[OPE-L:4469] Re: Re: Technical change and general truths

From: Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Date: Tue Nov 07 2000 - 09:24:33 EST

Actually, I think the jury is still out on what Marx thought were the best
things in his thinking. You point to lab/lab-power, for instance, but one
of the times where Marx made such a reference was the following in a letter
to Engels:

"The best things in my book are 1. (on which *all* understanding of the
facts is based) the *twofold character of labour*, emphasised in the very
*first* chapter, expressed, as it is, in use value or exchange value; 2.
the treatment of *surplus value independent of its particular* forms, like
profit, interest, ground rent, etc." (Marx to Engels, 24 August 1867, MEW
xxxi. 326.)

To me, there are three things in that paragraph, not two--the lab/lab-power
distinction you note, use-value and exchange-value, and how Marx treats
surplus value.

However, I don't see what you see, or rather, I see it in a different
light. You say that it was "treatment of SV prior to its distribution into
profit, interest and rent..."; I read it as seeing what these forms had in
common, rather than seeing SV being worked out before the others are and
then split up as required.

Gotta go! May write more on this later.


At 12:34 PM 11/6/2000 -0000, you wrote:
>Hi Steve,
>Have you not seen Fred's stuff? He's got hundreds of quotes from 
>Marx on this. Marx thought that the treatment of SV prior to its 
>distribution into profit, interest and rent was one of the two key 
>contributions he made to political economy (the other being lab / 
>My comment / question to you tried to make the general point that 
>anything connected with 'social structure' might be considered prior 
>to and independent of individual activity (will and consciousness). 
>So if 'SV' is such, then there is no absurdity. Your brief reply leaves 
>me in the dark as to your general take on soc structure vs. 
>individual but it does suggest that your distaste for the view in 
>question is down to rather more specific matters, ie down to the 
>transformation problem. But what if there is a real causal process 
>that does indeed substantiate Marx's claim regarding SV? Or at 
>the very least, what if Marx *thinks* he has established such a 
>process? (Obviously, this is my interpretation of Marx on 
>exploitation). Then why your harsh judgement on the whole 
>procedure? Neither on *general* (social structure vs. individual) 
>grounds nor specific (transformation problem) grounds would your 
>judgement be valid. Rather, you would instead have to attack a 
>different interpretation, ie. you would have to argue that the 'real 
>causal process' doesn't exist. Fair enough, we could debate that, 
>but without unjustified harsh language from the outset.
>I mean what is the point of an email list like this, or debate 
>generally, if you are going to refuse to even countenance a view 
>which is at the heart of many other people's interpretations of Marx 
>(and of Marx's self-assessment of his own position)?
>On 6 Nov 2000, at 22:57, Steve Keen wrote:
>> Hi Andy,
>> I've since found the relevant quote from Marx:
>> "Thus, although in selling their commodities the capitalists of the various
>> spheres of production recover the value of the capital consumed in their
>> production, they do not secure the surplus-value, and consequently the
>> profit, created in their own sphere by the production of these
>> commodities... So far as profits are concerned, the various capitalists are
>> just so many stockholders in a stock company in which the shares of profit
>> are uniformly divided per 100." (Marx 1894)
>> I would actually let Marx get away with this to some degree if he was
>> talking about what I call the realisation problem--the problem of
>> converting surplus-value into monetary profit--rather than simply trying to
>> justify a numeric fudge to sidestep the transformation problem.
>> But as it stands? Sorry, I simply can't take it seriously.
>> Steve
Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
University of Western Sydney Macarthur
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