[OPE-L:5651] Re: Re: the infinite regression critique

From: Ajit Sinha (ajitsinha@lbsnaa.ernet.in)
Date: Wed May 23 2001 - 07:06:50 EDT

Allin Cottrell wrote:

> Jerry quotes Rakesh (quoting Carchedi, quoting Joan Robinson!),
> > I think Ajit is saying that Hegelian (sic) value theory has no
> > answer to Joan Robinson's challenge (dubbed the infinite
> > regression critique by Carchedi): "the constant capital was
> > produced in the past by labour time working with then pre-existing
> > constant capital and so on, ad infinitum backwards. It therefore
> > cannot be reduced simply to a number of labour hours that can be
> > added to the net value of the current year. And there is no
> > advantage in doing so." quoted in Carchedi, 1990, p. 96.
> And asks:
> > What other answers have been offered in the literature to the
> > "infinite regression critique"?
> This critique seems trivial, dumb.  It's hard to believe that Joan
> Robinson didn't know how to find the limit of a convergent geometric
> series.
> Allin.


Allin, I don't have Joan Robinson's piece before me to interpret the
quote in its context. But the significance of Marx's insistence on the
commodity residue is great for economic theory as alluded by Sraffa in
the appendix of PCMC:

"The notion of a Maximum rate of profits corresponding to a zero wage
has been suggested by Marx, directly through an incidemtal allusion to
the possibility of a fall in the rate of profits 'even if the workers
could live on air'; but more generally owing to his emphatic rejection
of the claim of Adam Smith and of others after him that the price of
every commodity 'either immediately or ultimately' resolves itself
entirely (that is to say, without leaving any commodity residue) into
wages, profit and rent--a claim which necessarily presupposed the
existence of 'ultimate' commodities produced by pure labour without
means of production except land, and which therefore was incompatible
with a fixed limit to rise in the rate of profits." (PCMC, p. 94)

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