[OPE-L:7042] Re: Re: Re: Re: Marxist economics?

From: Francisco Paulo Cipolla (cipolla@sociais.ufpr.br)
Date: Mon Apr 22 2002 - 11:26:59 EDT

Dear Diego, I think you are throwing too much on the list. Too much good
stuff, by the way. I think we have to develop one issue at a time. For
instance: what are the arguments of Brody's regarding the value of labor
power? Is there any empirical work attached to his analysis? What's the
reference? This would make for a more substantive discussion. Jerry will
certainly organize this debate so as to draw the most out of it.
Paulo Cipolla

Diego wrote:

> 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
> theory?>> 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?Simon>> 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. Diego

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