[OPE-L:4816] Stationary prices (and profit rates)

From: P.J.Wells@open.ac.uk
Date: Tue Jan 30 2001 - 15:37:12 EST

Rakesh writes [OPE-L:4814] 

>here is another disagreement. I was convinced by Andrew K on this 
>issue. I don't think Marx thinks there is a real tendency towards 
>stationary prices in the long term. There is a powerful tendency 
>towards the equalisation of profit rates along with a 
>counter-tendency for the search for surplus profit (Grossmann, 

I'm absolutely with Rakesh on this one -- see, crucially, the passage from
Marx's Notes on Mill which Alan F has cited in a number of his works: I
haven't the text (or a specific ref) to hand, but it's in the Penguin Early
Writings volume.

Marx is very specific here that any equality of demand and supply is purely
evanescent and accidental and that to emphasise the law-like and regular
aspect of exchange and de-emphasise the chaotic and chance-like aspect is
one-sided and dogmatic.

More generally, I have reading closely Glick's thesis, and one thing that
appears in his presentation of these matters is that it is the role of value
as an attractor for prices of production that is the primary gravitational
attractor, and that the tendency to profit equalisation is a secondary
phenomenon dependent on the first.

I wonder if other OPE members concur in this reading?

Also on this, it appears (from an electronic search of the Electric Books CD
version of the Aveling translation) that Marx *never* uses the word "orbit"
in connection with either prices or the rate of profit. This seems to be
entirely an innovation of Glick's -- unless someone can think of an example
of this elsewhere (e.g. the Grundrisse)?

Marx talks about price fluctuations *within* spheres of production both
balancing out over time, and being simultaneously counter-balanced by
fluctuations in other sectors:

CIII, Ch 9---224

"The suddenness, multiplicity, and different duration of the fluctuations in
the individual spheres of production make them compensate for one another in
the order of their succession in time, a fall in prices following a rise,
and vice versa, so that they remain limited to local, i.e., individual,
spheres. Finally, the various local fluctuations neutralise one another.
Within each individual sphere of production, there take place changes, i.e.,
deviations from the general rate of profit, which counterbalance one another
in a definite time on the one hand, and thus have no influence upon the
general rate of profit, and which, on the other, do not react upon it,
because they are balanced by other simultaneous local fluctuations." 

This image of (counter) balancing is a static one (and thus the idea of
balancing out over time seems a somewhat confused metaphor),

Glick's "orbiting" metaphor seems to be inspired by

CIII, Ch 10 -- 236

"The assumption that the commodities of the various spheres of production
are sold at their value merely implies, of course, that their value is the
centre of gravity around which their prices fluctuate, and their continual
rises and drops tend to equalise."

However, although the notion of orbiting, as a gravitational process, seems
genuinely dynamic, it seems to me that Glick (unlike Marx, here) muddles the

For Marx, *value* is the attractor and *prices* are what fluctuate (just as
masses attract and the co-ordinates of planets fluctuate).

For Glick the rate of profit is the dimension which measures both attractor
and attractee, which seems nonsensical in the case of physical effects.


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