[OPE-L:2411] accounting for value

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Fri Feb 25 2000 - 08:06:33 EST

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Re Julian's [OPE-L:2410]:

> This is odd, since there's reason to think that Marx's political economy
> explains the rationality (for capital) of precisely the traditional methods
> of *practical* accounting which orthodoxy derides (see, e.g., Bryer (1994)

The traditional methods of practical accounting were developed for use by
individual firms. Thus, they are relevant for the calculation of
*individual value and profit*. Yet, these methods which focus on the
balance sheets of an individual firm tell us little, if anything, about
*social value and the transfer of value among capitalists*. Thus, it
would seem to me that these methods are of very limited use when we
consider not an individual capitalist but individual branches of
production and the economy as a whole (NB: to complicate matters still
further, to calculate the transfer of value among capitalists we'd have
to consider the international capitalist economy rather than an
individual nation. Furthermore, we'd have to consider how foreign trade
and individual states can impact the international transfer of value).

Some might employ the assumption that an individual firm is a
"representative firm" within a branch of production. Yet, there is no way
of accurately accessing how "representative" a firm is unless we have the
data on the other firms in that branch and, it should be noted, that firms
generally keep a lot of their accounting information proprietary (i.e.
secret). Moreover, the very construction of the "representative firm"
artifice would seem to obscure the transfer of value among capitalists
(and other classes).

Thus when we move away from the level of an individual firm to the macro
level, what can the traditional methods of accounting still tell us?

In solidarity, Jerry

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