Reply to a Comment and Question Regarding ‘Socially Necessary Labor’

This is in response to a comment on my post entitled“The Phases of the Industrial Cycle.” Scroll to the bottom of that post to read the entire comment.

A friend commented, in part, as follows:

“[W]hen “there is an abundance of commodities of a certain kind in inventories then there is no social necessity for these commodities (from the bourgeois perspective—there may be an urgent need for that commodity to meet human needs). Then the socially necessary labor for their production is very low. Therefore anyone who tries to produce such commodities will end up using much more labor than the necessary, therefore will not be able to sell them at a profit and will end up losing money. On the other hand whoever produces gold doesn’t need to worry; he/she doesn’t need to sell their gold to get money, they already have money, gold is money. …

“Maybe I decide to produce the following commodity: a very complex camera, that can be mounted inside a refrigerator, record the contents of the refrigerator in infra-red spectrum, and live-feed it through wireless networks. This commodity will be expensive, but no-one will buy. This doesn’t matter for its value. It will still be high. Of course no capitalist would invest in such a camera. but if someone was stupid enough to do it they would lose a lot of money because the value of their unsold camera would be very high.

“Therefore the social needs and the ‘socially necessary labor’ are irrelevant. Then what does the phrase in question, ‘Prove that the labor … is indeed social labor’, mean?”

Our friend raises a very good question involving Marxist value theory. While my series of posts involves crisis theory rather than value theory, Marxist crisis theory does rest on the foundation of value theory.

Read more …

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