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 Post subject: Wage Labour and Capital
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:39 pm 
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This is usually touted as a great introduction to Marxist 'economic' concepts, but skimming through the text for the first time in a while, it seems to have a couple of flaws.

Engels cleaned up the discussion of how wages are determined to fit in with Marx's explanation in Capital. But the section on how the prices of commodities, in general, are determined seems lacking. It says that prices are determined by the cost of production, in other words, prices are determined by... prices. It doesn't mention how price is merely the expression of the value of a commodity in terms of one particular commodity, how this value is determined by labour in the abstract, and how it, by it's very nature, must come to express itself in the price of the commodity.

Also it only mentions crises in passing, in like one paragraph at the end, and it doesn't really present any developed theory of such.

I mean in general it's by Marx, so there's a lot of great bits as well. I feel like the text is focused on class antagonism, and how such is inherent to capitalism, which is honestly fine for a propaganda leaflet. But as a contemporary introduction to Marxism it leaves some holes.

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"Citizen Weston illustrated his theory by telling you that a bowl contains a certain quantity of soup, to be eaten by a certain number of persons, an increase in the broadness of the spoons would produce no increase in the amount of soup. He must allow me to find this illustration rather spoony."
- Marx, Value, Price and profit -


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 Post subject: Re: Wage Labour and Capital
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:58 pm 
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I found this article by Alfred Hazell on the term "cost of production". (from Westralian Worker, some info on Hazell here: https://libcom.org/library/two-typical- ... -ap-hazell)

"Cost of production"
9 September 1921

When Marx wrote the first part of his "Das Capital" he seemed to hare been unduly impressed with the desire of confuting the orthodox economists, for whom he had a great contempt.

The consequence was that his book does not straightaway give the reader a clear impression of his views. Able as he was Marx had the German fatuity of going a long way round to tell his story, which is rather repellant to the English cast of mind which desires an author to be directly explicit and not beat about the bush, and leave this and that to be explained in another volume. Marx, no doubt subdivides his work with the best of intention, and he undoubtedly shortened his life in his assiduity to expound every possible phase which capital might assume.

Marx, of course, had a difficult task to perform, for he had to coin many new phrases, and he had also to make the best use possible of the current terms used by economists. The term "Cost of Production," is perhaps the one which has created the most confusion in the mind of the social student.

What governs the cost of production of an article, according to Marx, is the amount of labor embodied in it.

But the amount of labor embodied in a pound's worth of matches is considerably more than that embodied in a "teddy bear" priced at £1 in a fashionable toy shop. Yes, there is a divergence here between the quantity of labor embodied in the two articles, but as they both exchange for the same price, the market determines that they are of equal value.

Furthermore, there may be a hundred sorts of labor in the matches and but fifty in a teddy bear. The capitalist vendor will tell you he knows nothing of this; all he knows is that each article has had its various forms of labor—quarter to gold labor, and they both are equal to a sovereign.

So now we come to the question: Who or what determines the cost of production of commodities?—The market.

That invisible individuality the market, on behalf of the capitalist, puts a price on the goods, and here we come up against a new term, "Price of Production." The price of production of an article is a much more intelligible phrase than "cost of production," because it tells you what is the money value of the article, and that any labor equation in the two commodities is no concern of the vendors. They know without doubt that two sovereigns are equal to one another.

Now, if we recognise that labor in the abstract is the substance of exchange value, we need a phrase that expresses that actuality.

The term "cost of production" as determined by the market, of course, merely means price of production, under which the amount of labor in the two articles may vary, although declared to be equal by being priced the same.

To express the two ideas when two commodities are equal and are at variance in the quantity of labor contained in them we require two terms. Now, "cost of production" and "price of production" would suffice if we so choose, but "cost of production" has become so familiarised in the works of political economy when Marx wrote that it is hard to determine at times the exact meaning he attaches to it.

The "social sort" would be a good term to use to denote the amount of labor and "cost of production," the price as determined by the capitalist market.

We could say cost of production in labor and cost of production in money, but custom would not listen to it, and we must therefore rest satisfied with bearing in mind the difference in the real and imaginary amount of labor in commodities when placed on the market.


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 Post subject: Re: Wage Labour and Capital
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:41 pm 
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I dig that you just skimmed it, but the very end of that section on prices says this pretty explicity

Marx wrote:
The determination of price by cost of production is tantamount to the determination of price by the labor-time requisite to the production of a commodity, for the cost of production consists, first of raw materials and wear and tear of tools, etc., i.e., of industrial products whose production has cost a certain number of work-days, which therefore represent a certain amount of labor-time, and, secondly, of direct labor, which is also measured by its duration.


Additionally, Marx didn't leave us with a developed crisis theory at all so it's not surprising to have missed it in this work.

As far as focusing on class antagonisms goes, Marx emphasizes class antagonisms as the driver of history in general as well as specific movements (particularly wages), so I don't think looking too hard at the question of class antagonisms can ever really be a 'wrong' way to start looking at Marxism.

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 Post subject: Re: Wage Labour and Capital
PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 10:43 am 
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I just bought a co-worker a copy of Wage Labor and Capital / Value, Price and Profit published together in one book. It was a great idea to combine these 2 texts (drafted 20 years apart) into one text, as the latter elaborates on what was in the former: an attempt to introduce "regular workers" to Marx's categories


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 Post subject: Re: Wage Labour and Capital
PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 9:11 pm 
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Z. is correct. WL&C as an introduction does leave some holes, because price is not just value, is not just "merely the expression of the value of a commodity in terms of one particular commodity, how this value is determined by labour in the abstract, and how it, by it's very nature, must come to express itself in the price of the commodity." In fact that expression is a re-iteration of the holes that appear in Marx's early discussions.

The relation of price to value is that price is the expression of value in money terms, i.e. not simply abstract labor time, or labor in the abstract, but socially necessary labor-time and thus is determined by value but expressed and manifested by the general conditions of capital accumulation and reproduction, which always involves the deviation of price from value, including size of capitals, rates of profit, etc. It's in the Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1864, and in volume 3, that Marx provides this "more embracing" analysis, if I remember correctly.
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