Re: [OPE-L] basics vs. non-basics

From: Philip Dunn (pscumnud@DIRCON.CO.UK)
Date: Tue Sep 20 2005 - 05:21:38 EDT

Hi Ian

Quoting Ian Wright <iwright@GMAIL.COM>:

> 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.

You have no need to persuade me that the concept of a *physical* surplus should
be dropped, along with the distinction between basics and non-basics.  But does
not the move to a closed system throws out any concept of surplus?

I want to see capitalism as a system for pumping out surplus labour in the form
of money.


Philip Dunn

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