Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Me Theory of Value

116: Jean-Claude Ellena perfumer for Hermes: "It's very important to understand that the price of perfumes is not the price of their materials. You pay for the creativity .... That has value as well, a value that I put into the perfume. This Marxist idea that the price of a thing is the price of its materials is false."

Burr, Chandler. 2008. The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York (New York: Henry Holt).


Anonymous said...

So what are we supposed to walk away with from this? What Jean-Claude Ellena has to say is almost so obvious as to be self evident, should we assume that it wasn't known to Marx? Doesn't Marx have something to say about the value of labour as a commodity? Does this quote just represent yet another scarecrow argument?

Sandwichman said...

This Marxist idea that you can just make up any stupid statement you want and call it a Marxist idea is false.

Michael Perelman said...

Scarecrow? I don't know. The mix of egoism the purported theory struck me as humorous.

Bruce Webb said...

That being said marxists allowed and even promoted vulgar marxism in much the same way has Hayek allowed his ideas to be literally reproduced in cartoon form The Road to Serfdom: in Cartoons. As of course did and do supply-siders and Chicago style economists who allowed the top leadership of this country to mouth the crudest over-simplifications of their theories. And on all sides when challenged retreat and say 'Well that is not really what Adam Smith wrote' or 'Ricardo really had a more nuanced view on the impact of trade on home labor markets' or 'Marx certainly understood that the value of a gold nugget found by accident was not determined by the effort involved in picking it up, his thought is oh so much more subtle than that'.

But somehow the effort required to actually explain this to us rubes looking in from the outside justifies dumbing it all down for Econ 101 or Introduction to Marx or for that matter the Sunday Op-Ed pages. Generally speaking all we ever get is the cartoon versions. To then have the cartoonists turn around and kind of snortle and laugh at us for reading the funny pages they provide is just a wee bit irritating.

We eat up the thin gruel because by and large economists of all stripes keep the red meat firmly behind the closed doors of the Economics Department Faculty Lounge.

media said...

chandler burr is on my sh-tlist for publishing as more or less 'truth' one of those deterministic genetics stories, which was not even current with the litterture of the time. maybe his switch to perfume is a good idea, to forget the smell.

Kevin Carson said...

I'll leave aside the question of whether Ellena's tacit knowledge increases the difficulty of reverse-engineering and duplicating his perfumes, in which case the supply may be inelastic--a case in which even Marx acknowledged the law of value wouldn't operate.

Assuming Ellena's perfume can be reverse-engineered and duplicated at reasonable cost, I don't suppose he's considered that the high price reflects *artificial* inelasticity, namely from so-called "intellectual property."