1920s >> 1926 >> no-267-november-1926

Two questions about value

We have been asked to answer two questions relating to value.

The first question is : “Has land a value?”

The problem is easily solved when once the nature of value is grasped. Broadly speaking, value is embodied human labour-power under particular conditions; that is, human labour-power, or human energy, expended in the production of useful articles for sale. Whether such labour-power is expended at the beginning of the process of production, or at the end, makes no difference to the point in question. That which has not had any human labour-power expended upon it, cannot, under any conditions, have value.

Land, in the sense of virgin soil, natural meadows, ore-bearing soil, or the like, has no value whatever. Land that has been prepared for a productive process, that is, land that has been ploughed, manured, or otherwise worked upon for a productive purpose has, under the given conditions, a value, and this value is preserved in the product wheat, oats, corn, or whatever else the product may be.

The second question is : “Do wage-workers in the distributive processes produce value?”

Here, again, the question admits of an affirmative and a negative answer, according to what is meant by the “distributive processes.”

If by the “distributive processes” the questioner means the transport of an article from its source of production to a spot where consumption requires it, the wage-workers in the transportation industries add value in such distribution. If, however, “distributive processes” means merely the transport of articles to a place where it will be more profitable to the capitalist to dispose of them, then value may not be added by the wage-workers in question.

Perhaps a little enlargement upon the question may make the matter clearer.

An article has no usefulness except in its consumption, and in order that it may be consumed, it may have to be transported. For instance, wheat gathered and sacked in the centre of America has no usefulness to hungry people in London until it has been transported there. Assuming there is no other wheat available nearer than the centre of America, then the labour expended in transporting it to London adds value to the wheat. In other words, necessary labour adds value to products, whether in the actual productive process or in transportation.

It is easy to see that the wheat must be collected and transported to the particular spot in which it is housed, an extension of this process is the transportation to the consumer—providing, of course, the above conditions as to its social necessity are observed. In these circumstances the transportation is an extension of the productive process.


(Socialist Standard, November 1926)

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