[OPE-L:3526] Re: Re: Re: Marxism and 19th century materialism

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Wed Jun 21 2000 - 12:25:17 EDT

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I was wondering whether we agree on the question that got me started on
this exercise, viz. what are the givens in Marx's so called transformation
procedure. I follow Mattick Jr, Carchedi and Moseley in taking the initial
money price of capital as given (this is why I have been arguing for the
strongest possible interpretation of why money as a measure of value is
also the absolutely necessary form of the appearance of value which
otherwise is only a pretence). It seems absurd to me to hold the technical
conditions of production constant EVEN as relative prices are reconfigured
upon a change in the distribution of income.

Fred argues that there is a debate about what to take as givens--the
initial money sum of capital or the technical conditions of production.
(Moreover, Sraffa's attack on causality which has been pointed out by Alan
F seems more radical to me than Bohr's or Heisenberg's).

But this in no way resolves the problems in Marx's theory of value.

1. What is its relation to the classical labor theory of value? How does
Marx correct it?

Here is my answer:

Marx argues that since with the generalisation of private commodity
production by means of wage labor, social labor is no longer proportioned
to its respective tasks by 'natural' patriarchy, tradition or ex ante
planning, social labor must then be sufficiently abstract and homogeneous
to be capable of being dynamically apportioned through movements in the
exchange values of commodities.

Abstract labor is thus only a practical truth in bourgeois society (and
then only approximately or tendentially so): the labor that produces value
through the expression of which in the universal equivalent the
apportioning of social labor is effected is necessarily abstract,
homogeneous labor. This then reveals the latent many-sidedenss of human

Aristotle could thus not get behind the value form because its
generalisation is both cause and consequence of labor having become
abstract and homogeneous, i.e., mobile and free wage labor. The classical
economists were incorrect to reduce value to labor as such, not to the
labor of free wage labor, the historical specifity of which Marx understood
on the basis of his intensive study of Richard Jones who has been neglected
now for more than 150 years (only Wesley Clark Mitchell and Erich Roll give
him any real attention in the dozen histories of economic thought I have).
In other words, classical economics mistook a determinate abstraction for a
general one, as Patrick Murray has put it.

2. Does Marx's value theory suffer from the same problems as the classical

3. Is it superior to the subjective theory of value?

After all we have Schumpeter's 1908 case for basing economics on the
subjective theory of value (which however he implicitly abandoned as his
entrepreneurial metaphysics forced himself to discard the sovereignty of
the consumer):

It is more correct because the various cost theories have at best only
approximate validity and they never reduce the phenomenon of costs to its
actual source of explanation. It issimpleer because the value theory of
labor requires a number of auxiliary construction, which can simply now be
omitted. It is more general because in the first instance all cost theories
refer only to commodities produced under free competition and partly only
to 'freely augmentable' commodities; in addition they are only valid for
periods of a certain duration, while the subjective theory of value
econpmasses both monopolized and non monopolized commodities, as well as
long and short periods of time. Finally it renders the results of economics
more relevant, because for most problems the state of satisfaction of wants
and is alteration is much more important than the quantity of labour and
the aleration theroe contained in the commodities, the consumption of which
creates the above mentioned satisfaction."

So even if Marxian value theory does not founder on a transformation
problem, there are plenty of other remaining questions.

Yours, Rakesh

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