[OPE-L:3615] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: constant capital and variable capital

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Mon Aug 07 2000 - 19:05:39 EDT

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Hello and welcome back, Rakesh. Where I wrote,
>>4) In a capitalist world in which commodity prices are not necessarily
>>proportional to values, it is nonetheless true that total commodity values
>>= total commodity prices and total surplus value = total profit ( perhaps
>>up to a common factor of conversion from dollar units to labor units).
>>Let's consider these in reverse order. (4) is false unless yielded as a
>>simple tautology by an otherwise arbitrary normalization procedure. Marx's
>>"demonstration" of the result in Volume III is clearly invalid.

you ask,


Answering this will take us back to our discussion before you left. I owe
you a response to your last post on this, and will give it as soon as I can.

> In
>>contrast, the "new solution" guarantees the result by its normalization
>I agree that Duncan's choice leaves me uneasy, though I read his recent
>post (3587) as an argument for why he specifically holds the value added as
>the same through his transformation. Moreover, Fred quotes Duncan
>justifying why he holds the money wage as the same: "Workers in a
>capitalist do not bargain for, or receive, a bundle of commodities as
>payment for the labor power, they receive a sum of money, the mony wage,
>which they are then free spend as they wish."
>So Ducan seems to have good reasons for his normalisation conditions.
>What's your beef with them?

The normalization condition I'm referring to is that which equates the
monetary value of aggregate net product to the labor value of same.
There's no intrinsic economic justification for this, it just yields (when
combined with the new definition of value of labor power) the desired
aggregate equalities.

But so far as the new solution's treatment of the value of labor power is
concerned, notice that it goes against Marx's so painstakingly (and
invalidly) constructed logic through Ch. 5 of volume I: that surplus value
*has to be* explained on the basis that *all* commodities exchange at their
respective values, where the latter are interpreted as based on socially
necessary labor time. The new solution treatment unhinges this connection
in order to guarantee the value aggregates hold. Apparently it isn't so
necessary after all, which is of course one of the points of my Ch. 5 critique.

To put it another way: I grant that workers receive a money wage that they
spend as they wish. Capitalists also choose production techniques as they
wish based on relative prices. None of this has anything to do with labor
values, which are thus at best superfluous.

> No other approach, alas including Fred's as far as I can tell,
>>avoids the dilemma that the result is either a simple tautology or false in
>Don't all scientific theories involve some tautology in their conceptual
>development? Isn't Newton's mass defined tautologously? Darwin's natural
>selection? Again, what is the real criticism behind this charge of

You left out two key qualifying phrases: *simple* tautology, based on
*otherwise arbitrary* assumptions. In other words, the *only* reason for
invoking the conditions I identified is to ensure the desired aggregate
equalities. Nothing intrinsic about the nature of labor values ensures this.

>> More generally, it is more plausible to say that labor>values and prices
>>are simultaneously determined--the problem being that
>>labor values, unlike prices, are epiphenomenal.
>But is it plausible to say that input unit prices and output unit prices
>are determined simultaneously. If that is so, then revolutions in value
>must happen between periods of production, which is a truly absurd
>assumption though not exactly a tautology.

Perhaps plausible but certainly not necessary, so no absurdity is being
insisted on. Since labor values are epiphenomenal at best, though, it's
hard to see where the absurdity lies. What happens to labor values is not
demonstrably relevant to the coherence of capitalist reality.


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