What is value?

April 2024 Forums General discussion What is value?

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  • #83341

    Let us start with the OED definition:

    OED wrote:
    I. Worth or quality as measured by a standard of equivalence.

    Hence Chuckie's

    Charles wrote:
    As use values, commodities are, above all, of different qualities, but as exchange values they are merely different quantities, and consequently do not contain an atom of use value. 

    If then we leave out of consideration the use value of commodities, they have only one common property left, that of being products of labour.[…]The progress of our investigation will show that exchange value is the only form in which the value of commodities can manifest itself or be expressed. For the present, however, we have to consider the nature of value independently of this, its form.[…]How, then, is the magnitude of this value to be measured? Plainly, by the quantity of the value-creating substance, the labour, contained in the article. The quantity of labour, however, is measured by its duration, and labour time in its turn finds its standard in weeks, days, and hours. […]We see then that that which determines the magnitude of the value of any article is the amount of labour socially necessary, or the labour time socially necessary for its production.

    (Chucky Marx, Capital v. 1)

    This seems quite plain.  Yes, the precise distinction between value and exchange value is, to my mind, harder to fathom, but I can sort of see the point in distinguishing between value in-itself and value as discovered by the process of comparison, which in turn concretises into prices actually paid.

    #106055

    Actually, just to look a little closer at what Charlie wrote about value, we have this:

    Quote:
    Im graden Gegenteil zur sinnlich groben Gegenständlichkeit der Warenkörper geht kein Atom Naturstoff in ihre Wertgegenständlichkeit ein.

      Just consulted both google translate and a technically proficient German speakr, and Naturstuff (natural stuff, literally) does not quite translate as Matter, a suggested english trabnslation is "there is no atom of nature in value"

    #106056
    LBird
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Just consulted both google translate and a technically proficient German speakr, and Naturstuff (natural stuff, literally) does not quite translate as Matter, a suggested english trabnslation is "there is no atom of nature in value"

    Since 'value' is produced by a relationship, and Charlie says it contains no matter, it's easier to use an analogy to understand what sort of 'stuff' it is.A relationship between two people can produce 'love' (or 'hate', if it's on this site, and involves several comrades), but 'love' does not contain anything concrete that can be 'objectively measured' or counted or quantified at all.'Love' can't exist outside of human consciousness: there isn't a hidden bunker somewhere, containing lumps of 'concrete love', like one can find 'coal'.We can, of course, estimate 'love', but this is clearly a human task, which contains social judgements and is related to ethical values, but, as to 'matter', there is no 'love' made of matter.The materialists will insist that 'love' is concretised in 'brain matter', but then, what do they know of 'love'?Or, indeed, Marx's value?Workers of the world, if you want 'love' made 'material', by those wonderful elite scientists, vote 'Materialism' at the next election. Apparently, they've found a 'mathematical formula' that solves the problem of its 'non-materiality'. Lumps of love will be delivered by The Party to all workers. At the love palace of Lubyanka. All wrapped tenderly with a nice Engelsian Ribbon. With kisses from kind old Uncle Joe.

    #106057
    LBird
    Participant

    On the Lubyanka, I had to post this, because I burst out laughing at the jokes.

    wikipedia wrote:
    Following the Bolshevik Revolution, the structure was seized by the government for the headquarters of the secret police, then called the Cheka. In Soviet Russian jokes, it was referred to as the tallest building in Moscow, since Siberia could be seen from its basement.[1][2][3] Another joke referred to the building as "Adult's World" as compared to "Children's World," the name of the popular toy shop across the street ("Detsky Mir" in Russian).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lubyanka_BuildingLove from LBird[edit] Although, 'Adult's World' sends a bit of a shiver down the spine.

    #106058

    ISTR research that eating chocolate could produce brain states similar to those found in people experiencing love.  There is such a thing as the secual failure hormones that are part of the experience of love (or rejection).  Obviously, love is not a brain state alone, the adrenaline release of orgasm is experienced by the whole bod.  Love is a physical fact of the whole body, not just the mind.  It is not an airy fairy thing, but a physical sensous experience.  The meatbot produce ideas of love to post-facto justify their experience and explain it to others, this culminates in the ultimate abstraction of Romantic love (the discourses of which exist to cover up the lack of physical love in a context of business marriage).

    #106059
    LBird
    Participant
    YMS wrote:
    The meatbot produce ideas of love to post-facto justify their experience and explain it to others…

    I'll bet you're a cracker to watch, chatting up the girls…You romantic old materialist devil, you!But, I'm pretty surprised, with all this talk of 'meat', you just don't proffer the pork-sword at them.'Materialism' at it's persuasive best…And they wonder why 'socialists' have no influence amongst workers!

    #106060

    "Allright, pet, howsabout we head o'er t' mine so's I can transfer information rich protein soup between my bit of modified digestive tract and thine?"  gets them every time.

    #106061
    LBird
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    "Allright, pet, howsabout we head o'er t' mine so's I can transfer information rich protein soup between my bit of modified digestive tract and thine?"  gets them every time.

    I can't wait to hear your explanation of 'value'!

    #106062

    Already given it: Worth or quality as measured by a standard of equivalence. Every commodity contains a concretisation of abstract human labour, which lurks beneath the surface of our attempts to find a means of comparative exchange between commodities.  In a way the value is the thing in itself, but it certainly cannot be grasped or touched directly, much,  as you say, like love.

    #106063
    LBird
    Participant
    YMS wrote:
    In a way the value is the thing in itself…

    [my bold]Yeah, that's what the materialists say.But it's not what Marx says.As I've pointed out, many times, Marx isn't a 'materialist'.Relationships are not things, and emergent ideas are not things, in the 'materialist' sense.Using our earlier analogy, for the materialist, 'love is the person' ('the thing in itself').For the 'idealist-materialist', like Marx, 'love is the product of a social relationship'.

    #106064

    Nearly, the abstract labour time is there, but the human mind is brought to ber upon it, and it only exists because of the commodity relation.  Value itself isn't a relationship.And a relationship is a thing, it exists in the world, it manifests itself in concrete ways, and is lived.

    #106065
    LBird
    Participant

    The best I can say to any workers reading, is that the ideology one chooses will determine how one interprets 'value'.I'm afraid comrades will have to choose the one that they think makes most sense to themselves, on other grounds than 'economics'.At the end of the day, only a vote by workers can determine the meaning of 'value', for the workers' movement.

    #106066
    ALB
    Keymaster
    LBird wrote:
    YMS wrote:
    In a way the value is the thing in itself…

    [my bold]Yeah, that's what the materialists say.

    I thought LBird knew his history of philosophy. The "thing in itself" is not a "materialist" concept, but an idealist one thought up by Kant to explain what lay behind the world of experience. It has more in common with "Critical Realism's" mysterious "non-physical causal powers". Dietzgen's materialism was based on denying that there was such a thing as a "things in itself" ("noumena") "and that all that existed were "phenomena" that could be experienced; there was nothing behind them that caused them to appear.But of course LBird is right. "Value", for Marx, is not a thing. It's a social relationship. Under petty-commodity production (which never existed, but is just a theoretical model) the relationship between independent commodity producers. Under capitalism (which does exist) it's an expression of the relationship between the capitalist class and the working class. Which is why, of course, it won't exist in socialism since there'll no longer be production for sale (production of commodities) and no longer that relationship.There's a definition of "value" in the Marxian sense in the education document section of this site here:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/education/z-marxism/vSee also the definition of exchange value (stop off to see Engels on the way down if you want):http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/education/z-marxism/e

    #106067
    LBird
    Participant

    As I said earlier, "love is the product of a social relationship".But 'love' can't be touched, it's not a 'material thing', but a product that emerges from a loving relationship, and a product that has 'causal powers' over humans. Put simply, it can make humans do things, even though it has no material body.In a similar way, 'value is the product of an exploitative social relationship'.Value has no material body, but is emergent from a relationship, and has causal power over humans.It could be characterised as a ‘social acid’, which destroys human lives.It’s a bit like hydrogen and oxygen being combined to produce water, which has the power to drown humans. Of course, this is a ‘physical’ analogy, but as long as the general ideas are understood (combination of components into a structure that has emergent powers), then that can form the basis of an explanation. Comrades just have to understand that not everything ‘powerful’ in nature is ‘material’ (in a ‘touchable’ sense). Perhaps like magnetism or gravity: they have power, but can’t be touched.As an explanation of ‘value’, though, I think that this will be rejected by the ‘materialists’, who like their ‘things’ to be concrete.Yeah, if ‘value’ is regarded as a destructive ‘social acid’, then some understanding of it is gained.

    #106069
    LBird
    Participant

    To take the analogy of ‘value as a social acid’ a bit further, we could show how a scientific test could be done, to test for the presence of this intangible, unobservable ‘social acid’ within a society. This test is very similar to using ‘iron filings’ to show to humans the presence of an intangible, unobservable magnetic field.Since value is an ‘acid’ (a destructive agent of social relationships), we need a ‘litmus paper’, a paper test which makes apparent levels of acidity, even low levels in fluids which a human could drink without any noticeable effect. Humans can be insensitive to acid, and require a theory and practice (chemistry and litmus test) to make acid known to them.A form of a ‘litmus paper’ for this social experiment, to make known an intangible substance, could be a £50 note. To check for the presence of ‘value’, the £50 note is simply tossed onto the ground in a city square, and left alone. If ‘value’ is present in this society, the litmus paper will be eagerly picked up. If ‘value’ is not present, the litmus paper will be ignored, as if it was merely a sheet of toilet paper.Communists could film these experiments, to be shown after the revolution to children then trying to grasp how capitalist society worked, and wanting to vicariously experience the ‘causal power’ of ‘value’. Of course, to the children of a Communist society, such behaviour, of humans chasing bits of paper because of the ‘power’ that the paper can bestow on them, would seem similar to us watching a film of medieval peasants attending mass, so that they can receive ‘grace’ from god. ‘Value’ is as intangible, but as powerful and thus real, as ‘grace’.It’s my opinion that explanations like these, of ‘value’ as a ‘social acid’, which is produced by ‘social relationships’, and is as unobservable and as intangible as ‘love’, but its affects can be seen everywhere, and can be both tested for and its strength estimated, are very useful prior to reading Capital. Again, reading about a commodity that has two aspects, use-value and exchange-value, is made easier to understand if one already understands that a piece of lego (a component), when included in a model of an aeroplane (a structure), also has two aspects. On its own, it is a plastic brick; but as part of an aeroplane, it is also a ‘wing’. Its ‘wingness’ is not within itself, but emerges from its presence within a structure. If the lego brick is removed from the model aeroplane, and then included in a model tank, it then has a different aspect, that of a ‘turret’. So, a piece of lego, in addition to its ‘plasticity’ can also have either ‘turretness’ or ‘wingness’, or neither, depending upon the presence and type of structure within which it finds itself. And so it is for a tin of beans: it’s a commodity, with both use-value and exchange value, if it’s within a certain type of socio-economic structure (capitalism); but the very same tin of beans, if placed within a very different socio-economic structure (communism), would not be a commodity, and would retain its ‘use-value’ but lose its ‘exchange-value’. One of these aspects is intangible and unobservable in a tin of beans, because it emerges from the structure, and thus is a relational property.‘Value’ is a product of a relationship, not a ‘physical thing’, embodied in a commodity. ‘Value’ can be regarded as a ‘social acid’, because of the effects it has upon human relationships, and ‘value’ can be seen as just as social and historical as ‘grace’.The ‘materialists’ who seek to measure or count ‘value’ might as well measure or count ‘grace’. The ‘materialists’ who think ‘value’ is within the physical body of a commodity might as well cut open a rosary bead to reveal ‘grace’, or break open a communion wafer to display ‘the body of Christ’. Of course, beads, wafers and tins of beans are real in a physical sense, but grace, Christ and value are also real in a relational sense, and so are not material, but are social and thus ideal.Biological humans and their conscious ideas are in an essential and inescapable relationship, which requires Marx’s ‘idealism-materialism’ to understand, and this potential for understanding is harmed by Engels’ ‘materialism’, which denigrates the ‘ideal’. Marx unified parts of idealism and materialism, and rejected parts of idealism and materialism, in his Theses on Feuerbach. Marx was not a ‘materialist’, who was concerned about ‘matter’, in the sense that Engels erroneously was. The reality of this need to combine both the ‘ideal and material’ in a method of ‘theory and practice’ is apparent from the various attempts to name Marx’s ideology, which always takes the form of a double-barrelled name, like ‘the materialist conception of history’ (Engels) ‘dialectical materialism’ (Dietzgen; and later, in a different form, the Stalinists) ‘historical materialism’ (most later ‘Marxists’). Marx never separated out his method, because he was engaged in understanding ‘social production’, of both physical things and human ideas, and he recognised that ‘theory and practice’ required both ideal and material, for humans.Just like ‘value’. To understand ‘value’, workers need ‘idealism-materialism’ (or the same thing, given a different name, but which doesn’t erroneously stress either ‘materialism’ or ‘idealism’, to the exclusion of the other)

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