[OPE-L:7035] Re: Re: Re: Marxist economics?

From: Diego (diego.guerrero@cps.ucm.es)
Date: Sun Apr 21 2002 - 06:21:59 EDT

I agree with Simon (7028) and Alfredo (7029). Let me try to contribute to this debate by putting my views in a succint and necessarily oversimplified manner. I don't think I can *resolve* anything but contribute to extend the debate.

<<There are a 
whole host of unresolved issues about how contemporary capitalism works. 
For example:
1. What determines the value of labour power and wages?>>

1. I think that in this respect the correct line is Marx-Rubin-Brody. Steeedman and others have contributed to a certain un-reading of Brody's book by labelling it as *neo-bortkiewiczian*. It is not of course. For instance, the problem of the reduction of heterogeneous labor to homogeneous labor and the value of all labor power is solved in it in pp. 85ss.

<<2. What determines the value of money?>>

2. I'd like to discuss an idea. If the value of gold-money is determined like all other commodities's, why not extend this idea to credit-money? The value of the commodity *credit money* --don't forget that commodities include goods and services-- is the labor society needs to reproduce the entire mass of the monetary assets (or liabilities) of the financial system. If workers in this sector do not perform their labor, it is not possible to reproduce the volume of the commodity credit-money needed by capitalism in order to survive.

I think the problem here is that most people mix up the sphere of circulation (something which is needed in all branches of the capitalist economy) with the sphere of trade and finance (where circulation work is needed too: ads, payments and cash, etc., but where most of the work is also productive: it creates the credit-money, like work in the gold mines and mints creates gold-money; both generate surplus value when producing in capitalist firms and unproductive labor when selling the commodities produced) . Please, see the incisive analysis in this respect of the book of Nagels, Jacques (1974): Travail collectif et travail productif dans l'evolution de la pensee marxiste, Editions de l'Université de Bruxelles [Trabalho colectivo e trabalho produtivo na evolucao do pensamento marxista (2 vols.), Prelo, Lisboa, 1975].

<<3. What is the predominant pattern today of technical progress? Has it 
changed? If so, why?>>

3. I don't think it has changed. Mechanization and capitalization of the production process is still inside the scope categorized by Marx as the *automatized system of machinery*. The technical (tcc) and organic compositions of capital (occ) keep rising, and the value composition of capital (vcc) shows long fluctuations around its rising trend. The relationship between occ and vcc is something like that existing between what conventional economists call *partial* and *general* equilibrium.

<<4. Why has the rate of profit been rising in major capitalist economies 
since 1982 or so?>>

4. Well, the debate seems to be on the magnitude of this increase. I think that Anwar Shaikh's (for the USA) and Manuel Roman's (for Spain: see Roman, Manuel (1997): Growth and Stagnation in the Spanish Economy, London: Ivory, and above all Roman, Manuel (2002): Heterodox Views and Cycles in the Spanish Economy, Aldershot: Ashgate) new estimations of the adjusted (with long-term capacity utilization) rates of profit are very interesting. I would add that Marxian theory is not just about the behavior of the rate of profit but about how the declining trend in the rate of profit makes the mass of profits stagnate in a recurrent way, and how those fluctuations in the rate of growth of the mass of profit at its turn makes the rate of profit draw a fluctuating movement around its declining trend.

<<5. (If you believe in the distinction) what are the consequences of the 
continuous steady rise in unproductive labour over the last third of the 20C?>>

5. See my point 2. I don't think unproductive labor shows a rising trend in relative terms. Quite the opposite. Empirical studies on this issue --like Shaikh & Tonak's, Moseley's or Dumenil's-- fails to take into account the fact that trade and finance are not unproductive labor per se. The secular trend in capitalism is towards the rise in productive labor (it replaces domestic labor by market labor, one-person-laboring families by all-persons-laboring families, and so on). This is what has permitted the continuous growth of accumulation of capital. However, a second aspect of the problem is the increase in surplus-value-producing labor which produces surplus-value by means of commodities which are of no use for most people, at least from a Marxian point of view (arms, money, churches, luxuries, publicity, ownership vigilance, etc.). Growth has not probably been checked by this kind of labor (inasmuch as surplus value has kept growing) but the latter have increased the limits to the growth in the means of consumption which are really useful to most people.

<<6. Why is inflation so low? (Or, why was it so high in the 70s and 80s?)>>

6. I don't know, but again Shaikh's *throughput coefficient* seems to me very suggestive.

<<7. What are the economic mechanisms of imperialism?>>

7. I think we should reject Lenin's concept  of imperialism as a stage in the development of capitalism. This idea is in fact a bourgeois one (I mean its roots are in the bourgeois literature). There is no new stage of capitalism due to monopolies. I look at my Spanish Dictionary to read: "Imperialimo: tendencia a imponer la dominacion del Estado propio sobre otro u otros, en el aspecto politico o economico". I think it is much more accurate than Lenin's definition. Of course, imperialism has always existed. The specific capitalist imperialism has existed throughout the entire life of capitalism. I would follow Engels's suggestion (against Dühring and other socialists): violence has its roots in the economic power to produce knives (Robinson against Viernes-Friday), not in the use of knives itself. The violence we should be interested in is first of all the violence already included in the developed existence of commodities, since they presuppose money, money presupposes the State, and the State presupposes a class society and therefore the violent domination of a majority by a minority of people.

<<8. If finance is an unproductive sector, why is it so predominant?>>

8. See my points 2 and 5: Finance is also a productive sector, but it contains, of course, like all others do, one segment of unproductive labor.

<<9. How do financial derivatives and associated products connect with value 

9. This relates to the more general problem, I think, of how do the standard *net actualized value* of all assets (financial or not) --one value which looks at the future-- with labor value. There is a book (Martinez Marzoa, Felipe (1983): La filosofía de 'El Capital', Taurus, Madrid) which is in the line Marx-Rubin-Brody mentioned above and poses this question as the *unresolved diacronic* aspect of the labor theory of value.

<<10. What determines exchange rate movements?>>

10. Again, I think we have a good approach to the understanding of the *long-term trend* of exchange rates (two Spanish dissertations, working on Shaikh's lines, should be added to the literature on this topic: Mejorado, Ascension (1996): Los determinantes micro y macroeconomicos del deficit comercial espanol (1954-1994), Tesis Doctoral, Madrid: Universidad Complutense. And Cabrera, Oscar (2002): La competencia internacional: factores explicativos de la competitividad industrial en los paises del mercado comun centroamericano, Tesis doctoral, Universidad de Sevilla). Of course, exchange rates are a special case of relative prices, i.e. relative values, so that their movement is determined by the movement in the relative quantities of labor needed in two different countries in order for each of them to reproduce the same basket of commodities (representing the composition of the worldy-traded basket of commodities).

<<(And more generally:
11. Why is Marxism so male? (Look for example at OPE-L.)>>

I really don't know

<<12. What do we mean by socialism, and how do we think it might work?
And I could go on.)>>

Very important problem, but too difficult to me (at least now)

<<These are serious analytical issues and require serious work. Marxism 
surely has to be more than just a political rhetoric. Or, there's not a lot 
of point in trying to change the world if we don't understand it. I guess 
this is to say that you can call it what you will - economics, Marxist 
economics, political economy, critique of political economy or whatever 
-  the questions remain and still require our answers. Don't they?

I completely agree. In fact, I apologize (and beg Simon's and other's pardon) for having presented my views in such a rude manner. I am used to do so for the sake of clearness. I have replied to Simon's message precisely because of the importance I thing it has. [And would like to pinpoint something. I had translated into Spanish the same Alejandro Ramos's paper I criticized in a previous message: I did so since I think this paper shows in a very clear and clever way the TSS view. I have presented this paper for publication in my Faculty's Journal (Politica y Sociedad) since I think it is an excellent paper. The fact that I showed publicly my discrepancies with it does not mean I don't praise it very much].

Likewise, I have put my views in this message in a certain *provocative* way because I think we are in the list to push and be pushed further in the debate. I thank everybody.


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