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In trying to work my way through this transformation mess, I know I have
said contradictory things and made errors.
So I kindly ask anyone following to disregard my last few messages to the
list and consider this one. Thanks.
Now let's first look at the logical mistake Sweezy alleges Marx made.
As is too well known, he argues that in Marx's transformation tableau
1.c+v is in values
2.He then argues that while the outputs are in the modified value form of
prices of production after the transformation, Marx has left the inputs in
their original unmodified value state (is the v in Marx's tableau really in
the value form?!)
3.Then he points to the passage in which Marx supposedly admitted to the error
(Capital 3, p.265)
4. He then says that a transformation procedure must then be able to put
the inputs into prices of production as well as the outputs.
Now please disregard what I wrote earlier and kindly consider this:
It is course reasonable to interpret as Sweezy does that the c in Marx's
tableau is in values, which then means that to determine the cost price of
a commodity to which the average rate of profit will be added to arrive at
prices of production we then need to know the actual price paid for those
means of production which will necessarily have differed from the value of
the means of production.
But even if we grant this interpretation there are several things wrong
with the dominant interpretation of this passage on p. 265.
First, Marx is not saying that "the inputs"--he never uses this word--have
to be transformed from value to price here. Read it carefully. At best,
Marx is saying only that the means of production have to be transformed
from value to price. He makes no admission of the need to transform v from
value to price to get the cost price. Which justifies Fred Moseley's point
that v is already the money sum laid out as variable capital--that is, v is
already in the form it must be to be a component of cost price.
But the Borkiewicz-Sweezy method transforms both the c and v into the price
form so at this level it is a complete misuse of this paragraph to read it
as justification for the elimination of Marx's own tableau, which makes no
appearance in either Sweezy's or Duncan's book, for a conjoined vol2-vol3
In order to make this "translation" smooth, it has to be assumed that the v
in Marx's transformation tableau is the value of wage goods which then
appears as Dept II (or wheat) in the conjoined vol2-vol3 model. But this is
nonsense. In Marx's tableau the v is not the value of wage goods because
the value of wage goods does not enter into the value of the commodity
output, which is constant capital plus new value added.
In Marx's tableau the v is the money laid out as variable capital, and thus
a component of cost price. Exactly as Fred says. And because it is already
the money laid out as variable capital, it does not have to be modified to
arrive at its contribution to the cost price of the commodity.
So, contra Sweezy, Marx never admitted to a need to transform the inputs,
both the constant and variable capital, from value to price. Yet almost
every post war Marxist economist has read this passage in the way Sweezy
misinterpreted it. This is truly a campaign of obfuscation.
Second, however cost price is modified by adding to this money sum of
variable capital the money sum which was advanced to purchase the means of
production that (necessarily) differs from the value of those means, this
is completely USELESS INFORMATION in grasping Marx's essential point of how
the competition and the circulation process brings about changes in a
value and surplus value producing economy (se Mattick Sr's Samuelson
The average rate of profit--the form through which the law of value asserts
itself--remains EXACTLY the same; it is only added to slightly different
cost prices. THERE IS NO LOGICAL ERROR HERE.
Third, there is no justification for having the input prices of the means
of production equal the output prices of the means of production. This
assumption should have no play in the dynamic third volume if one is truly
following the method of successive approximations (in third volume, all vol
2 assumptions are off). At one point Sweezy says that after a simple
transformation, the workers would have to save so much since the wages paid
exceeds the prices of production of wage goods after the transformation. He
says that this is a completely arbitrary assumption which can't be
accepted. But then input prices=output prices is not an arbitrary
Note that by the end of Sweezy's transformation chapter, value is reduced
to a mental construct that only helps to clarify the relationship between
workers and capitalists (some would later say that the main function of the
value concept is to distinguish between oppression as robbery of surplus
product vs. exploitation as extraction of and control over labor TIME). Yet
once value is reduced to such metal construct, it is impossible to
understand how capitalist production could ever be throttled by a shortage
of a mere mental device.
There is a straight line from Sweezy's emasculation of Marxian value theory
to his vicious Grossmann critique.
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