[OPE-L:4433] What is Volume 1 about?

From: Alejandro Ramos (aramos@btl.net)
Date: Fri Nov 03 2000 - 18:07:42 EST

Here Dickinson's article mentioned in 4423:


I would like to suggest that, in their handling of the "transformation
problem," Bortkiewicz, Sweezy, Winternitz, Meek and others are introducing
unnecessary complications, due to their pursuing a will-o'-the wisp. Having
obtained three equaitons with four unknowns (the second set of equations on
p. 101 of Meek's article), they then look round for a fourth condition in
order to make the problem determinate. But the problem *is* in the nature
of reality, indeterminate. For x, y and z are not three different,
independent variables. Only ther ratios are significant, and need to be
determined. Values and prices are quantities of different dimensions,
measures in different units. Values are measured in quantities of
labour-time. Prices are measures in terms of money. In each of the three
different departaments of produciton values are conveted into prices by
means of a multiplier x, y or z. Each multiplier implies a factor relating
labour-time to money. The absolute value of this factor is of no
significance. It does notmatter whether an hour of labour-time corresponds
to 1 franc, 10 francs of 100 francs. Only the *ratios* of x, y and z are
relevant to the transformation problem. Given the ratios, the actual prices
can be arrived at by the use of a *numeraire*, the magnitude of which in
Thus there are really only three unknowns, the rate of profit and the two
ratios x:y:z. These can be determined from the three equations. No fourth
condition is needed.
The idea of equaiton the sum of prices (or of any prices) to the sum of
values (or of any values) is nonsense. To equate a ratio of prices to a
ratio of values might make sense."

H.D. Dickinson, University of Bristol.


Now, if one checks Tugan-Baranowksy 1905 original presentation, his
"prices" are in money and his "values" in labor-time, exclusively. He
doesn't refer, however, to "prices" as pertaining exclusively to Vol III
and "values" to Vol I. Nor does this Dickinson himself.

You write in 4430:

>So I guess the "labor-value" interpretation of Volume 1 must have been
>somehow "in the air" in the 1950s and starts to show up in the literature
>with Dickenson and Seton.  I wonder how it all started.  And, even more
>importantly, I wonder what textual evidence there is to support it, since
>Marx is talking about money and prices and exchange from Chapter 1 on. 

I couldn't check it but it seems to me that the key author here is Meek,
referred by Dickinson.

Their reading is strongly linked with the idea the Marx's "first table" in
III.9 is exclusively "about values" and the "second table" is exclusively
"about prices". Magnitudes in "second table" are "derived" from the "first
table". At the same time, it is interpreted that the "first table"
corresponds to "Marx's analysis *in Volume 1*", which would deal
exclusively with "values", interpreted only as value-substance, labor time.

So there is a complete separation between "value substance" and "value
form", a separation manifested in the 2 "tables" (or "systems") and even in
the idea that "values" are *exclusively* labor magnitudes and prices are
*exclusively* money magnitudes. Marx's idea that prices are only forms of
VALUE is, at this point, lost. As Dickinson writes, each commodity would
have a "multiplier" linking labor-time and money. The expression of labor
time as money is not general.

This strange theoretical construction "sounds good" because seems to
express Marx's determination of value by labor-time and this is why it
convinced many Marxists over many years. What is missing is that money
prices themselves are only an objective expression of labor time and that
labor time must be expressed as money, given the peculiar characteristic of
the capitalism, i.e. the prevaling "private exchange". 

By dualistically severing this connection, the transformation procedure
became the "transformation problem" with its two disconnected "worlds".
This is, again, reminiscent of Platonic constructions in which there is a
"hidden world" (the ideal *invisible* essence --"values") and an "external
world" (visible but accidental "prices"). Besides this, it's lost the
historic, *temporal* nature of the process Marx is describing (the
determination of production prices by values), being replaced by the
separated atemporal and metaphysical "equilibrium" constructions --the
"systems" of "value" and "price".

For all this, we should thank forever Herr Michael Tugan-Baranowsky, a
declared Marx's enemy, and truly father of "Marxian Economics" and its
nonsensical "riddles".

Alejandro Ramos

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