[OPE-L:3659] Re: cost-price

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Mon Aug 14 2000 - 13:46:47 EDT

[ show plain text ]

This is a comment on the discussion on "cost price".

John E. is correct: Marx used the term "cost price" with two different
meanings in Theories of Surplus Value (TSV) (i.e. in the Manuscript of
1861-63) and in Volume 3 of Capital (C.III) (written in 1864-65). However,
this is merely a change in terminology, with no change in substantive
content. Marx emphasized throughout that profit is not a cost. On this
substantial issue, Rakesh is correct (I imagine John would agree).

In TSV, Marx began to develop for the first time his explanation of prices
that equalize rates of profit and he used the terms "average price" and
"cost price" to refer to these prices (TSV, Vol. 2, especially Chapter 10
on "Ricardo's and Smith's Theory of Cost-Price"). In this sense, "cost
price" obviously includes profit. However, this does not mean that Marx
considered profit to be a "cost". Marx clearly distinguished between the
actual costs (constant capital and variable capital) and the surplus-value
or profit over and above these costs. Later in the Manuscript of 1861-63,
in a part recently published for the first time (Marx-Engels Collected
Works, Vol. 33, pp. 78-103), Marx discussed the "costs of production"
(which is what he later called "cost price" in C.III.). To quote just one

"Profit therefore = the excess of the value of the product … ABOVE the
value of the capital advanced… Cost of production means everything, all
the components of the product the capital has PAID FOR." (p. 81; emphasis
in the original)

In C.III, Marx changed his terminology, perhaps in order to make this
distinction between costs and profit clearer. He then used the term "price
of production" to refer to prices that equalize rates of profit, and the
term "cost price" to refer to the actual costs of constant capital and
variable capitial.

Marx's main point with respect to the concept of cost of production, and
the later concept of cost price, is that no distinction is made between
constant capital and variable capital, and hence the source of
surplus-value or profit is obscured.

In this context, we can see that Steve K.'s passage from "Wage Labor and
Capital" is largely irrelevant. This text was written in 1849 (on the
basis of speeches given in 1847) when Marx was just beginning his economic
studies and before he had developed his own theory and his own system of
concepts, and a long time before he had reached terminological clarity with
respect to prices that equalize rates of profit. We should always
consider specific passages of Marx's within the chronological context of
the development of his thinking.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Aug 31 2000 - 00:00:03 EDT