# [OPE-L:3676] Re: Re: Fred M.'s interpretation

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Aug 15 2000 - 13:44:53 EDT

Hi Fred,

wrote the email, and will continue to do so with the help of your
reply. I can tell you now where the apparent 'problem' lies (see
below). But this is all bound up in alot of issues, so it is not a
matter of any one problem, as such, rather of our general
conceptual approach, and our understanding of the specifics, not
least our understanding of the term 'given'.

The apparent problem concerns the magnitude of the constant
capital which you are taking as 'given'. By taking this magnitude as
given you appear to violate the following principle: the magnitude of
a variable that is 'given' must not be influenced by the magnitude of
a variable that is not given (ie. by a variable whose magnitude is
'determined within the system' or, in other words, 'endogenous').
Indeed, one meaning of the word 'given' would be 'not influenced by
variables within the system'. Yet, the value you are taking as 'given'
*is* influenced by such variables, it would seem. This is so,
because the magnitude of 'given' constant capital, as you define it,
appears to be influenced byn* the current prices of production.

Andy

On 15 Aug 2000, at 12:22, Fred B. Moseley wrote:

>
> This is a response to Andy B.'s (3655). I am sorry, but I am telnetting
> from afar, so I can't include Andy's post in my reply. Andy basically
> argued that, since I am assuming that constant capital is equal to the
> CURRENT costs of the means of production, rather than the actual HISTORICAL
> costs, I cannot take constant capital as GIVEN, as I have claimed. Please
> see (3655) for Andy's full post.
>
> Andy, I don't see the problem here. Why can't the constant capital be
> taken as given in terms of current costs?
>
> Let's take Marx's example of cotton and yarn. The constant capital
> invested in the cotton is initially taken as given as the actual,
> historical price of the cotton. If the price of the cotton does not change
> before the yarn produced from it is sold, then this actual historical cost
> is taken as given in the determination of the price of the yarn. However,
> if the price of the cotton does change any time between the purchase of the
> cotton and the sale of the yarn, then the NEW, CURRENT PRICE OF THE COTTON
> IS TAKEN AS GIVEN in the determination of the price of the yarn. This is
> true whether the change in the price of the cotton occurs in any one of the
> three phases of the circulation of capital:
> Phase 1: while the cotton is in inventory before the start of production
> Phase 2: during the production of yarn from cotton
> Phase 3: after the yarn has been produced, but before it is sold
>
> I don't see the problem with this. Why must the constant capital be taken
> as given only as the actual, historical cost of the cotton? Why can't it
> be taken as given as the current cost of the cotton?
>
>
> Marx clearly thought that this was not a problem. In at least two
> passages, Marx explicitly stated that, even though the price of the means
> of production changes, the current price of the means of production IS
> STILL TAKEN AS GIVEN in the determination of the price of output. These
> passages are: Marx-Engels Collected Works, vol. 30, pp. 79-80 and p. 413
> (the latter passage is also in Theories of Surplus-value, vol. 1, p. 109).
> I won't quote the entire passages, but only a small excerpt from each:
>
> "These changes in their [the means of production] value, however, always
> arise from changes in the productivity of the labor of which they are
> products, and have nothing to do with the labor process into which they
> enter as finished products with a GIVEN value. Their change of value stems
> from alterations in their own conditions of production, which occur outside
> and independently of the labor process into which they enter as material
> and means; not as a result of an operation occuring within the labor
> proces. For they are always values of a GIVEN, PREPOSITED, magnitude, even
> thought owing to external agencies, acting outside the labor process, they
> are now PREPOSITED as a GREATER OR SMALLER MAGNITUDE than was originally
> the case." (MECW. 30: 80)
>
> "It is true that the value of this constant part can fall or rise,
> depending on whether the commodities of which it is composed have to be
> reproduced at less or greater cost. This CHANGE OF VALUE, however, NEVER
> ALTERS THE FACT that in the process of production into which it enters as a
> condition of production, it is a POSTULATED value which must reappear in
> the value of the product." (MECW. 30: 413)
>
>
> In addition, in many other passages (documented in my IWGVT 2000 paper),
> Marx argued that the magnitude of the constant capital will change if the
> price of the means of production changes. In order to be consistent with
> the above two passages, and the many other passages in which Marx stated
> that the constant capital is taken as given, these additional passages also
> imply that, even though the magnitude of the constant capital may change,
> the new current magnitude of the constant capital is still taken as given
> in the determination of the price of the output.
>
>
> So, Andy, would you please explain further why you think there is a problem
> here. Why is it "peculiar" to call the magnitude of constant capital
> "given" if its magnitude changes. Why can't the current magnitude be taken
> as given, just as well as the original magnitude, as Marx clearly assumed?
>
>
> Thanks very much for your clarification.
>