the exchange proprotions were.

But anyway, the quotations mention the equivalence of values, but say nothing about what determines these values. In principle it could be just about anything. The first vague hints at a labor theory of value appear in Aquinas, I think. That's 13th century, not that far from the emergence of capitalism.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Aug 2 2017 17:08
Jura wrote:
And I think that the more limited it was (either to particular kinds of commodities, or to surpluses, or geographically etc.), the more "random" (not literally random) the exchange proprotions were.

Surpluses already attest to development. Exchange relations are "random" only at the most primitive level of barter.

Neusner in a footnote writes, that the value of the worker's work [though we as marxists know this expression doesn't make sense] is clearly taken into account by the Mishnah. Elsewhere he mentions the discussion against usury in Baba Mesia 5: Mishnah Ten:

1) One may say to his fellow, Help me weed and I will help you weed or Help me hoe and I will help you hoe.
a) But one may not say, Help me weed and I will help you hoe, or Help me hoe and I will help you weed.
2) All days of the dry season are accounted alike, and all days of the rainy season are accounted alike.
a) One may not say to another, Help me plow in the dry season and I will help you plow in the rainy season.

Explanation Mishnah Ten:

Section one: Reuven is allowed to make an arrangement with Shimon that one day he will work for Shimon and the other day Shimon will work for him, as long as both are doing the same work. If, however, Reuven helps weed and Shimon helps hoe or vice versa, and one of the labors is more difficult than the other, the bargain is forbidden because of usury. The problem is that the one who does the work for his friend second may do a more difficult type of labor in return for having his work done first. This is a form of usury, since one person will get back more in return for waiting to be paid for his work.

Section two: Just as two different types of labor may not be exchanged for one another, so too the same labor may not be exchanged for the same labor if they are done during different seasons. Since working in one season may be harder than working in another, if the one who does the work for his friend second does the work in a harder season he is in essence repaying the loan of his friend's work with interest.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Aug 2 2017 17:53
Noa Rodman wrote:
Surpluses already attest to development.

I'm not sure what you mean by "development". Some level of surplus must have been a feature of labor since the dawn of modern humnas.

The quotes you provide sound more like exchange of activities rather than exchange of commodities.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Aug 2 2017 18:44

from chapter 2 again:

Marx wrote:
The first step made by an object of utility towards acquiring exchange-value is when it forms a non-use-value for its owner, and that happens when it forms a superfluous portion of some article required for his immediate wants.
...
The proportions in which they are exchangeable are at first quite a matter of chance. What makes them exchangeable is the mutual desire of their owners to alienate them. Meantime the need for foreign objects of utility gradually establishes itself. The constant repetition of exchange makes it a normal social act. In the course of time, therefore, some portion at least of the products of labour must be produced with a special view to exchange. From that moment the distinction becomes firmly established between the utility of an object for the purposes of consumption, and its utility for the purposes of exchange. Its use-value becomes distinguished from its exchange-value. On the other hand, the quantitative proportion in which the articles are exchangeable, becomes dependent on their production itself. Custom stamps them as values with definite magnitudes.

In the direct barter of products, each commodity is directly a means of exchange to its owner, and to all other persons an equivalent, but that only in so far as it has use-value for them. At this stage, therefore, the articles exchanged do not acquire a value-form independent of their own use-value, or of the individual needs of the exchangers. The necessity for a value-form grows with the increasing number and variety of the commodities exchanged.

.

Jura wrote:
The quotes you provide sound more like exchange of activities rather than exchange of commodities.

Just the last one, as an illustration that they addressed the problem of equating different kinds of labor. Besides, services are also a product.

btw, Neusner gave some valid criticisms of the work of Yu. A. Solodukho (Юдель Солодухо 1877—1963), the English translation of which he edited: Soviet Views of Talmudic Judaism: Five Papers (Brill, 1973).

These are of course normative ideas, not actual history. Perhaps Dave B, if he is not busy with important matters like trolling Christian forums, can provide us with interesting anthropological studies.

Anyway, I don't find the argument convincing against Marx that two different things could be equated through many common substances (eg the expended fossil fuel energy on them, their marginal utility, etc.), and not just labour.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Aug 2 2017 20:40

It's one thing if people accept a norm that none should work longer and harder than the other in providing favors. This is a rule for organizing direct interpersonal conduct. This need have nothing to do with commodity exchange. Flatmates can agree on this without producing commodities and being involved in commodity exchange (it's still "exchange" in the sense that each does something for the other, but surely we need to distinguish this clearly from commodity exchange; otherwise even sex or the use of language would collapse into "exchange").

It's another thing to suppose that this somehow transforms into an impersonal mechanism regulating transactions between multiple persons who hardly know each other, which is what commodity exchange would be. Or, if it does, I'd be interested in a description of that mechanism.

Also worth noting is the fact that in proper commodity exchange of commodities A and B (goods or services), it is not individual labor times that are compared and equated. Rather, both A and B are reduced, behind the backs of the people involved, that is, without any conscious calculation on their part, to qualitatively homogeneous social labor. The real question is how the individual labor times would be reduced to social labor time in precapitalist commodity exchange, in the absence of the mechanisms that Marx describes as essential for this reduction in capitalism.

Quote:
Anyway, I don't find the argument convincing against Marx that two different things could be equated through many common substances (eg the expended fossil fuel energy on them, their marginal utility, etc.), and not just labour.

I'm not making an argument against Marx. I'm saying that the impersonal process of "equating" need not have occurred at all in precapitalist commodity exchange because important ingredients for that process were missing. In fact, that "equating" process as we know it is a result of the movement of capital. Again, there's nothing to "equate" to unless there's a mechanism that determines which is the socially necessary labor time. Marx describes this in Ch10 of Volume 3, IIRC.

Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Aug 3 2017 09:18
Jura wrote:
It's one thing if people accept a norm that none should work longer and harder than the other in providing favors. This is a rule for organizing direct interpersonal conduct. This need have nothing to do with commodity exchange. Flatmates can agree on this without producing commodities and being involved in commodity exchange (it's still "exchange" in the sense that each does something for the other, but surely we need to distinguish this clearly from commodity exchange; otherwise even sex or the use of language would collapse into "exchange").

Barter of goods (and up to the full monetary transaction) is also "direct interpersonal conduct" in the sense that both do it for the use-value (C-M-C). And services can be paid in kind (e.g. a singer at a party is paid with food), so there's no neat dividing line between barter in goods or in services. Your example of flatmates is about one and the same household and the particular service e.g. of taking out the trash is difficult to commodify. If we take painting a neighbour's fence (in exchange for doing your garden), work that can be easily commodified, such things are still not production/life necessities. But if you earn your living as a painter and I as a gardener, so when our work is not done we starve, then when we exchange services, yes this can be considered a commodity exchange.

Quote:
The real question is how the individual labor times would be reduced to social labor time in precapitalist commodity exchange,

You might understand SNLT differently than I. I consider it just the average time it takes to make/do something. If the product of A can be normally made in 5 hours, but A took it easy working 10 hours on it, then B will be willing to give a product in exchange worth just 5 hours (knowing that A could have done the work in that time). I don't think SNLT was absolutely unknowable.

(for some French marxist anthropology literature on barter see Anne Chapman 1980, she criticises Marx btw)

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Aug 3 2017 14:46
Noa Rodman wrote:
Barter of goods (and up to the full monetary transaction) is also "direct interpersonal conduct" in the sense that both do it for the use-value (C-M-C). And services can be paid in kind (e.g. a singer at a party is paid with food), so there's no neat dividing line between barter in goods or in services.

Well, OK, in this sense, everything is direct interpersonal conduct. Even a capitalist hiring a worker. So the distinction collapses. Not a very useful approach in my view.

The key issue here is what regulates that conduct. Are there transparent, habitualized norms, or an invisible social mechanism that operates behind our backs? Mere equivalence (of labor times, individual or average ones) does not necessarily imply commodity exchange. It's the mechanism that makes it what it is.

Noa Rodman wrote:
Your example of flatmates is about one and the same household and the particular service e.g. of taking out the trash is difficult to commodify. If we take painting a neighbour's fence (in exchange for doing your garden), work that can be easily commodified, such things are still not production/life necessities. But if you earn your living as a painter and I as a gardener, so when our work is not done we starve, then when we exchange services, yes this can be considered a commodity exchange.

OK, the way I understand the quotation we're talking about here is that it is about two peasants, probably living in close proximity (not unlike the two flatmates; why should it matter whether it's a household or a village?), who are not part of a rigid system of division of labor. They both do similar activities throughout the year. The norm is about how "favors" should be made, i.e., they should be reciprocal and equal. It's more similar to the situation when parents instruct their children to share toys than to commodity exchange.

Noa Rodman wrote:
You might understand SNLT differently than I. I consider it just the average time it takes to make/do something.

Well, OK, but this is different from Marxian SNLT. Your SNLT is just the arithmetic average over individual labor times. The "L" in your SNLT is not abstract labor.

Noa Rodman wrote:
If the product of A can be normally made in 5 hours, but A took it easy working 10 hours on it, then B will be willing to give a product in exchange worth just 5 hours (knowing that A could have done the work in that time). I don't think SNLT was absolutely unknowable.

OK, so no fetishism, then, no law asserting itself similarly to the law of gravity, no opaque system of division of labor... but conscious calculation on the part of agents. Why would they bother with commodity exchange, then?

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Aug 3 2017 14:54

And do note that the example of Reuven and Shimon even forbids activities A and B that are "exchanged" to be different or even to be performed in different seasons. Not very much like C - M - C or C - C where the C's are always of a different kind. In the Reuven-Shimon example, the equivalence between A and B is already there, because the activities and conditions are the same and Reuven and Shimon's labor is from the start presupposed to be of the same intensity and productivity. All the "work" of reducing and equating that is done objectively, through the market, in commodity exchange is already done here ex ante by the norm. This example is completely irrelevant even to a discussion of precapitalist commodity exchange. It simply isn't what you take it for.