[OPE-L:4167] Re: Givens in Marx's Theory

Duncan K. Fole (dkf2@columbia.edu)
Fri, 7 Feb 1997 19:47:38 -0800 (PST)

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In (belated reply) to Simon's OPE-L:3927:

I agree with Simon that the labor input should in principle be a measure of
productive labor, and that using measures of total labor input may lead to
misleading estimates of the time path of the Monetary Expression of Labor
when the proportion of productive to unproductive labor is changing
rapidly. (If the proportion is not changing much, the *level* of the MEL
will be wrong, but its time profile will be correct using total labor input

However, this situation seems quite analogous to the problem of skill
levels. If we take measures of labor input unweighted by skill levels, the
level of the MEL will be mismeasured, but its time profile will be OK
unless the proportions of labor of different skills is changing rapidly.


>>In reply to John's OPE-L:3893:
>>>John adds:
>>>I do not think anyone could disagree with Duncan's remarks.
>>>The value of gold can and does change. However, I think we
>>>also need to acknowledge the theoretical importance "of
>>>measuring the monetary expression of value and its changes"
>>>in models that attempt to capture the dynamics of capitalism.
>>>Here, I charge Duncan with no oversight but simply want to
>>>be clear that we have little shared theoretical clarity on the
>>>"monetary expression of value." (MEV)
>>Duncan replies:
>>The discussions around the "New Interpretation" in the early 1980s went
>>into these issues in some depth. The idea of the "New Interpretation" was
>>that you could measure the monetary expression of value ex post for any
>>economy in any period by the ratio of net national product (valued at
>>market prices) to the living labor input. (There are a number of practical
>>issues involved in measuring living labor inputs, such as correcting for
>>skill levels of the laborers, but these are on a different conceptual
>>level.) Indeed, it is hard for me to see how any consistent interpretation
>>of a labor theory of value could violate this assumption, since it seems
>>only a step removed from the basic idea of the LTV that the expenditure of
>>living labor in production adds value to the other inputs.
>I think a more difficult practical issue is working out, to at least a
>reasonable degree of approximation, how much labour is 'productive' of
>value. As far as I can see, at least for the UK, productive labour is not a
>constant proportion over time of total employment (and nor would I expect it
>to be), so that a time series estimate of aggregate productive labour is
>prior to the construction of a time series of the monetary expression of
>value (and obviously then its inverse, the value of money). Different such
>estimates of aggregate productive labour significantly affect the time
>series for the monetary expression of value (and hence the value of money).
>Thus I don't think that this particular practical issue is on a different
>conceptual level. What does anyone else think?
>Happy new year to all.
>Dept. of Economics,
>Queen Mary and Westfield College,
>Mile End road,
>London E1 4NS
>Tel.: 44-171-975-5089
>Fax.: 44-181-983-3580

Duncan K. Foley
Department of Economics
Barnard College
New York, NY 10027
fax: (212)-854-8947
e-mail: dkf2@columbia.edu