[OPE-L:5099] inverse transformation problem

From: Alejandro Ramos (aramos@btl.net)
Date: Fri Mar 02 2001 - 16:10:56 EST

Dear Rakesh:

I have no so much time and probably I will be able to re-reply you only in
a week. But I'll take up some points of your letter right now.

>Yet if the inputs are already in the price of production form, what 
>is the error to which Marx himself calls attention?

Marx doesn't call attention about any error. This is the conventional
reading which you take uncritically.

After presenting his *second* example, Marx writes:

"The developmente given above also involves a modification in the
determinaiton of the commodity's cost price. It was originally assumed tht
the cost price of a commodity equalled the value of the commodities
consumed in its production..." 

Here the key word is "originally". By using the altered version of the
*first example* of the transformation, it is usually said that this
"originally" refers to the so-called "system of values", the "first table".
But this is unwarranted. "Originally" may refer, e.g. to the preceding
chapters, to section I of Vol III. If you give a second thought to this,
there is no reason whatsoever to believe that in a chapter called
"Formation of a general rate of profit and transformation of commodity
values into prices of production", commodities *as inputs* are still
assumed to be exchange at values! Moreover, nothing indicates that in the
single table of the second example, to which this text refers directly,
cost price is assumed to corresponds to the value of the inputs.

The alleged "Marx's confesion text of error" --connected with the second
example too-- is:

"It is necessary to bear in midn this modified significance of the cost
price, and therefore to bear in mind too that if the cost price of a
commodity is equated with the value of the means of producion used up in
producing it, it is always possible to go wrong." (p. 265)

Nothing here suggest that the error is actually made! It's an "if"
sentence. Marx writes: "if the cost price... is equated..." He doesn't
write: "In the preceding table, the cost price is equated to the value.
This is wrong but I don't care about that right now."

But, in any case, you can make the following experiment. Take the table on
p. 264 and think that the magnitudes of cost prices are equated to the
values of the means of production. How does the text on p. 265 read? That
this would be wrong. So, necessarily, those magnitudes, *do not* correspond
to the value of the means of production. You have to consider them as
corresponding to the price of production of the means of production. As the
example is a *single table*, there is no way for generating the category
Tugan and Borkiewicz invented (and you and Allin want to keep alive): "cost
price in value terms". There is only "cost price", and this corresponds to
the price of production of the means of production. Otherwise, you get it

>In construcing the tableaux Marx had forgotten his fundamental 
>principle, best understood by Mattick Jr, that value relations cannot 
>treated as if they are observable and directly measurable.

"Value" is a complex category in Marx's text. As the form of value is one
aspect of value (Wertform) I wouldn't say that "value relation cannot be
treated as observable". Value is, in fact, observable through its form,
money. Value is not *reduced* to the substance of value (Wertsubstanz), the
past social labor time objectified in the commodity. (The reduction of
value to its substance is another gift Tugan has transmitted to the
posterity...) But, moreover, the *content* of the substance of value, the
expenditure of social labor time, is perfectly *observable*. Nothing
prevent you to observe and to register those expenditures, and to find out
the social standard for the production of any commodity. If you take Vol 1,
Ch. 7, you will see that Marx is effectively "calculating" value as a
book-keeping procedure. Robinson is equiped with ledger and watch and is
able to register what is the equivalente of the *content* of the substance
of value. What is not observable is the *past labor* time contained in a
commodity which appears as a natural property of the commodity, the
"Wertsubstanz". But, still, "value" is also "value form", Wertform. This is
not a separated aspect but the way value is effectively observed daily.
Otherwise, what you have is that "money magnitudes" are a separate world
from labor magnitudes, not the specific way in a capitalist society for
representing social labor. In this (Tugan again!) reading, money is *not*
value but quantities of "numeraire". In Marx, both money *and* social labor
are "value". Value has two interconnected aspects. If money is reduced to
"numeraire", when people give and receive money, they are not transferring
*objective representations of social labor time* (value), but merely pieces
of paper, or corn. And, on the other side of this reading, "value" becomes
"labor" without any coherent objective representation, it's an unknowable
that, in reality, is completely redundant in the "non-value" (or
valueless!) world of the money magnitudes. This is the schizofrenic world
built my Tugan. Hardly is Marx's own. 

Can't go through Boltzman, Mach et al.!! Too Germanic for a tropical mind
as me.

Thanks for the questions.

Allin... in some days I'll re-read your post. Thanks too.


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