File spoon-archives/marxism-thaxis.archive/marxism-thaxis_1996/96-10-29.043, message 31

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 1996 01:34:35 +0100
Subject: M-TH: Value - embodied or field?

I welcome Justin's criticism of the embodied, quantitative,
version of the labour theory of value. Really it has to go.

Although Marx at times can be read as arguing this, 
his point that the exchange value of a commodity is 
the socially necessary labour time, is clearly not 
consistent with the embodied quantitative version.

Marx anyway I understand talked about the 
"law of value" rather than the "labour theory of value"
and this may be relevant too.

Since this is all part of Marxism-space, I am taking 
the liberty of requoting a post by Paul Cockshott to 
M1 on 20 June 1996 about the "field" version of the 
law of value.

The usage derives from Mirowski's book, More Light than Heat, which
focuses on the borrowing of concepts from physics by economists.
Refering to Marx, he argues that Marx had two value theories the
substance of value theory wherebye labour time is defined in terms
of the past labour embodied in a commodity, and what he
calls the field theory. In this, value is defined in terms of the
labour necessary to reproduce the commodity.

In principle the two measures can diverge, since technical change
tends to make the second measure smaller than the first.

Mirowski makes an analogy between the substance theory and the first
conceptualisations of energy in thermodynamics as a conserved substance,
and says that the field theory of value is analogous with latter treatments
in physics that focus instead upon the gravitational, electrostatic etc
fields, with energy then being defined in terms of integrals over
paths through fields.

It should be noted that it is 'value' not exchange value that is being
spoken of as a field.

Chris Burford

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