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Now Marx's "admission" (p.265) can be read as either a noting a need to
determine input prices for the means of production because so far it has
been assumed in his tableau that the price paid "equalled" the value of the
means of production consumed in the commodity output. Or it can be read as
admission that value is unknown as the assumption had been that the value
of the means of production consumed = price paid for the means of
production (and Marx does not use "equalled" but the equal sign in the
original manuscript, which may be of no consequence).
That Marx clearly means the latter however is shown by his own summarizing
of his results as he closes out part 2 of Capital 3 where he recalls the
average capital of his transformation tableau: "It is quite possible,
accordingly, for the cost price to diverge from the value sum of the
elements of which this component of the price of production is composed,
even in the case of commodities that are produced by capitals of average
composition.Let us assume that the average composition is 80c+20v. It is
possible now that, for the actual individual capitals that are composed in
this way, the 80c may be greater or less than the value of c, the constant
capital, since this c is composed of commodities whose prices of production
are different from their values." p,309
So here Marx is clearly referring to the 80c of the average industry in
his tableau as the price paid for the means of production, which makes
sense since then it is in the same units as the money laid out for the
variable capital, which then make up the cost PRICE of the commodity.
And Marx is clearly saying that we should not assume that this 80c, which
enters into the cost PRICE of the commodity, equals the value of the means
of production consumed in the commodity output, so the correction for which
he is calling is from price to value.
And I am saying that if Marx himself calls once for the transformation of
value to price and price to value in regards to the inputs, we should
accept the latter as the better formulation.
But it doesn't really matter. Let's disregard this latter evidence and
follow Sweezy and say that Marx is noting that while his tableau shows the
value of the means of production consumed in a commodity, he needs a set of
input prices to determine the cost price of the commodity. We know then
that the input prices of the means of production will differ from the
tableau's values in one direction or another or will cancel out.
I see no reason why we just cannot leave it at that and recognize that Marx
has succeeded in what he set out to do which was not to devise a method by
which to calculate prices and profit as exact quantities but to demonstrate
the kinds of changes on a value and surplus value producing economy brought
on by the competition and the circulation processes
But if we want more, what is the justification that these input prices
should be the same as the ouput prices of the same means of production (and
here we can follow Ernst, Carchedi, Freeman and Kliman, eds).
Where do Sweezy and his followers justify this condition except that only
by this assumption can a mathematical apparatus be erected, even though
that very apparatus necessarily maintains many of the assumptions vol 3 is
dropping: annual turnover of fixed capital (at least in Bortkiewicz's
example), constant or stationary absolute value (or price)and constant or
stationary relative value (or price)?
Either way, Sweezy and his followers have foisted a false problem upon Marx.
Also I should add that in this summarizing of results Marx is making a
related point about the variable capital:
Let us fix the rate of exploitation at 100%. If x dollars is laid out as v
to hire workers, then how many hours must the worker give up to cover the
wage alone? 1/2 of v + s. Now if wage goods are selling at above value,
then the worker must give more hours to receive it. If wage goods are
selling below value, then fewer hours are needed to cover necessary labor
time. So one has to account for price-value divergenes in the wage goods to
determine the length of the working day if one accepts a fixed rate of
exploitation. This is another modification one has to take into account.
I have made two points: 1. it makes Marx more coherent to read him as
recognizing a need to transform the price paid for the means of production
to the value of the means of production, rather than visa versa (this is
supported by how he summarizes his main points as he closes out the
section); and 2. it violates Marx's method to set unit input prices at unit
output prices in vol 3, which is really a study of the macroeconomic
effects of one set of prices (or values) being changed into another on the
basis of underlying transformations of the value structure of total
All the best, Rakesh
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