[OPE-L:3621] Re: Re: Fundamental Un-Marxian Theorem

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Tue Aug 08 2000 - 12:23:10 EDT

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Andrew writes:

>The problem is that the Fundamental Marxian [sic] Theorem DOES NOT HOLD
>IN ACTUAL ECONOMIES. A paper of mine that's forthcoming in _Capital and
>Class_ demonstrates that -- under the standard (simultaneist and
>dual-system) interpretation of Marx's value theory -- surplus-labor is
>neither necessary nor sufficient for the existence of positive profit,
>EVEN IN THE SINGLE PRODUCTION CASE (i.e., no joint production). Except
>in some very unrealistic special cases -- all profit rates are exactly
>equal, or physical surpluses of each and every use-value are positive, in
>each and every period, no matter how short the period -- "surplus-labor"
>can be positive while "profit" is negative, and "surplus-labor" can be
>negative while "profit" is positive.

Note two things: first, I made no commitment to any particular
interpretation of value, simultaneist, sequentialist, or otherwise, nor did
I assert the universal validity of the "Fundamental Marxian Theorem." I
only said that claim (1) was tantamount to the claim of that theorem.

Note second, as I stated in the post, that claims (2) through (4) each
*imply* claim (1). For example, if the aggregate equalities hold, by
whatever accounting procedure (claim 4), then it is *necessarily* the case
that the aggregate profit rate is positive if and only if the aggregate
rate of surplus value (rate of exploitation) is (claim 1).

The contrapositive of this is that if claim (1) fails to hold, as Andrew
asserts, then claims (2) through (4) fail to hold. Thus it is
*necessarily* the case that whatever Andrew has established, it violates
the conditions asserted by each claim: he's asserted a world in which the
aggregate equalities fail to hold, or, by Marx's evaluation in Ch. 5,
"accidental" or "obscuring" divergences of prices from values have not been
dismissed. This is fundamentally an attack on Marx, not on my argument,
because I'm not defending any particular interpretation of values or
connection between prices and values. My position is that the micro- or
macro-connection between prices and values, regardless of how the latter
are interpreted, is at best superfluous to capitalist reality.

It's worth reiterating the main point: Marx asserts in Ch. 5 that
divergences of prices from values are "accidental" to the existence of
surplus value, and thus obscure its true basis. On these grounds he
stipulates that surplus value is to be explained on the basis that all
commodities exchange at their respective values. If you accept this
stipulation, which I indict, then claim (1) asserting the equivalence of
positive profit and positive surplus value *necessarily follows,* no matter
whether values are defined "simultaneously" or "sequentially."
Consequently it *must* be that contradicting claim (1), as Andrew does,
contradicts Marx's stipulation in Ch. 5. This *supports* my argument.

Similarly, if aggregate surplus value equals aggregate profit, then it
*must* be the case that positive profit is logically tantamount to positive
surplus value, claim (1) again. So if claim one is contradicted, as Andrew
asserts, then it *must be true* that Marx's aggregative equality has been
violated as well. This is an indictment of *Marx* rather than of the
"simultaneist" interpretation of Marx, because as we know there is at least
one "simultaneist" interpretation--the so-called new solution--that yields
Marx's aggregative equalities.

Thus, the logical force of Andrew's argument attacks Marx's analysis, not
mine. Indeed, his argument logically supports my position.

>You also write:
>"Marx... had to justify an alternative basis for comparing the price and
>value regimes ...."
>Huh? Marx didn't have two different "regimes" (or "systems"). He had a
>single system of values and prices. Bortkiewicz "corrected" Marx by
>transforming his single system into two systems, remember?

This is completely irrelevant. SInce my post does not subscribe to any
particular interpretation of value, it also doesn't require a commitment to
any particular "system" of measuring values. But however values are
measured, Marx clearly distinguishes value and price *magnitudes* in both
his V. I and his V. III arguments--indeed, he affirms that these will
diverge in the general case (see last footnote to Ch. 5). This is the only
distinction I'm making in speaking of the two regimes.


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