[OPE-L:2044] Socially necessary labour-time

From: Jurriaan Bendien (djjb99@worldonline.nl)
Date: Thu Jan 06 2000 - 08:40:33 EST

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1. Marx's concept of socially necessary labour-time is poorly defined in
Das Kapital and somewhat ambiguous, due to Marx's evolutionary, dialectical
method of presentation.

2. "Socially necessary" refers, as is clarified in Capital Vol. 3, p. 774
(Penguin) at once to production cost and to effective demand.

3. Specifically, as Prof. Shaikh has commented, there is (type 1)
labourtime necessary for the production of a given amount of a commodity -
this quantity defines the aggregate value of the commodity product, arising
from the nature of a commodity as a bearer of exchange-value; (type 2) the
quantity of labour time socially necessary to produce the appropriate
amount of the product, i.e. the amount of a product which at the production
price fulfills the effective demand for it - this quantity defines the
correspondence between the total quantity of the commodity product as
use-values and the effective demand for those use-values.
Thus, type 1 determines the unit value of commodities, hence their
production price, and type 2 determines the discrepancy between actual
supply and effective demand, hence the discrepancy between marklet price
and production price.

4. However, my question is, does this exhaust the meaning of "socially
necessary labour" ? I am wondering whether in Marx's dialectical critique
of political economy, there is not also a "moral-historical component" of
socially necessary labour. This could be defined as (1) the discrepancy
between the labour-time technically required to produce a product, and the
actual labour-time expended producing it, and (2) the discrepancy between
demonstrable social need for a product and existing monetarily effective
demand for this product.

Does anyone have views on this ?

In solidarity

Jurriaan Bendien


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