What is value?

June 2024 Forums General discussion What is value?

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  • #106129
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    The whole basis of social revolution is based on an understanding of exchange value.It explains how the workers are exploited via the wages system. But more than that it explains how the wages system can never be reformed to remove exploitation, it has to be abolished. Our wage is constantly and inevitably being pulled towards  the exchange value of our labour power:  through the market and the class struggle. Failure to recognise that is why we still have capitalism.I agree tho' that socialists need to find a way to explain exploitation in simple terms. 

    #106130
    SocialistPunk
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    How about this? But it would be some help if you could try and say what it is you don't understand first..

    Revolutionary Self Theory wrote:
    For example: suppose I want a cup of coffee from the machine at work. First of all, there is the cup of coffee itself: that involves the workers on the coffee plantation, the ones on the sugar plantations and in the refineries, the ones in the paper mill, and so on. Then you have all the workers who made the different parts of the machine and assembled it. Then the ones who extracted the iron ore and bauxite, smelted the steel, drilled the oil and refined it. Then all the workers who transported the raw materials and parts over three continents and two oceans. Then the clerks, typists and communications workers who co-ordinate the production and transportation. Finally you have all the workers who produce all the other things necessary for the others to survive. That gives me a direct material relationship to several million people: in fact, to the immense majority of the world's population. They produce my life: and I help to produce theirs. In this light, all partial group identities and special interests fade into insignificance. Imagine the potential enrichment of one's life that is presently locked up in the frustrated creativity of those millions of workers, held back by obsolete and exhausting methods of production, strangled by alienation, warped by the insane rationale of capitalaccumulation! Here we begin to discover a real social identity: in people all over the world who are fighting to win back their lives, we find ourselves.http://theoryandpractice.org.uk/library/revolutionary-self-theory-beginners-manual-anon-1985

    Or this

    Fredy Perlman wrote:
    The everyday practical activity of tribesmen reproduces, or perpetuates, a tribe. This reproduction is not merely physical, but social as well. Through their daily activities the tribesmen do not merely reproduce a group of human beings; they reproduce a tribe, namely a particular social form within which this group of human beings performs specific activities in a specific manner. The specific activities of the tribesmen are not the outcome of "natural" characteristics of the men who perform them, the way the production of honey is an outcome of the "nature" of a bee. The daily life enacted and perpetuated by the tribesman is a specific social response to particular material and historical conditions.The everyday activity of slaves reproduces slavery. Through their daily activities, slaves do not merely reproduce themselves and their masters physically; they also reproduce the instruments with which the master represses them, and their own habits of submission to the master's authority. To men who live in a slave society, the master-slave relation seems like a natural and eternal relation. However, men are not born masters or slaves. Slavery is a specific social form, and men submit to it only in very particular material and historical conditions.The practical everyday activity of wage-workers reproduces wage labor and capital. Through their daily activities, "modern" men, like tribesmen and slaves, reproduce the inhabitants, the social relations and the ideas of their society; they reproduce the social form of daily life. Like the tribe and the slave system, the capitalist system is neither the natural nor the final form of human society; like the earlier social forms, capitalism is a specific response to material and historical conditions .Unlike earlier forms of social activity, everyday life in capitalist society systematically transforms the material conditions to which capitalism originally responded. Some of the material limits to human activity come gradually under human control. At a high level of industrialization, practical activity creates its own material conditions as well as its social form. Thus the subject of analysis is not only how practical activity in capitalist society reproduces capitalist society, but also how this activity itself eliminates the material conditions to which capitalism is a response.http://theoryandpractice.org.uk/library/reproduction-everyday-life-fredy-perlman-1969

    Nothing wrong with that DJP. The kinda stuff I gravitated to when I was in my late teens early twenties, through contact with SPGB literature. Looking back now I probably read articles in the Socialist Standard that explained "value" in user friendly ways, as I don't recal feeling baffled that often, though human memory is not as reliable as we think.I think the problem lies in certain phrases that cloud the basic issue. Phrases such as "relative magnitude", a phrase used in economics, from mathematics, I believe. Then there is the phrase "socially necessary abstract labour".Terms and phrases such as the ones I highlight seem highly unnecessary. If I didn't know otherwise I would say they are designed to confuse rather than enlighten. Where in the real world would such terminology be met with understanding approval?7. What is value? A social relationship between people which expresses itself as a material relationship between things. The value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of socially necessary abstract labour time needed for its production and reproduction. Price is the monetary expression of value.8. What is exchange value? A relative magnitude which expresses the relationship between two commodities. The proportion in which commodities tend to exchange with each other depends upon the amount of socially necessary labour-time spent in producing them. Commodities actually sell at market prices that rise and fall according to market conditions around a point regulated by their value.

    #106131

    SP,In a sense they are pre-buttals:"socially necessary abstract labour time"So abstract = no distinction of the quality of the labour (skilled or unskilled)Socially neccesary = taking into account different rates of work between assiduous and lazy workersLabour and time should eb self evident: the time taken to do the work."relative magnitude"The size/scale of something when compared to something else – that's a natural language use.  No attempt to confuse or maboozle there.

    #106132
    DJP
    Participant

    Like YMS has said we have to speak of abstract socially necessary labour time because if we didn’t the whole theory wouldn’t be consistent and fall foul of the the “Mudpie” argument and all that…IIncedently what do people think of this guys efforts to explain Marx?

    #106133
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Vin wrote:
    I agree tho' that socialists need to find a way to explain exploitation in simple terms.

    One of the problems we face these days is that many, perhaps most workers in an advanced capitalist part of the world like Britain, are not actually producing any "value" let alone any "surplus value".  Some of them can still be said to be "exploited" in the sense of capturing for their employers more surplus value produced elsewhere than what they are paid in wages. Others are in effect just servants of the capitalist class as a whole paid out of the surplus value produced by the productive section of the working class, i.e part of the consumer spending of the capitalist class.There are various ways out of this, the most plausible being that the working class as a whole (irrespective of the job they do) are exploited by the capitalist class as a whole. This is plausible because, although health workers, teachers, civil servants don't produce any value their work helps the functioning of the capitalist system and without it the productive section of the working class would not be able to produce as much value and surplus value as they do.This could even be explained without needing to have recourse to the concept of value, by just using a Labour Theory of Wealth. It is obvious that wealth (useful things) can only be produced by humans applying their mental and physical energies to materials that originally came from nature. So that if anyone gets an income merely as a result of ownership rights that person is living off the backs of those who work and so are exploiters. The concept of "scrounger" is already well understood by most workers, though seriously misapplied.Of course it could still be explained in terms of value and surplus value, but our critique of capitalism should also concentrate on the indignity of  "wage slavery" and on the corrosive effects of money and of not having it on people's life and society in general. I think in fact that this has already happened though we don't always realise it.

    #106134
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    DJP, YMSHold on there now fellas. I'm not having a cheap dig here, I know I'm down as a "shit stirrer" etc and will likely never be free of that label, but I'm not looking to be awkward for awkward sake. I'm looking for clarity and understanding.Put it this way, if I was in a pub with a few of my non political mates and the conversation gravitated towards this subject, Suppose I whipped out the Party explanation, such as we are discussing here, would I be met with glazed looks of pure boredom or enlightened fascination?The point being and it's one that Alan made. How does this translate into the real world and help explain socialism to real people, not academics?As for the two sentences:"A relative magnitude which expresses the relationship between two commodities."and"The value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of socially necessary abstract labour time needed for its production and reproduction. "These are not normal everyday phrases that clearly spell out their meaning. Sorry.

    #106135
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    ALB wrote:
     So that if anyone gets an income merely as a result of ownership rights that person is living off the backs of those who work and so are exploiters. The concept of "scrounger" is already well understood by most workers, though seriously misapplied.

     I see where your coming but is a  recognition that a certain group – capitalists – own everything but contribute nothing  sufficient grounds for abolishing the market and wages system? Is it not essential that the majority needs to understand the mechanism of how it is done? How the owners get fatter and more powerful, how and why  the 'system' works against us. 

    #106136
    DJP
    Participant
    Vin wrote:
    is a  recognition that a certain group – capitalists – own everything but contribute nothing  sufficient grounds for abolishing the market and wages system?

    No. Why would that by and of itself lead to that conclusion? If the only problem is that a minority has a disproportional share of wealth and power isn't a fairer distribution of wealth all that is needed?

    #106137
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    DJPI've watched two of them so far and they seem pretty good, I actually enjoyed them (does that make me a weirdo?). Though having attempted and given up on reading Das Kapital when I first joined the SPGB some years ago I couldn't judge how accurate they are. What's your opinion?

    #106138
    DJP
    Participant
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    What's your opinion?

    They're all very good. We showed them at public meetings in Norwich a few years back. This is his website: http://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/

    #106139
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    DJP wrote:
    Incedently what do people think of this guys efforts to explain Marx?

     Watched the first one. Pretty good.

    #106140
    SocialistPunk
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    What's your opinion?

    They're all very good. We showed them at public meetings in Norwich a few years back. This is his website: http://kapitalism101.wordpress.com/

    Cheers DJP, I'll go through the lot asap.They kinda remind me of when I was in junior school watching educational films, sat crossed legged in the hall. Probably why I find them strangely enjoyable.

    #106141
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster
    Quote:
    The whole basis of social revolution is based on an understanding of exchangevalue. – Vin

    This i find very deterministic. Did the working class need to wait for someone like Marx or any other economist to come along and define what they were experiencing before they would act? For sure, i like a doctor to come along, give me an exmination and then say what is the mtter with me, then discuss the proposed treatment . But do i need the micro-biologist to then explain how my cells are being penetrated by a virus and how the process is disrupting my immune system. It may add to the doctor's diagnosis but brings little practical benefit. We are proud that before Dr. Karl Heinrich Marx came along, workers themselves were already recognising they had symptoms of poverty and powerlessness and that the cause was wage slavery imposed by a few privileged people. Many had already been working on the cure such as the Chartists. They didn't require an explanation of exchange value. And when it was discovered and explained it didn't help them to understand the problem any better by knowing about its cellular causes, nor did being told about exchange value effect the soutions and cures they themselves had come to conclude were beneficial. At best, it was simply, reinforcement of their own findings and conclusions derived by specialists but it was not truly a self-discovery. I dare say some can direct us to other writers other than Marx who were reaching similar conclusions  but using different terminology and words and perhaps different tools of analysis that maybe would offer simpler but just as truthful explanations(William Thompson?)Vin you suggest we should seek better ways of presenting such ideas. The other alternative is to simply miss them out entirely as superfluous.We can much easier describe the detrimental impact of capitalism on people and the planet by describing the fevers and shivering and tremblings and we can give a prognosis that they will increase the temperature in more ways that figuratively because the cause is capitalists who act as as a parasite upon the body of others and they contagious and infectious so we have to quarantine – remove- them from all sociial contact. This pathological madical analogy i think is basic but who really needs the tendency of the declining rate of profit that we have an increasingly sick world and we aren't getting any better. To incur the wrath of LBird i do accept that division of labour is not all bad particular in science and ideology. I can easily leave the knowledge of bio-chemistry to a few and only become interested when any findings they reach have gone through a process and reached mplementation stage that make their equations real…and produce a pill or medicine and my control over them is the choice to decide democratically in a process of consumer democracy if it does what it says on the bottle (albeit taking into account the placebo effect – in politics perhaps it is reformism). That makes the science democratic and true. If on the otherhand, the drug is not effective as prescribed but turns out to be useful for some other malady…which is often the case…it doesn't invalidate the science but simply an improvement …trial and error – experience- ever so basic even if it can be elaborated into something a little more complex….as Dr. Karl Heinrich Marx did with class struggle and socialism. Rambling over…

    #106142
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Watched these vids before, DJP,  but re-watched them and recognise their benefits and i agree with the positive comments already made. Is there a way we could ask for permission or get license to reproduce them on our website and as stand alone DVD for our literature selection? To add to my previous post, i don't see theory as superfluous, its role is to be the ideology to combat other rivals in the battle of ideas but i also think it simply that it is not a necessity for socialist consciousness as some seem to believe, nor do i want to claim that people wouldn't understand it, especially when the reasons for revolution can be televised and put on YouTube!  

    #106143
    LBird
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    To incur the wrath of LBird i do accept that division of labour is not all bad particular in science and ideology.

    'Division of labour is not all bad'? 'Particularly' in some of the most powerful aspects of human society?

    ajj wrote:
    I can easily leave the knowledge of…

    'Bio-chemistry'. And the other subjects? If we enter a period of revolution with the attitude that we can 'easily leave the knowledge of' 'subject x' to 'specialist y', it won't be long before 'x' will be 'value' and 'y' will be 'economists'.And 'x' will be 'power' and 'y' will be 'politicians'.No-one is arguing that everybody must know everything about everything, because that would be to reduce the proletariat to 'individuals' (which your concerns, about the social 'division of labour' being refracted through your own personal wishes, seem to be focussed upon).Communists must hold that that there will be no 'division of labour' for the proletariat, in which a small, elite group (mathematicians, scientists, economists, chemists, physicists, 'materialists' who 'know matter'. etc.) outside of the democratic control of the proletariat, tell the proletariat anything.There will be worker-mathematicians under the control of their fellow-workers.There will be worker-delegates under the control of their fellow-workers.And there will be no division of labour especially in the two powerful areas that you see fit to regard as worthy of a division of labour.There will be worker-scientists under the control of their fellow-workers.There will be worker-ideologists under the control of their fellow-workers.What's more, any discussion about the social acid of 'value' must be under the control of all workers. And to do that, all workers must already understand the nature of 'value'. That's why we must produce an explanation, rather than quote from mysterious 'economic manuals', that others on this thread say that they don't find useful, as I openly say myself, and which pleas the 'materialists' (they of the cloth ears) keep ignoring. Workers keep saying "we don't understand Capital or Value, Price and Profit", but the 'materialists' insist that they do; 'just keep reading the texts' seems to be their advice.You said in a previous post that you think that there is some 'thin red line' of Communists. I'm not sure about this at all, that there is at this time an identifiable body of workers who understand that power cannot be divisible.To me, workers' democracy implies 'no division of labour'. If it doesn't to you, alan, I don't think our politics are the same at all.[PS. the only thing that makes sense of your argument to me is that you're using bourgeois ideology to understand the meaning of 'division of labour'; that is, it's about 'division of individuals', rather than Communist ideology that it's about 'division of society' into classes. If you are doing this, it makes me think even more that we do not share the same ideology and politics]

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