[OPE-L:4831] Re: Stationary prices (and profit rates)

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Sun Feb 04 2001 - 09:40:04 EST

On Tue, 30 Jan 2001 P.J.Wells@OPEN.AC.UK wrote:

> 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, 
> >Mandel).
> 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.

The passage that Alan F. and Julian cite (Marx's comment on J. Mill) is
one paragraph from Marx's early writings (1844).  This paragraph is a
passing comment that has nothing to do with the preceding or the following
paragraphs.  It is not in the context of a discussion of Marx's theory of
prices of production and was written long before Marx developed his theory
of prices of production.  

On the other hand, Marx stated many times - in the context of developing
and presenting his theory of prices of production in the Manuscript of
1861-63 and in the 1864-65 final draft of Volume 3 - that prices of
production are indeed "long-run center of gravity" prices, in the sense
that they are prices that equalize profit rates across industries as a
result of the transfer of capital and that they are the "centers of
gravity" around which actual market prices fluctuate.  I have documented
these many passages in my 1999 IWGVT paper, which I attached to my last
post.  Alan and Julian's passage from Marx's youth in 1844, whatever it
means exactly, is insignificant compared to all the other textual evidence
to the contrary, from later in Marx's life and theoretical development.  

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

Julian, you seem to be making the same mistake that Marx criticized Smith
and Ricardo of making: "identifying" value and price of production.  
According to Marx, prices of production, not values, are the centers of
gravity of market prices.  


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