Asked & Answered


“Philos Sophia ” writes as follows :

“I shall be glad if you will throw a little light on a few points on which I seem to be in darkness.
” ‘The value of labour-power is determined, as in the case of every other commodity, by the labour-time necessary for the production, and consequently also the reproduction, of this special article.’ (“Capital,” p. 149. Karl Marx.)
(1) Am I correct in understanding this to mean that the value of labour-power is determined by the labour-time requisite for the production of the labourers’ means of subsistence ?
” ‘Suppose that in this mass of commodities requisite for the average day there are embodied 6 hours of social labour, then there is incorporated daily in labour-power half a day’s average social labour, in other words, half a day’s labour is requisite for the daily production of labour-power. This quantity of labour forms the value of a day’s labour-power or the value of the labour-power daily reproduced. If half a day’s average social labour is incorporated in three shillings, then three shillings is the price corresponding to the value of a day’s labour-power.’ (”Capital,” p. 151.)
(2) How is this three shillings determined to be the value of a day’s labour-power ? Is it determined by the supply of or demand for labour-power, or by the labour-time required to produce three shillings ?”


If you carefully study the first argument of your second quotation you will find that it completely answers your first query. Your supposition is quite correct.

Regarding your second query, the three shilllngs is not the value of the day’s labour-power, therefore nothing determines that it is. It is “the price corresponding to the value.” It is an equivalent—in one respect only : they both have embodied in them the same amount of labour-time. But the value of each is contained in each, and it is only the likeness of each that is reflected in the other.

Supply and demand do not enter into the question of value at all, but only regulate the exchange ratio of the moment. When the supply of any particular commodity is greater than the demand for the same, that commodity will tend to sell below its value ; that is to say, the commodities for which it would exchange would on the whole, have less labour-time embodied in them. When, however, the supply is less than the demand, the exchange ratio of that commodity rises. These fluctuations gravitate about the point of value, and cancel one another, and the net result is that commodities in the long run exchange at their value.

Value is only the embodied labour (measured by time) in an article of utility, therefore the only thing that can determine that the value in the three shillings is equal to the value in the day’s labour-power is the fact that the same labour-time is necessary to produce either.

A. E. J.

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