[OPE-L] basics vs. non-basics

From: Ian Wright (iwright@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Mon Sep 19 2005 - 12:10:44 EDT


Just an observation on:

the failure to discriminate between the use of technology
> in the basic and non-basic sectors. Hence the concept of
> productivity which originates in material insustrial production
> is being applied in areas like banking to which it
> may be meaningless.

I've mentioned this before, but I think I can make it with a little more 
clarity now. The Sraffian distinction between basics and non-basics is due 
to the incompleteness of the Sraffian price equation, which treats the 
"surplus" to the labour and capitalist sectors as only an output, never an 
input. This incompleteness manifests as the problem of "self-reproducing 
basics", which Sraffa considered a "freak case", but is on the contrary 
quite a reasonable possibility. Kurz and Salvadori go through various 
gymnastics to resolve the problem in their "Theory of Production", but, 
importantly, all their proposed solutions require additional assumptions and 
information from outside the standard Sraffian equations (e.g., short-period 
considerations that involve demand) . My feeling is that the incompleteness 
of the Sraffian price equation points to the fact that the concept of a 
surplus is broken, a hangover from physiocratic ,"after the harvest" 
conceptions, and we need to consider circular-flow, closed systems in which 
the concept of a unique surplus goes, and with it the distinction between 
basic and non-basic goods.


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