Subject: Re: Materialism and More Date: Mon, 01 Aug 94 10:04:34 +0100 From: wpc-AT-cs.strath.ac.uk Chris posted: >I would like to >make one final, brief observation with regard to his >discussion of the notion of "socially necessary labour," >which, he argues, denotes two concepts: "(1) the amount of >labour that current best practice requires to make a thing; >(2) the fraction of the social working day that should go >into a given branch of production." Paul claims that "in >neither case does it involve an outside theorist laying down >what is or is not socially necessary." > First, for a theorist to claim that he/she knows "the >amount of labour that current best practice requires to make >a thing" is to presume that the theorist has a synoptic, >virtually omniscient, grasp of the production process in a >given context. To declare the "best practice," or even the >"average" practice, is to presume that one is capable of >evaluating PRECISELY what is BEST (or average) within a given >branch of production. The theorist would have to have >knowledge of many complex, interrelated factors in order to >make this evaluation. The assertion is not that Karl Marx or Ricardo knew what was the best practice in every industry at the time they were writing. They never claimed this. The assertion of the theorists of the LTV was only that such good practice existed objectively, and it was this practice that determined how much labour would count as socially necessary in creating value. As Marx argued in the Poverty of Philosophy, it was competition that determined whether labour was or was not socially necessary. I dont know where you get the idea that any theorist of the LTV has claimed an ability to dictate which labour shall or shall not create value. The assertion that a process occurs, independently of the ability of the theorist to fully specify the process is an everyday part of the practice of science. Darwins theory of natural selection through the survival of the fitest can not be undermined by saying that Darwin had no means of telling which offspring were the fitest. Physicists account for the Aurora Boreallis in terms of protons from the solar wind following the magnetic flux lines of the earths magnetic field to impinge upon the upper atmosphere in the polar regions. This theory is not invalidated by the inability of the physicists to give a complete specification of the direction and field strength at all points in the magnetosphere. I have the impression that Chris may be misapplying the Austrian argument when using the notion of the synoptic fallacy as a critique of the LTV. If not the Austrians are even more banal than I took them to be. I had previously seen it used in the context of the von Mises argument against the possibility of socialist planning. It could without violence to this argument be extended to an argument against the use of value in socialist economic calculation ( though it is wrong here too ), but it hardly applies to the application of the LTV to market economies.
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