- Capitalism and Alternatives -

You awake RD?

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on April 05, 1999 at 16:21:16:

In Reply to: Hmmmm.... posted by Red Deathy on March 31, 1999 at 12:26:54:

: : a) Okay, let's take Marx's use-value; a value of a person's individual preferences. As a person has to give up more alternatives to make a particular choice the less likely that person with engage in that particular action.

SDF: It's easier to understand Marx if one doesn't start with essentialisms such as the above.

: No, a use value is precisely that- how useful an item is to that person, as such it is multi-form and various, an Encylopedia gains a new use value when I decide I can't quite reach the top shelf, and thus stanfd on it.

: Like we've noted before, the use value of Alcohol to an Alcoholic is absolute, and can't be measured by gains or losses.

: : c) now graph Marx's own use-value, preference scale, by drawing the line: (5,0) to (0,100), and make sure to label it use-value. This line shows that the more people have to give up for this good the less likely they will be to desire it. At cost 5 they will want none and at cost zero they will want 100.

: I'm not sure if we can actually draw this line- people must have food, alcoholics must have alcohol. Further, use values are not fixed- a kitchen knife becomes an offensive weapon when pout into your pocket and carried on the street, so we can't measure use value in terms of cost or effort to gain.

SDF: This was, I think, a point I should have made here -- there are two basic relations of value to empirically-existing things, and not just one, because use-value specifies "the thing" (RD specifies "an Encylopedia" above) as a human relation to the natural environment.

People don't relate to material things (qua "use-value) in ways determined so much by "individual preferences" as to the usefulness of these things, themselves, to the task facing the individual, which itself may or may not be determined by "individual preferences". We might choose to pound nails with hammers, or to twirl them as we might use batons, but a hammer would be useless, for instance, as something we would want to eat.

This usefulness of things might be quantifiable, for certain things and certain prespecified uses, but such numbers as we might arrive at, by way of trying to quantify use-value, would have nothing to do with "individual preferences." We might, for instance, quantify the number of nails a new hammer could pound (given proper care by its users) before it (eventually) needed repair, but the number we came up with, accurate or no, would have nothing to do with the demand for hammers.

Exchange-value, on the other hand, is completely compatible with quantitative methods in economics, since exchange-value is (as Marx said so many times in CAPITAL) a comparison of the relative values of commodities.

And I'd like to know where Jacobson got this idea of "Marx's own use-value, preference scale" -- I've read most of Marx, it's on the Web (so he should be able to specify a URL for such a "scale," if it even exists), I don't remember reading Marx even HINT of such a thing...

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