[OPE-L:3208] Re: Re: More in response to Gil

From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 16:59:56 EDT

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On Sun, 14 May 2000, Gil Skillman wrote:

> I want to emphasize that *I'm* all for "cutting Marx a
> little slack" too, but along different lines...

Here what I mean by cutting Marx some slack. There follows my
interpretation of what he's up to in Chs 4 and 5. It's a
reconstruction, to be sure, and I'm not claiming it's precisely
what he "had in mind".

We want to know what stands behind M-C-M'. We know perfectly
well that some people or nations can enrich themselves, over a
certain period, via robbery, forced labour, unequal exchange and
so on, but we want to abstract from this to determine the basis
of an ongoing valorization of capital taking place within the
"rule of law" and under conditions of formal equality. We take
the labour theory of value as our starting point. We know, just
like Ricardo, that even absent coercive unequal exchange the LTV
does not apply /precisely/, but, also like Ricardo, we regard
the sources of deviations from the LTV as second-order
phenomena. These sources of deviation are actually a real
theoretical bother -- not because of their complexity (we're
theorists and we don't mind complexity), but because they
obscure the essential, and appear to license all sorts of
delusions. So we'll abstract from them too. In effect, we'll
deal with a theoretical case featuring

- a perfectly equalized profit rate
- uniform organic composition
- no monopolies or other barriers to competition

The challenge is: Explain M-C-M' under these conditions. We're
confident that if we can do so we'll have got to the heart of
the matter -- that our explanation will carry over into the more
complex cases reached by relaxing these assumptions. On the
other hand, if our explanation of the valorization of capital
depended on monopoly rents or other barriers, or if it depended
on dispersed organic composition driving prices of production
off values -- if it failed to apply in the reference case
indicated above -- it would be superficial.


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