[OPE-L:7941] Re: relation of value to organic composition of capital

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Wed Nov 06 2002 - 16:50:51 EST

Re Simon's [7930]:

Comments without brackets below are more directly responsive
to what you have written.

> Let's suppose the TCC is the ratio of total means of production
(MP) to the  total workers who work with them, expressed in
use-value terms. <


> If we wish  to measure this,

I agree that there is a problem in measuring the TCC [and believe that,
going back to the discussions by Fine and others in the 1970's, it was
the desire to "operationalize" Marxian categories and make them more
capable of being measured empirically that lead to some re-conceptions
of the compositions of capital.]

> then the denominator is unproblematically the hours
> expended on working with these MP.

[a. Is that unproblematic?  Well, of course hours can be counted but
socially-necessary labor hours is a harder concept to operationalize.]

[b. the total  quantity of workers working with MP  can remain the
same even though the hours expended on working with those MP
might change as with a shortening or lengthening in the workday or
workweek. Consequently one measure -- quantity of workers -- is
not interchangeable with  the other measure -- labor hours expended.]

> The numerator is a difficulty. Either it
> is a vector, in which case the TCC is a vector divided by a scalar, which
> is hard to make sense of.


> Or it is a scalar too, an aggregate of the MP. To
> aggregate heterogeneous MP into a scalar requires weights. What choice is
> there other than constant price weights?

I agree that there is an aggregation problem here.

> Then we need to express the TCC in value terms.

Herein lies the rub.  If that is the case then why have the distinction
between  TCC and VCC to begin with?

> But this is problematic
> because both quantities and prices are changing.


> Accumulation typically
> proceeds via labour-saving MP-using innovations which raise labour
> productivity and s/v. These are processes in production. But for a rise in
> s/v to be realised, prices must change (for that is how the war of
> competition is fought). This happens in circulation. Hence two things are
> going on. Capital intensity is rising in production. And prices (including
> wages) are changing.
> The OCC abstracts from the changes in prices. Hence it is measured at
> constant prices, and its movement must mirror the TCC. It measures the
> value of a change in quantities.
> The VCC takes into account the changing values too. Hence it is a current
> price measure.
> (Digression: actually this is exactly the issue that made so much
> discussion in the Cambridge-Cambridge capital controversies so dreadful. A
> inability to distinguish between the value of a change in something and a
> change in the value of something just led to muddle.)
> I don't know whether I agree or disagree with your interpretation. But do
> you have a problem with any of the above?


Well, I agree that it is a perspective which has some practical advantages
re operationalizing Marxian categories.  It may be that the perspective that
you have advanced is an advance beyond what Marx wrote: i.e. an
improvement to Marx's theory.  Yet, I'm not at all convinced that this was
Marx's theory *and* I have reservations (described below) about its overall

We agree that, as presented by Marx,  the TCC is expressed in terms of
use-value.   I would go further and claim that the distinction between
the TCC and the VCC is a more concrete manifestation of the contradictory
relation between use-value and value.  It is because the OCC, by my reading
Marx, encompasses both of these aspects of the value dialectic that I
referred to it previously as a dialectical unity of the TCC and the VCC.

Given the role that this thread -- i.e. the interplay between use-value and
value -- plays in the whole of Marx's theory, I am very leery of abandoning
Marx's conception of the TCC which I believe your perspective does since
it re-casts what was a use-value relation as  a value relation.  With your
reformulation we now have a way of measuring the TCC but we no longer
have the opposition between use-value and value.

It is of course true that the TCC -- and use-value in general -- can not
as Marx defined it be objectively, independently, unambiguously, and
unprobmatically measured.   I think that Marx thought an increase in the
TCC was self-evident, i.e.  it  was viewed as an indisputable historical
tendency.   Indeed, from the standpoint of the mid 19th Century the
growth in the mass of machinery to workers employed could be viewed
as being as self-evident as the fact that wealth in capitalist social
formations appears as an "immense collection of commodities".

Marx also believed that use-value could not be measured  -- yet does
that mean that we should conclude that since it can't be  accurately
measured it  must be modified so that it becomes value rather than
opposition to value?  I think not.

What I will have to think through more are the *implications* of your
redefinition of the TCC and the OCC for the rest of Marx's theory,
especially for interpreting Part Three of Volume 3 of _Capital_.

The above also constitutes a reply to today's posts by Andy.

In solidarity, Jerry

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