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In reply to OPE-L 2986.
Yeah, I think Mirowski's _More Heat Than Light_ is a great book, original
and profound. IMO, he understands the problematic of value in the way
few other people do, maybe no one else.
I think he gets Marx wrong with his substance/real cost dichotomy, but in
a very important way. According to Mirowski, Marx indiscriminately mixed
the two value principles (substance, real cost) throughout _Capital_,
which gave rise to various internal inconsistencies that Marx was only
dimly aware of and tried to ignore. But the contradiction became
unavoidable when Marx had to confront the transformation of values into
production prices, and here he "cooked the books" -- that's Mirowski's
expression. In other words, he faked the numbers to make it all come out
There's a lot that's wrong here. But the core dichotomy between
substance/real cost (or substance/field) is IMO very important.
Rieu, what Mirowski calls the "real cost" or "field" conception is the
SIMULTANEIST conception. Look at the equations on p. 182: his l = Al +
h or l = (I-A)^-1*h is the simultaneous value equation. At the start of
the last paragraph of the page, Mirowski identifies it as "the real-cost
version of the labor theory of value." And what he says about the real
cost/simultaneist stuff is exactly right: "all history is defined away
as irrelevant"; "turnover is meaningless, because depreciation and hence
turnover are SIMULTANEOUSLY DETERMINED along with the magnitudes of the
Don't be mislead by the term "real" in "real cost"; I think what Mirowski
meant by "real cost" was *replacement* cost.
I do not think Marx *ever* employed the "real cost" concept, OR the
historical cost concept. I think he *consistently* employed
a different concept that has aspects of both of them but differs from
both -- the sum of value transferred to the product depends on the
*current* cost of the means of production when they enter production, not
their original (historical) cost and not their replacement ("real") cost.
So in Marx's concept, revaluation occurs, as it does according to the
"real cost" concept, but history matters, like with the historical cost
concept, because the discrepancy between input and output prices isn't
So the upshot is this: Mirowski is right that some passages in Marx
repudiate the replacement cost concept, and others repudiate the
histroical cost concept. But this doesn't mean Marx was inconsistent:
he consistently *affirmed* a concept that's different from them both.
Mirowski just misunderstands terms like "preserved" (p. 180, quoting
Marx). Marx is saying that the value of the means of production is
preserved *through production*, by being employed. In other words, the
value the means of production had when they entered production is the sum
of value they transfer. Mirowski wrongly takes this to mean that the
*original* value of the means of production (their value when they were
produced) is transferred. But that simply isn't what Marx says.
*Production* preserves their value; that doesn't mean that other
processes can't cause it to change between the time the means of
production were produced and the time they are employed in production.
Mirowski's chapter on Neoclassical production theory is especially
brilliant. Also, in a book called _Against Mechanism_ he has a dynamite
critique of Morishima's hatchet-job on Marx; totally demolishes
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