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oil/ltv/zizek

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May 16 2010 19:35
oil/ltv/zizek

tangential topic from the transcendental materialism thread - thought it worth starting a new thread so revol isn't detracted from serving up some reheated kantian metaphysics of experience

Joseph Kay wrote:
revol68 wrote:
the issue with applying the LTV to oil and the like is that it assumes competition and there is very little of it in the oil markets.

well yeah, there's all the assumptions of political economy he adopts, few of which apply to oil; perfect competition, no barriers to entry, infinite potential supply...

none of those things necessarily negate the LTV, or render it inapplicable to oil production - all these things - lack of effective competition, barriers to entry/efficient accumulation, limitations on supply of product, monopolistic ownership of non-reproducible means of production, impediment of price formation, etc.. were all (and to an extent still are) present in agricultural production at the time marx was writing capital (sure there are differences as well) - and the lengthy section on surplus profit transformation into rent in vol3 of capital shows how the labour theory of value (and pretty much everything else contained in vol 1-3, production, accumulation, distribution, barriers to efficient accumulation, value production, prices of production formation, equalisation of profit, fictitious value, differences between production and distribution of surplus value, etc..) can and is applied to circumstances just like this - that part of capital is pretty much a case study in the application of the whole edifice and general structure of marx's political economy to a specific historically determined instance, where all the perfect assumptions of an ideal type capitalist economy don't maintain

there was a thread a week or so ago where this was touched on a bit - (http://libcom.org/forums/theory/labor-theory-value-28042010 - the few posts towards the end)

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May 16 2010 19:39

another quick point....

Joseph Kay wrote:
Zizek wrote:
To apply the Marxist theory of value today, to be cynical, to Venezuela which is doing relatively well because of oil, is to say that
Venezuela is exploiting the United States. Because for Marx, it´s selling natural
resources, oil is no source of value.

as an aside, that is pretty fucking retarded. and factually incorrect on at least two counts (Marx said nature was a source of value, and nation-states were not the agents of exploitation but individuals/classes on either side of the property relation).

i agree it's a retarded thing to say - but did you actually mean to say the bit in bold?

Dirac
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May 16 2010 20:35

He wrote:

Wherever the want of clothing forced them to it, the human race made clothes for thousands of years, without a single man becoming a tailor. But coats and linen, like every other element of material wealth that is not the spontaneous produce of Nature, must invariably owe their existence to a special productive activity, exercised with a definite aim, an activity that appropriates particular nature-given materials to particular human wants. So far therefore as labour is a creator of use value, is useful labour, it is a necessary condition, independent of all forms of society, for the existence of the human race; it is an eternal nature-imposed necessity, without which there can be no material exchanges between man and Nature, and therefore no life.

The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labour. If we take away the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter. Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labour is not the only source of material wealth, of use values produced by labour. As William Petty puts it, labour is its father and the earth its mother.

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May 16 2010 20:36

Marx says in Capital Chapter 1:

Marx wrote:
The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labour. If we take away the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter. Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labour is not the only source of material wealth, of use values produced by labour.

he is talking about the production of material wealth, i.e. use values here rather than value per se as the 'third thing' all commodities have in common. however, the production of commodities is the production of use values for other people, which is what gives them exchange values to their owner (the form of expression of their value).

i don't think this is central to the oil issue - the simplifying assumptions adopted from political economy have a much bigger explanatory power imho (i.e. if oil could be manufactured or was naturally abundant, its value would not be so anomalously high as, assuming now barriers to entry other capitalists would enter the market with abnormally high profits, increasing supply and equilibriating the profits down towards the social average rate. of course this is all at the level of abstraction of political economy... but enough tangent. if you want to carry this on maybe start a new thread; natural resources are often cited as falsifying marxian value theory so it could be an interesting discussion.

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May 16 2010 20:39

yeah nature is a source of use value/material wealth (in petty's language), but not value - which was my point

(was nothing to do with the oil issue, just a side point)

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if you want to carry this on maybe start a new thread;

another one?

Dirac
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May 16 2010 20:39
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well yeah, there's all the assumptions of political economy he adopts, few of which apply to oil; perfect competition, no barriers to entry, infinite potential supply...

I'm sorry, but could you explain who is 'he' for us who have not read the original thread? If 'he' is Marx then you're wrong; no adoption of any of those principles which primarily belong to post-classical economics.

Dirac
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May 16 2010 20:42

And laugh out loud at 'anonymously high profits.'

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May 16 2010 20:46

just realised this is already a new thread, disregard that tongue

the whole point of commodity production is that a commodity cannot be exchanged unless it has a use value, i.e. it is only an exchange value to its owner (the form of appearance of its value) if it has a use value to someone else.

Marx wrote:
If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.

since nature also produces use-values, i don't know why the same relation between the necessary twofold character of the commodity (as use value and exchange value) and its value wouldn't apply.

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May 16 2010 20:49
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however, the production of commodities is the production of use values for other people, which is what gives them exchange values to their owner

this isn't an adequate summary to be fair - the fact that something is a use value (produced or naturally found) to other people doesn't give an item exchange value (at most it's a necessary condition but not a sufficient one) - that is marginal utility theory of value

if something that was produced by labour and serves as a use value for someone else, is laterly available without being produced by labour, that thing has no value, despite its use value and material form not changing

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May 16 2010 20:58
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since nature also produces use-values, i don't know why the same relation between the necessary twofold character of the commodity (as use value and exchange value) and its value wouldn't apply.

nature produces use values but not value

air is a use value, but not a value (yet)

if you follow your argument through to its logical conclusion it takes you to something that says labour is not the sole source of exchange value (as you are positing nature as a creator/source of value), meaning profit can be made without exploitation of labour, which rather pulls the rug away from everything marx stood for

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May 16 2010 20:58

anyroads, this wasn't the point of the thread - which is that what is contained in the OP

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May 16 2010 20:58
oisleep wrote:
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however, the production of commodities is the production of use values for other people, which is what gives them exchange values to their owner

this isn't an adequate summary to be fair - the fact that something is a use value (produced or naturally found) to other people doesn't give an item exchange value (at most it's a necessary condition but not a sufficient one) - that is marginal utility theory of value

if something that was produced by labour and serves as a use value for someone else, is laterly available without being produced by labour, that thing has no value, despite its use value and material form not changing

well that depends on the property relations, surely. i.e. if something is produced naturally that has use value to others, and is privately owned, it is a commodity, it has a value which expresses itself as an exchange value. which takes us back towards oil. of course there's invariably some labour involved in turning natural use values into commodities, but the original point Zizek was making which i was responding to was "Because for Marx, it´s selling natural resources, oil is no source of value." When if those natural resources are privately owned (including by a state), then they can be sold, their use value to others means it has exchange value to its owner and hence has a value... produced in large part by nature (although clearly there's labour involved too).

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May 16 2010 21:19
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well that depends on the property relations, surely. i.e. if something is produced naturally that has use value to others, and is privately owned, it is a commodity, it has a value which expresses itself as an exchange value

well first off you could argue that its not produced as a commodity as it is produced naturally and not with the express intention of (nature) alienating it to others in the market - anyroads regardless of that its value would be based on the combined socially necessary labour time expended in making that commodity available on the market

if it has no labour it has no value, it can however have a price - but just because something has a price, it doesn't mean it has a value (old paintings or antiques, or your virginity are owned privately and can be sold, but that price doesn't reflect its value)

The price-form, however, is not only compatible with the possibility of a quantitative incongruity between magnitude of value and price, i.e., between the former and its expression in money, but it may also conceal a qualitative inconsistency, so much so, that, although money is nothing but the value-form of commodities, price ceases altogether to express value. Objects that in themselves are no commodities, such as conscience, honour, &c., are capable of being offered for sale by their holders, and of thus acquiring, through their price, the form of commodities. Hence an object may have a price without having value.

edit: btw, i'm not implying oil has a price but no value - the post above is purely in relation to your point about things that are sold that are not produced by labour, but by nature alone

re oil value, i see the issues around it as pretty much being the same as value/price in capitalist agricultural production - hence my original post - which has sadly been ignored thus far

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May 17 2010 06:32
revol68 wrote:
in terms of oil, well the labour isn't so much primarily in the extraction, it's in the prospecting, the maintenance of fields and moving of the oil.

indeed, which is what i said above:-

its value would be based on the combined socially necessary labour time expended in making that commodity available on the market

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and of course the value also comes from the enforcement of the property relations, the bombing of states that enfringe.

all that stuff though just upholds (or creates) the social relations, framework and historically specific determined set of conditions under which value exists/can be created - you can't legislate value into existence though, you can legislate the conditions under which it can be created yes, but not the actual creation of it

Quote:
and yes, there is a difference between nature being the ultimate source of value (it's the ultimate source of everything afterall), there is a difference between being a source and creating. Oil is the source of plastics but it doesn't create it.

don't really understand your point here - my argument (or more correctly marx's) is that nature is neither the source of value nor the creator if it - sure it is a necessary condition of the creation and reproduction of value (just like, to an extent, things like productive assets, means of production, instruments of labour, raw materials, money, credit markets, circulation, markets, ideology, specific set of social relations, etc..), but it's not a sufficient condition, it neither creates it, nor is it a source of that value (unless you expand the argument to the extreme and say that the actual source/creator of value, socially necessary labour, is itself a creation of nature - but that's not really the thing being discussed as we're left with nature as you say being the ultimate creator of everything which while being true doesn't really do much in terms of the investigation of how value is produced under a specific set of historically determined social relations)

remember if value under capitalism is socially necessary labour time - it can only be created by, socially necessary labour time - if you take the view that value isn't just socially necessary labour then sure you can argue that nature is a source of value, but you can't hold a labour theory of value position on one hand and argue that nature is a source of value on the other (at least not if you want to be consistent)

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May 17 2010 07:03
revol68 wrote:
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The price-form, however, is not only compatible with the possibility of a quantitative incongruity between magnitude of value and price, i.e., between the former and its expression in money, but it may also conceal a qualitative inconsistency, so much so, that, although money is nothing but the value-form of commodities, price ceases altogether to express value. Objects that in themselves are no commodities, such as conscience, honour, &c., are capable of being offered for sale by their holders, and of thus acquiring, through their price, the form of commodities. Hence an object may have a price without having value.

Isn't the value produced in the social factory, in the production of a culture/zeitgeist that see's them as valuable? Likewise conscience and honour are sociallised things to, produced through a complex matrix of social relations etc

you could say that for things like that the establishment of a price for things like your virginity is 'produced' in the social factory - but the existence of price doesn't say anything about the existence of value (as the quote from marx above shows, i.e. Hence an object may have a price without having value)

but the basic point of the discussion above is is that within capitalist socialist relations, value is produced through the exploitation of the source & creator of value, i.e. labour, in the sphere of production of use values. Any approach which argues that value van be created (at the societal level) by something other than labour, essentially says that profit can be made without exploitation of labour, and therefore if profit can exist without exploitation of labour, then what's so bad about it.

The example Joseph gives above of something, a use value, being produced entirely by nature, and then appropriated and sold by someone to someone else who wants its use value - that doesn't create value at the social level just because someone sold it for an (individual) profit - all it is at most is exploitation in the sphere of circulation, where something that doesn't have a value (as it has not the result of socially necessary/abstract labour), is sold for a price - all that happens is that value is transferred from one person to another, leaving the net amount of value at the societal level unchanged, it's not productive of value at the social level. It's exactly the same as a commodity that say has a value (or more correctly price of production) of 100 being sold in the market for 110, the seller gains 10 over and above its value and the buyer loses 10 (in terms of buying something for 110 that has a value of 100) - so at the societal level nothing has changed, no value has been created by the price deviating from value, it's just moved value around a bit within the sphere of circulation - and value cannot be created through circulation alone - the example of something that has a price but no value is exactly the same. This is my argument against Joseph's assertion that nature alone can be productive of value, i.e. where he says

if something is produced naturally that has use value to others, and is privately owned, it is a commodity, it has a value which expresses itself as an exchange value

i.e. the argument here is that value can be produced by nature alone - it can't, it can produce the effect where someone can gain a price for something that does not have a value, but at the societal level this is not the same as value being created/produced and then expressing itself as an exchange value and then realised. The mistake is to think that just because something can be sold as a commodity, then it automatically has value - but this doesn't hold, as the quote from marx i gave above demonstrates, i.e. an object may have a price without having value.

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May 17 2010 13:21

On nature creating value, one person who did argue this was Henry George in Progress and Poverty - published around the same time as Capital vol 1. - http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/George/grgPP.html I read it a few years ago, it's worth a read if you like that sort of thing.

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May 17 2010 13:38
oisleep wrote:
remember if value under capitalism is socially necessary labour time - it can only be created by, socially necessary labour time

well yes, this is elementary. the question is why that is, since Marx is at pains to point out not just labour, but also nature produces use values which can take the form of commodities (and thus express a value through exchange value). i mean there's not a natural use value i can think of that is commodified without some labour, so i'm not sure there are any implications to this (as you say, a necessary not sufficient condition at most).

this is different to revol's take on the 'social factory' where everything is necessary therefore everything is 'productive'; the point of productivity in value terms means an activity/process creates a commodity which can be sold, thus it's both a use-value to its buyer and an exchange value to its seller. lots of activities are absolutely necessary to social reproduction but don't take the form of commodities and thus are not productive from a value point of view. we've been over this before at length though, particularly Negri et al's moralistic insistance that everyone is 'valuable' because everyone 'produces', which collapses out really important distinctions between productive and unproductive labour (which for example, help explain the drive to introduce internal markets and outsourced service providers into the NHS - as services become commodities they become valuable, and thus a source of surplus value extraction in their own right).

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May 17 2010 13:50
Mike Harman wrote:
On nature creating value, one person who did argue this was Henry George in Progress and Poverty - published around the same time as Capital vol 1. - http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/George/grgPP.html I read it a few years ago, it's worth a read if you like that sort of thing.

indeed, but my argument wasn't that such a theory was impossible to have, just that it's not one that marx held, or one that is compatible with a labour theory of value which maintains that all value is created by labour (i.e. marx's theory of value)

Henry George didn't hold such a theory, he admits to labour creating value in productive industry, but maintained that not all value was created by labour - which is a big difference in position to someone like marx. George says that labour is not the source of all value, unlike marx

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May 17 2010 14:29
Joseph Kay wrote:
oisleep wrote:
remember if value under capitalism is socially necessary labour time - it can only be created by, socially necessary labour time

well yes, this is elementary. the question is why that is, since Marx is at pains to point out not just labour, but also nature produces use values which can take the form of commodities (and thus express a value through exchange value).

yes it is elementary (as is everything being discussed on this thread other than the OP), but clearly a position that says nature, independently of labour, is a source of value contradicts it - which is the discussion we've been having

you are still maintaining (theoretically) that nature can produces use values which are then sold as commodities (i agree up to this point), where you go wrong however is saying that because it can achieve a price, then that proves it has value (expressed as exchange value), it's not, it's a price, and a price which in marx's terms displays not only a quantative, but also a qualatitive incongruence from its value, which in this case is zero, i.e. an object may have a price without having value The problem with assuming that just because something can achieve a price in the market then it must have a value, is that you are making the sphere of circulation the determinant of value creation & determination, rather than where it is actually produced, i.e. the sphere of production. Your example makes the market the determinant of whether value has been created or exists (obviously market and circulation are required, but this is not the issue here), this in itself is pretty much everything marx was against (as was ricardo, smith, the physiocrats etc..) - the only people who support such a view is early mercantilist theory or post-LTV marginal utility theories of value

Quote:
i mean there's not a natural use value i can think of that is commodified without some labour, so i'm not sure there are any implications to this (as you say, a necessary not sufficient condition at most).

i agree, but I was only going on your (theoretical) example from earlier,. i.e.

if something is produced naturally that has use value to others, and is privately owned, it is a commodity, it has a value which expresses itself as an exchange value

which as i've said above, is incorrect to assume that something that has a price has a value, or that price is expressive of that value. But just because we can't think of anything that is wholly produced by nature with no labour input is irrelevant, the point is that it is those labour inputs that create and determine the value, not the element which is provided free, by nature, and that labour is the only source of that value. the fact that nature provides capitalists with use values (either in the form of finished product or means of production) is irrelevant for a labout theory of value, other than use values being a necessary but not sufficent condition of value - any other position is incompatible with a labour theory of value, Henry George above for example held that nature is a source or the creator of value, but he didn't hold a labout theory of value which held that labour is the source of all value, unlike marx

Quote:
this is different to revol's take on the 'social factory' where everything is necessary therefore everything is 'productive'; the point of productivity in value terms means an activity/process creates a commodity which can be sold, thus it's both a use-value to its buyer and an exchange value to its seller.

sorry but once again, just because something can be sold for a price doesn't mean it has value (in marx's terms) - i.e. an object may have a price without having value

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May 17 2010 14:48
oisleep wrote:
The problem with assuming that just because something can achieve a price in the market then it must have a value, is that you are making the sphere of circulation the determinant of value creation & determination, rather than where it is actually produced, i.e. the sphere of production.

well no, because the point would be that it was produced by nature, and the value was validated in the act of exchange, much like labour being validated as socially necessary by being sold on the market... now i know Marx defines value as socially necessary average labour time ("A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour"), the question is why if alongside labour nature also produces use values which are sold as commodities, is it not treated as productive? in other words, why is it important that something can have a price but not a value? is this simply a tautology at the level of defining terms?

i mean there's various possible answers, such as that no natural use value can be commodified without labour, even if that's simply picking it up. thus if diamonds were everywhere on the surface, the socially necessary average labour time would be much less and so would their value - nature functioning as a background constant, sufficient but not necessary. if we take this passage:

Marx wrote:
A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c. A thing can be useful, and the product of human labour, without being a commodity. Whoever directly satisfies his wants with the produce of his own labour, creates, indeed, use values, but not commodities. In order to produce the latter, he must not only produce use values, but use values for others, social use values. (And not only for others, without more. The mediaeval peasant produced quit-rent-corn for his feudal lord and tithe-corn for his parson. But neither the quit-rent-corn nor the tithe-corn became commodities by reason of the fact that they had been produced for others. To become a commodity a product must be transferred to another, whom it will serve as a use value, by means of an exchange.) Lastly nothing can have value, without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.

it is not clear why a natural meadow, transferred to another, whom it will serve as a use value, by means of an exchange, would not have value. it's no use saying 'a thing can have a price but no value', i completely get the definition of value, the question is why, given the discussion of natural use values, this is the case.

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May 17 2010 15:18
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you are still maintaining (theoretically) that nature can produces use values which are then sold as commodities (i agree up to this point), where you go wrong however is saying that because it can achieve a price, then that proves it has value (expressed as exchange value),

Nature can't sell things. Only people can sell things.

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May 17 2010 15:21
Joseph Kay wrote:
it is not clear why a natural meadow, transferred to another, whom it will serve as a use value, by means of an exchange, would not have value. it's no use saying 'a thing can have a price but no value', i completely get the definition of value, the question is why, given the discussion of natural use values, this is the case.

Isn't it simply because Marx's theory of value (and the category of value it's built around) is concerned with how social labor is allocated in a capitalist society? (And how private labors of private producers become part of the total social labor which the society has at its disposal.) If value is defined as socially necessary labor time, it's contradictory to speak of the "value" of something which was not produced. (Nature does not "produce" anything.)

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May 17 2010 15:30
Jura wrote:
Nature does not "produce" anything.

well nature produces use-values, according to Marx.

Jura wrote:
Isn't it simply because Marx's theory of value (and the category of value it's built around) is concerned with how social labor is allocated in a capitalist society?

well maybe. the question is, from the passage i quoted it isn't clear why nature's production of use-values can't be a production of value if those 'products' are appropriated and sold. now you could argue it's the appropriation (i.e. labour) that creates the value (picking wild fruit, gathering diamonds, panning for gold... whatever). that probably accounts for it; nature produces use-values which only become bearers of value once appropriated for sale by people. thus given as the natural 'production' is constant both when such 'products' are in the earth or appropriated and ready for sale, the labour is the source of the value.

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May 17 2010 15:42
Joseph Kay wrote:
well nature produces use-values, according to Marx.

I don't want to derail this, but does Marx really say somewhere that nature produces use-values? Seems pretty dubious to me, as work (production) is for Marx a human-specific feature.

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May 17 2010 15:47
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well no, because the point would be that it was produced by nature, and the value was validated in the act of exchange, much like labour being validated as socially necessary by being sold on the market...

and if something was produced by nature, without labour, and if you hold a labour theory of value, it has no value - we're going round in circles here but something achieving a price in the market is not a validation of its value, as has been pointed out (by marx in the quote above - an object may have a price without having value ) something can have a price but no value, so the price achieved in the market is not necasssirly a validation of its value, or even an admittance that it has value

Quote:
now i know Marx defines value as socially necessary average labour time ("A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour"), the question is why if alongside labour nature also produces use values which are sold as commodities, is it not treated as productive? in other words, why is it important that something can have a price but not a value? is this simply a tautology at the level of defining terms?

just because something is productive does't mean that it is directly productive of value - if you introduce a new and better machine for example, it is more productive than previously, you will produce more things, but you will not produce more value (other things being equal), the same amount of value is spread over more things. (sure you could then perhaps produce below average social value and then make an ephemeral surplus profit over and above the average until such a time that competition renders that productivity increase the social norm in which case you then lose that enhanced value, but this in turn, all things being equal leads to a decrease in the value of labout power and an opportunity to appropriate more surplus value etc..but none of this is about producing more value, it is about being able to appropriate a greater share of value produced than before). So therefore if you used a force of nature as part of your means of production, it increases labour productivity (more things produced in the same time) but that does not result in an increase in value produced. so nature is productive, just not soley/directly productive of value (i.e. the same as a machine, setting aside the fact that machines are obviously produced by labour) - these are two different things, just because it is one thing doesn't mean it is the other

it's important that something can have a price but not a value, as it shows that the capitalist mode of production is a system where there can be both quantative and qualatitve incongruences between value and price. It shows that price can be realised in the market (at the individual but not societal level) independent of value production - yet when this happens no underlying production of value occurs, all that happens is a shuffling of value around in the sphere of circulation, capital cannot reproduce itself on an expanded basis unless it produces (through labour), appropriates and realises value - if all it does is shuffle around value in the market you get the kind of situation that we have seen in the financial crisis, i.e. the belieft that value can be magiced out the air in the sphere of circulation, without any connection to value as the product of social labour

Quote:
i mean there's various possible answers, such as that no natural use value can be commodified without labour, even if that's simply picking it up. thus if diamonds were everywhere on the surface, the socially necessary average labour time would be much less and so would their value - nature functioning as a background constant, sufficient but not necessary.

well yes, exactly what i said in the previous post, it's the socially necessary/abstract labour time that creates and constitutes a thing's value, not nature, even though it serves as a force of production (as per the example above)

this is pretty much going round in circles though, but to raise it to a more general point - if you maintain that nature is productive of value (on the basis that it achieves a price at the individual level in the market), then it implies value can be created and appropriated without (or independent of) the exploitation of labour - that means that not all capitalist profit (at the societal level) depend on exploitiation of labour, and therefore (at least part of) capital can reproduce itself without recourse to exploitiation of labour - surely you don't agree with this, which is the logical extension of your initial premise?

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May 17 2010 15:50
georgestapleton wrote:
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you are still maintaining (theoretically) that nature can produces use values which are then sold as commodities (i agree up to this point), where you go wrong however is saying that because it can achieve a price, then that proves it has value (expressed as exchange value),

Nature can't sell things. Only people can sell things.

Joseph's original point (if you read the thread) was that if something that is naturally produced by nature, is appropriated by someone as private property and sold in the market by that person then it is a commodity, whose price then validates and expresses it's value - my argument (or rather marx's) is that this price does not validate or express it's value - and is an instance of a qualatative incongruence between price and value

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May 17 2010 15:54
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the question is, from the passage i quoted it isn't clear why nature's production of use-values can't be a production of value if those 'products' are appropriated and sold

if we imagine a society where everything has been mechanised/automated so that everything that is necessary for the reproduction of life does not require any labour as it's all automated. your example asserts that these things would still have value, yet no labour anywhere has been expended - what you're arguing is that as productivity increases (all other things being equal) and living labour is increasingly displaced (in relative terms to constant capital) from the sphere of production, the rate of profit does not fall but instead is maintained or increased - this again can only be held if you have a physicalist view of value, in that more stuff means more value, i.e. a theory that is incompatible with a labour theory of value that holds that profit only exists through the exploitation of labour

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May 17 2010 15:56
jura wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
well nature produces use-values, according to Marx.

I don't want to derail this, but does Marx really say somewhere that nature produces use-values? Seems pretty dubious to me, as work (production) is for Marx a human-specific feature.

he definately says that nature provides use values in the form of say means of production, using water or wind power to power a machine rather than commodified energy - but again as I say below, this serves to increase labour productivity but is not productive of value, in and off itself

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Joseph Kay
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May 17 2010 16:17
jura wrote:
I don't want to derail this, but does Marx really say somewhere that nature produces use-values? Seems pretty dubious to me, as work (production) is for Marx a human-specific feature.

pretty much...

Marx wrote:
The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labour. If we take away the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter. Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labour is not the only source of material wealth, of use values produced by labour.

of course use value =/= value.

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Joseph Kay
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May 17 2010 16:20
oisleep wrote:
So therefore if you used a force of nature as part of your means of production, it increases labour productivity (more things produced in the same time) but that does not result in an increase in value produced.

well that makes sense; it's all pretty much tautological though - labour produces value because value is (socially necessary average) labour (time). i get that, the point was why raise the fact nature produces use values? now if the answer is 'no natural use values become commodities without appropriation by labour', that makes sense. but saying 'nature is not labour so doesn't produce value' is just restating the definition of value, not explaining why such a definition is adopted.

oisleep wrote:
if you maintain that nature is productive of value (on the basis that it achieves a price at the individual level in the market), then it implies value can be created and appropriated without (or independent of) the exploitation of labour - that means that not all capitalist profit (at the societal level) depend on exploitiation of labour, and therefore (at least part of) capital can reproduce itself without recourse to exploitiation of labour - surely you don't agree with this, which is the logical extension of your initial premise?

no, because you can argue no natural use values can become commodities without human intervention (i.e. labour). that's the way to make the distinction between the natural production of use values and the social production of commodities. just restating the definition of value doesn't explain that distinction, it asserts it.

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oisleep
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May 17 2010 17:03
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i get that, the point was why raise the fact nature produces use values?

well he doesn't really (if your'e referring to the quote you just posted in response to jura), he says that if you strip away the labour element that is contained within a commodity, you are left with the material substratum furnished by nature (although labour itself would be used in the acquisition of that material substratum, but if we're stripping that labour away as well then fair enough) - that remaining part doesn't necessarily remain a use value, in and off itself, it's only (in the case of the coat or linen for example) the combination of that material substratum and labour that gives it a use value - so i think it's a bit of a misreading in the confines of this particular example (i.e. his coat and linen) to say that nature by itself produces use values, although obviously things like air is a use value which i guess is 'produced' by nature, and the force of nature can be used as a means of production etc.. which is a use value in itself

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no, because you can argue no natural use values can become commodities without human intervention (i.e. labour)

yes, and the social labour that is expended as a result of that intervention constitutes and determines their value - leaving no value which is produced by anything other than labour, i.e. nature doesn't produce value, it can't, it isn't.