Fifteenth note on Moseley’s “Money and Totality”

by Jehu

According to Moseley:

“The ‘transformation problem’ is usually conceived as a transformation of individual labour values to individual prices of production. But that is not what Marx’s theory of prices of production is about; Marx’s theory is about the transformation of aggregate price to individual prices of production and the transformation of the total surplus-value into its individual parts. The standard interpretation misses entirely the all-important macro aspect of Marx’s theory and logical method, and the logical priority of the total surplus-value over the individual parts.” (Moseley, 2006, pg.6)

Perhaps I am missing something here, but in Capital, v1, Ch.19, Marx first discusses the transformation problem not in terms of the transformation of aggregate prices into individual prices, but explicitly in terms of the transformation of the value of labour-power into wages.

Marx defines the problem this way:

“On the surface of bourgeois society the wage of the labourer appears as the price of labour, a certain quantity of money that is paid for a certain quantity of labour. Thus people speak of the value of labour and call its expression in money its necessary or natural price. On the other hand they speak of the market-prices of labour, i.e., prices oscillating above or below its natural price.” (Capital, v1, Ch19)

To understand the problem posed by production of capitalistically produced commodities, Marx points out that while a pair of shoes might contain the equivalent of a day’s labor of eight hours or so, the labor that actually went into the production of the shoes only required four hours of labor to produce.

The monkey wrench thrown into the discussion of the transformation problem is that the commodity produced by labor now has two conflicting measures of its value: the labor time directly expended on its production and the labor time required to produce the labor power that is consumed during its production. Thus, there are not just one, but two transformations of values into prices taking place.