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Thread: Socialism and its contradictions

  1. #101
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    The topic of this thread reminded me of a passage from Trotsky's The Revolution Betrayed (pp. 41-42):

    A socialist state even in America, on the basis of the most advanced capitalism, could not immediately provide everyone with as much as he needs, and would therefore be compelled to spur everyone as much as possible. The duty of stimulator in these circumstances naturally falls to the state, which in its turn cannot but resort, with various changes and mitigations, to the method of labor payment worked out by capitalism. It was Marx who wrote in 1875: "Bourgeois law . . . is inevitable in the first phase of the communist society, in that form in which it issues after long labor pains from capitalist society. Law can never be higher than the economic structure and the cultural development of society conditioned by that structure."

    In explaining these remarkable lines, Lenin adds: "Bourgeois law in relation to the distribution of the objects of consumption assumes, of course, inevitably a bourgeois state, for law is nothing without an apparatus capable of compelling observance of its norms. It follows (we are still quoting Lenin) that under Communism not only will bourgeois law survive for a certain time, but also even a bourgeois state without the bourgeoisie!" This highly significant conclusion, completely ignored by official theoreticians, has a decisive significance for the understanding of the nature of the Soviet state—or more accurately, for a first approach to such understanding. Insofar as the state which assumes the task of socialist transformation is compelled to defend inequality—that is, the material prilvileges of a minority—by methods of compulsion, insofar does it also remain a "bourgeois" state, even though without a bourgeoisie. These words contain neither praise nor blame; they merely name things their real names.

    The bourgeois norms of distribution, by hastening the growth of material power, ought to serve socialist aims—but only in the last analysis. The state assumes directly and from the very beginning a dual character: socialistic, insofar as it defends social property in the means of production; bourgeois, insofar as the distribution of life's goods is carried out with a capitalistic measure of value and all the consequences ensuing therefrom. Such a contradictory characterization may horrify the dogmatists and scholastics; we can only offer them our condolences.
    So it appears that even Trotsky would agree with Prof. Cockshott, in that socialism will indeed possess its own contradictions, at least initially.
    Last edited by NewSocialist; 2nd July 2011 at 18:59. Reason: Typos

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  3. #102
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    So it appears that even Trotsky would agree with Prof. Cockshott in that socialism will indeed possess its own contradictions, at least at first.
    Except those are not contradictions as Marx understood, explained, developed in his critique of capital.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RED DAVE View Post
    Stop being silly. The Saudi Arabian government receives all the oil profits from its country. Gas in that country is dirt cheap and the population recieves free education and medical benefits.

    It's aill capitalism, just like under Rockefeller. There is no difference in terms of class ownership, unless you're deluded enough to think that Russia is some kind of socialism.

    RED DAVE
    Saudi Arabia is a kind of tribal, semi-feudal society. Russia may not be socialist, but it is clearly not completely capitalist unless you believe Putin is Rockefeller. State capitalism seems to be the best description.

  5. #104
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    Quote Originally Posted by S.Artesian View Post
    Except those are not contradictions as Marx understood, explained, developed in his critique of capital.
    Again, Trotsky offers his condolences to the dogmatists.

  6. #105
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    Quote Originally Posted by ar734 View Post
    Again, Trotsky offers his condolences to the dogmatists.

    Nice. Marx's methodology and analytic critique of the contradictions immanent in capitalism is now "dogmatism."

    Yet another pseudo-"pragmatist" mistaking Trotsky's shortcomings for his strengths.

    Russia may not be socialist, but it is clearly not completely capitalist unless you believe Putin is Rockefeller. State capitalism seems to be the best description.
    Fucking pricelss-- not completely capitalist? How does it differ from "completely capitalist" countries like France, Singapore, Mexico, Venezuela. Or maybe those countries aren't "completely capitalist."

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  8. #106
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    Quote Originally Posted by Die Neue Zeit View Post
    It isn't money in the real sense if it doesn't circulate. Cockshott isn't proposing that. It's only "money" in the sense of consumers buying goods with them (and, in PC's case, exchanging it for long-term savings certificates and such).

    Wait, buying goods with them isn't "circulation"?


    If all the circulation was contained within the Soviet Union... maybe, but only just maybe. However, just as there is no such thing as socialism in one country, there is no such thing as money circulation in one country.

    Does anyone recall that the fSU did not exist in isolation, but had developed pretty extensive trading relations with various countries at various times?

    And exactly how was the fSU to conduct those trades? With "money that didn't circulate"? Or through hard currency exchanges of oil and gas for marks, schillings, dollars, etc?

    And how then do you stop that hard currency exchange from eating away at your economy from the inside and the outside? You can't. If "your money" -- the ruble, the Lenin, the Mao, whatever you want to call it isn't "circulating," is restricted in what it can purchase, you can bet there's some other money out there that isn't so restricted. Some other money that can get you those blue jeans, Marlboros, Rolling Stones tapes, whatever.

    Same thing with "labor vouchers."

    The problem here with these notions of "non-capital" money, "real time " labor vouchers for cost accounting, is that you never get beyond labor as a means of exchange for subsistence, or "subsistence plus."

    You never get to production based on need, but only to different iterations of production based on cost.

  9. #107
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    Quote Originally Posted by syndicat View Post
    we've been thru this before. you've never provided a clear definition or explication of what "subjective" means. preferences are observable in behavior. as with other mental properties, we posit them to explain behavior.
    I've linked before to the subjective theory of value on wikipedia.

    It's true that preferences are observable behaviour. However, that doesn't mean that they determine value.

    Quote Originally Posted by syndicat View Post
    your second sentence has no meaning apart from a context. you also don't explain what you mean by "value" when you say "subjective viewpoints have a very weak impact on value." The fact is, how people evaluate options or potential items of consumption is what determines the value to them of those options or items of actual or potential production. and people "evaluate" in this sense when they make a choice in a context where they can't have both A and B but must choose between them.
    Subjective opinions and evaluations of a good have a weak impact on value. I gave some examples but it basically goes like this.

    A) Changes in subjective valuations can impact price over the short term. Fads or global external changes of various sorts can cause this to occur. If production doesn't have time to catch up with the demand, prices can rise. If a good is purely based on short term subjective preference, such as toys which become popular, the price may never reflect value.

    B) Subjective valuations can determine what is produced. If something is affordable* and has use-values then people will purchase it. If something is either not affordable or has no use-value then it will not be produced. Affordability is relative to income.

    Those two aspects influence pricing. This is what I mean by a "weak" impact.

    Since incomes are finite, we have to truncate our demands subject to this constraint, hence only affordable goods are produced. In this way indifference curves represent something real. If we can have X quantity of good A or Y quantity of good Z, that will impact which we choose and subsequently it will impact which goods are produced.

    However, the price of that good is only related to the aggregate preferences ordering in the short term. The real cost of the good is determined by the objective factors related to its production.

    You keep saying that the labour theory of value is obsolete. The fact of the matter is that it's predictive of price. The subjective theory of value is entirely untenable. It simply is not possible to take aggregate preferences and determine price. If you think that this is incorrect, it is necessary to provide some empirical evidence.

    This is essentially just a discussion on the viability of the LTV as a theory. If you really want to have a discussion on this, it should probably be done elsewhere.

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  11. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zanthorus View Post
    This was one of Marx's major points though, that an economy where labour was not organised as wage-labour but as associated labour would not need the mediation of value to distribute social labour-time among the branches of production, but could do this consciously and in accordance with a definite plan.
    If Marx made that point then he was wrong.

    There is planning, partial planning or no planning. The first two are going to require a system of accounting and measures to determine which plans are more optimal. It is simply impossible to go through every permutation of every good and decide if we want to produce it subject to the constraints provided by every other possible choice. Choosing no planning will be a disaster, and will almost certainly result in a return of the market.

    EDIT: It may be possible to use measures other than labour value, hence it's not necessarily wrong. However, nobody appears to be proposing a more suitable measure.

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    I have basically no idea what in that post contradicted what I just said, except maybe you think that 'accounting and measures' amounts to production through the mediation of value, in which case you've nicely shown how your transhistorical Ricardian understanding of value is completely at odds with Marx's but whatever.
    "From the relationship of estranged labor to private property it follows further that the emancipation of society from private property, etc., from servitude, is expressed in the political form of the emancipation of the workers; not that their emancipation alone is at stake, but because the emancipation of the workers contains universal human emancipation – and it contains this because the whole of human servitude is involved in the relation of the worker to production, and all relations of servitude are but modifications and consequences of this relation."

    - Karl Marx -

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  14. #110
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zanthorus View Post
    I have basically no idea what in that post contradicted what I just said, except maybe you think that 'accounting and measures' amounts to production through the mediation of value, in which case you've nicely shown how your transhistorical Ricardian understanding of value is completely at odds with Marx's but whatever.
    A) Using "Ricardian" as an insult is absurd.

    Marx was essentially starting off as a Ricardian socialist and developing his theory in that framework. Some of Marx's contributions represent an improvement (for instance, the clear distinction between use-value and exchange-value). Some of them have proved to be of little use (for instance, prices of production).

    B) Who cares what Marx said if he was wrong?

    You are attributing him prophet-like status. It should not be sufficient to say: "You don't understand Marx" or "Marx said X" as a way of demonstrating something. It has to be justifiable on its own basis.

    'Production through the mediation of value', presumably means exchange-value and would occur if we were using labour time accounting. That's perfectly true, but why would it not be socialist or undesirable? What would you suggest?

    I think it's incredibly weird that people think the problem in capitalism is that goods reflect their labour time. That's not the crux at all. The main problem is that the capitalists own the means of production and exploit labour.

    If we use some other optimisation strategy, then that will represent "value" and hence we will be mediating production through that "value". A huge complex economy will have to have an accounting method which essentially amounts to mediation. Rejecting that is a failure to come to grips with reality.

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  16. #111
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    However, the price of that good is only related to the aggregate preferences ordering in the short term. The real cost of the good is determined by the objective factors related to its production.
    nope. social opportunity costs have a meaning only in relation to what people want.
    The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by syndicat View Post
    nope. social opportunity costs have a meaning only in relation to what people want.
    Obviously, that's true because the statement is a tautology. However, it isn't evidence that STV is predictive of price. Seeing as how there is empirical evidence to the contrary, you need to either refute that or supply supporting evidence for your theory.

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  19. #113
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan Duffy View Post
    Using "Ricardian" as an insult is absurd.
    No it isn't, it is fairly commonplace for value-form theorists to accuse the proponents of the 'orthodox' interpretation of being Ricardian since they focus primarily on the substance of value of as socially necessary labour-time while ignoring the innovation which Marx made with regards all prior incarnations of the labour theory of value which was the study of the form of value, that is how value is expressed in the everyday world of apperances through the act of exchange. It is entirely appropriate to accuse people who take a substantialist position on the theory of value of being Ricardian unless you can show that Ricardo also secretely had an analysis of commodity fetishism and the value-form, which is highly unlikely because that would've made Ricardo a socialist rather than an apologist for capital.

    Marx was essentially starting off as a Ricardian socialist
    Not in the slightest. The analysis of how social labour is mediated for the individual in a commodity producing society through the money-form is present as early as the Comments on James Mill and the 1844 Manuscripts. As even the orthodox interpreters of value theory could have told you, Marx began his intellectual journey as a Hegelian, and his critique of political economy developed from the inversion of Hegel's dialectic. The analysis of the substance and form of value is the classic Hegelian distinction (which can be traced through philosophy back to Hegel) between essence and appearance. Marx's encounter with Ricardo came after his encounter with Hegel and after his conversion to socialism. Let's also not forget that Marx is explicitly critical of the Ricardian socialists throughout, for example, the Theories of Surplus-Value.

    Some of them have proved to be of little use (for instance, prices of production).
    The idea that goods trade at prices of production wasn't necessarily an innovation on Marx's part, it was already present to some extent in Smith and Ricardo, however Ricardo never managed to figure out a way to reconcile the prices of production analysis with the labour theory of value (If I recall correctly when he died they found that he had been working on a paper that would try and solve the issue). Marx's unique merit was to reconcile the two in a logically consistent way by the strict distinction between the substance and the form of value, or to put another way, between value and price.

    Who cares what Marx said if he was wrong?
    Because first of all Marx's analysis is not something you can chop up until little pieces and then accept this part and throw away the other part, it forms a distinct logical whole and while it may be the case that certain parts may be logically irrelevant to the overall argument, when it comes to something that was as central to Marx's understanding as value, you're going to have to do a lot of explaining to show how that fundamental pillar can be knocked out of Marx's analysis and yet leave the rest standing. And second of all you haven't shown that Marx was wrong.

    'Production through the mediation of value', presumably means exchange-value and would occur if we were using labour time accounting.
    No it wouldn't, you can't have exchange-value if you don't have exchange between private entities. You are confusing socially equated labour in general with it's specifically capitalist form of abstract labour, the latter of which only exists where the labour of the individual is not a direct component part of the total social labour i.e. where production isn't planned.
    "From the relationship of estranged labor to private property it follows further that the emancipation of society from private property, etc., from servitude, is expressed in the political form of the emancipation of the workers; not that their emancipation alone is at stake, but because the emancipation of the workers contains universal human emancipation – and it contains this because the whole of human servitude is involved in the relation of the worker to production, and all relations of servitude are but modifications and consequences of this relation."

    - Karl Marx -

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  21. #114
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    (1) Let me try to inject a different point of view, especially into the discussion of socialism and exchange. But before I do so, let me point out that PC has entirely failed to demonstrate (a) that the USSR, etc., was any kind of socialism or (b) that there are any fundamental developmental contradictions within socialism. The remnants of the stalinist world view die hard.

    (2) What I propose is to look at a socialism economy as it will actually work: not from the top, where a few godlike planners have to cope with the difficulties of gathering information and the heavy burdens of carrying out decisions made by "the whole population." Instead, let's look at the bottom, where billions of workers (socialism, comrades, will be global, or it will not be at all) are actually performing the work they do, which includes not only the production of use-values but also record keeping, transportation, storage, etc.

    (3) What I'm saying is that the problems of information gathering and decision making are only problems if one looks at them from a top-down, bureaucratic POV. If we are at the bottom, with the working class actually doing the work, what looks like problems to the bureaucrat are actually the normal functions attendant on doing work. Problems of work, organizing work, exchange of use-values, acquiring the wherewithal of life on a daily basis, building schools, roads and the like are what working people do. They are not a nightmare of figures that has to be mastered or a set of commands that have to be issued from on high.

    (4) If we try to envision this vast network, involving billions of people, self-organized in workplaces, buildings, homes, farms, schools, neighborhoods, cities, towns, countries, etc., relating to each other democratically, making, shipping, receiving and consuming use-values, that's an economy. If this same group of people, using the same networks over which the use-values flow, now, consciously and deliberately, uses the network that they have created as a medium of communication and control, we have the basis for a socialist economy already established at the workplaces.

    (5) This is, I hope, a diametrical opposite to the bureaucratic state capitalism, often called stalinism, which characterized the economies of the USSR, China, Eastern Europe, Cuba, the DPRK, Vietnam, etc., almost all of which have evolved into capitalism. All of these, in my opinion, basically used the top-down planning methods of the capitalist economy, whether the state sector or private sector, as a model. What I have envisioned is also completely opposed to capitalism or any kind of market socialism bullshit.

    (6) This constitutes a very preliminary set of ideas. I was helped in formulating by an important point by S.Artesian. I originally thought that money could be used as a preliminary communication medium and rough guideline to set up the socialist network. He helped to remind me that the relationships of production under socialism are democratic and whatever democratic organizations that the workers set up to run the workplaces and the political life of the nations and the world, will do well to run the economy as whole.

    RED DAVE

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zanthorus View Post
    I have basically no idea what in that post contradicted what I just said, except maybe you think that 'accounting and measures' amounts to production through the mediation of value, in which case you've nicely shown how your transhistorical Ricardian understanding of value is completely at odds with Marx's but whatever.
    Exactly, how much labour it takes to produce something did not have any importance before capitalism lol, and it will not have any importance after capitalism duuude, because assuming it will continue to be important would be transhistorical and idealist or something; nevermind that assuming it won't continue to be important is basically the post-scarcity horseshit that robbo203 is peddling, only difference is Zanthorus always adds an extra serving of obscurantism.

    No wait, I guess Zanthorus is right, because capitalism has nothing to do with a minority leeching off the workers, oh what was this minority in capitalism called again, I forgot it, man, it's probably not important anyway because capitalism is really about the self-expanding, self-valorization, self-something of abstract labour or of dead labour or was it of value, wait, I have it, it's the most complicated process involving specific terms where those terms are the most important where it's the hardest to figure out what could be meant by them. The harder it is to understand what somebody says, the closer to truth we get, which is also why feng-shui wristbands which concentrate the zero-point energy of the aether are the best medicine.

    To find out whether something is true, all that matters is whether Marx believed it; and who could be a better expert on Marx, and a perfect moderator for this forum, than somebody who doesn't even seem to posess the knowledge in economics and the German language you could expect from an interested layperson. It remains a mystery to me how somebody can read so much and understand so little. Zanthorus doesn't understand two plus two, but if anyone ever wants to know what Rosa Luxemburg's favourite cereal was or whatever, I will certainly recommend him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan Duffy View Post
    'Production through the mediation of value', presumably means exchange-value and would occur if we were using labour time accounting. That's perfectly true, but why would it not be socialist or undesirable? What would you suggest?
    He doesn't suggest anything because he doesn't understand anything.

    If I wanted to troll discussions about aerodynamics by saying, your design suuucks, over and over again, the engineers would soon ask me to be more specific with my criticism, and then figure out I know next to nothing about aerodynamics. Among the "Marxist intellectuals" of today however, this sort of criticism is tolerated and even encouraged, all in the name of hard-nosed realism, because making predictions is utopianism blahblahblah.

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  24. #116
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    Quote Originally Posted by S.Artesian View Post

    Fucking pricelss-- not completely capitalist? How does it differ from "completely capitalist" countries like France, Singapore, Mexico, Venezuela. Or maybe those countries aren't "completely capitalist."
    Your problem is that you expect a society to go from capitalism to socialism in an instant, you are the Magical Socialist. You want a fully developed socialist society to emerge from the womb of capitalism. You are a kind of pro-lifer who believes socialism begins at conception.

    In France 80% of the electrical power comes from state owned nuclear plants. Aside from what may be the danger to the ecology, it is to ignore reality to claim that France is a capitalist country. It is obviously some type of mixed economy. It certainly can regress to full capitalism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kotze View Post
    Exactly, how much labour it takes to produce something did not have any importance before capitalism lol, and it will not have any importance after capitalism duuude,
    I have never once in this board claimed anything like this. What I have claimed is that the distribution of social labour-time to the branches of social production has nothing to do with this being achieved by value. You seem to lack even the most basic level of reading comprehension.

    basically the post-scarcity horseshit that robbo203 is peddling,
    I have frequently criticised robbo203's post-scarcity fantasies so I have no idea how I could be peddling it.

    The rest of your post consists of slurs and adhominems and I'm not replying to anyone who can't debate by making points as opposed to going off on irrelevant rants about their opponents.
    "From the relationship of estranged labor to private property it follows further that the emancipation of society from private property, etc., from servitude, is expressed in the political form of the emancipation of the workers; not that their emancipation alone is at stake, but because the emancipation of the workers contains universal human emancipation – and it contains this because the whole of human servitude is involved in the relation of the worker to production, and all relations of servitude are but modifications and consequences of this relation."

    - Karl Marx -

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  27. #118
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    (3) What I'm saying is that the problems of information gathering and decision making are only problems if one looks at them from a top-down, bureaucratic POV. If we are at the bottom, with the working class actually doing the work, what looks like problems to the bureaucrat are actually the normal functions attendant on doing work. Problems of work, organizing work, exchange of use-values, acquiring the wherewithal of life on a daily basis, building schools, roads and the like are what working people do. They are not a nightmare of figures that has to be mastered or a set of commands that have to be issued from on high.

    (4) If we try to envision this vast network, involving billions of people, self-organized in workplaces, buildings, homes, farms, schools, neighborhoods, cities, towns, countries, etc., relating to each other democratically, making, shipping, receiving and consuming use-values, that's an economy. If this same group of people, using the same networks over which the use-values flow, now, consciously and deliberately, uses the network that they have created as a medium of communication and control, we have the basis for a socialist economy already established at the workplaces.

    (5) This is, I hope, a diametrical opposite to the bureaucratic state capitalism, often called stalinism, which characterized the economies of the USSR, China, Eastern Europe, Cuba, the DPRK, Vietnam, etc., almost all of which have evolved into capitalism. All of these, in my opinion, basically used the top-down planning methods of the capitalist economy, whether the state sector or private sector, as a model. What I have envisioned is also completely opposed to capitalism or any kind of market socialism bullshit.
    yes, i would agree with this. the concept of "participatory planning" developed by Hahnel & Albert was an attempt to theorize, from the point of view of professional economists, how this networked socialism could work.

    In order for it to work and preserve the real power of ordinary working people, the power of discussing and making plans and the like needs to be focused on the places where people are and can participate in, and understand, the discussions and decisions...workplaces, houses, neighborhoods, etc.

    "participatory planning" is a conception of how these very numerous centers of local decision-making and planning can "adjust" to each other in the context of democratic grassroots-based society-wide planning without presupposing a market or commodity exchange, where producer groups would be forced to seek surpluses and forced to compete with each other, and without presupposing top-down planning & decision-making that empowers a bureaucracy.
    The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves.

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  29. #119
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    Obviously, that's true because the statement is a tautology. However, it isn't evidence that STV is predictive of price.
    technically, it's not a tautology because a tautology is true solely in virtue of propositional logic form. for example, Either A or not A. but my statement is a universal generalization. universal generalizations can't be tautologies.

    maybe you mean that it's true in virtue of what social opportunity costs are. and that's true. in which case it is true.

    I wasn't advocating any theory of prices within capitalism. if, according to you "Subjective Theory of Value" (whatever that is) is supposed to be a theory of prices in capitalism, then it logically follows I wasn't advocating "STV".

    within capitalism, prices are determined by the various forms of power, things that affect the bargaining power of agents, within the market. this can be quite various: degree of monopoly or monopsony for example, class power such as ownership of means of production, possession of scarce skills, how much money you have available, etc. withhin capitalism wants don't determine prices by themselves because it depends on how much power you have to back up your wants.

    labor time is a human cost of production because we don't want to work any more than we have to. but within capitalism it counts as a cost variously depending on the bargaining power of workers, that is, how much they can force the employer to pay them, how far they can go in forcing enhanced working conditions etc. in general capitalists are able to suppress wages due to their class monopoly over means of production. no profit would be possible otherwise.
    Last edited by syndicat; 3rd July 2011 at 19:00.
    The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by S.Artesian View Post
    Except those are not contradictions as Marx understood, explained, developed in his critique of capital.
    From what I understand, a contradiction (in the general context of which Marx's critique of capital applies) refers to "those oppositions that are both necessary for, and yet destructive of, particular processes or entities." (Heilbroner, R.L. Marxism: For and Against, 1980.)

    Therefore, I would imagine that a 'socialist' society could very well maintain certain economic contradictions — depending, of course, on how one chooses to define what policies are in essence 'socialist'.
    "The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property, he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private property in general."
    -Friedrich Engels

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