Re: [OPE-L] Sraffian surplus vs Marxian surplus

From: Anders Ekeland (anders.ekeland@ONLINE.NO)
Date: Wed Jun 28 2006 - 02:07:00 EDT

Hi Jurriaan,

The problem - which is a general one - is that as 
soon as you leave the static equilibrium as the 
object of study, i.e. comparing the concept of 
surplus in a Sraffian (always static) and a 
"Marxian" static concept of surplus, you get into 
trouble - as the discussion since the publication 
of first Vol. of Das Kapital has shown. (Even 
before Böhm-Bawerk, Bortkiewicz et al.)

Either you end up comparing Sraffa with some 
inconsistent Marx - as f.ex. Steedman does with 
great elegance and rigour - or you end up 
comparing one possible interpretation of Sraffa 
with another one, one of them you call Marx. This 
might be an interesting exercise for some 
purposes and in any case you learn that the 
insights of Marx - which has inspired not only 
(dynamic) Marxist economists but also economists 
like Schumpeter and Baumol - these insights be 
studied using the method of comparing static equilibria.

My basic point is that we have almost not started 
to explore the dynamic, real Marx. Not the least 
because as soon as you leave the world of 
"perfect stagnation" (called perfect competition 
or equilibrium among economists" the 
possibilities you have to specify the *dynamic* 
mechanisms on how prices and technologies are 
determined are - to quote Haavelmo - "endless", 
i.e. they cannot be decided on mathematical 
grounds alone. You need theories of dynamic 
market behavior, of expectations of learning etc. 
etc.  And as Haavelmo also points out: you cannot 
treat the dynamics as a mere appendix to the 
static solution, you cannot "claim that the 
solution of the general equilibrium model shows 
what will actually happen in a freely competitive market system.”

No smart mathematical tricks will do. And as you 
point out yourself, the "solutions" of Dumenil, 
Foley, Lipietz and others are "informed by a 
value theory which in some respects is quite 
alien to Marx". And Dumenil, Foley et al. are 
sympathetic to Marx dynamic insights, they just 
had to "save" Marx in a static framework - and 
they were not really successful. Neither the 
static or the dynamic economists were satisfied with their "solution".

Because these linear algebraic models cannot - 
AFAIK - have increasing returns to scale, have 
multiple production processes, i.e. handicraft 
shoes and industrial made shoes in the same 
model, they cannot have "wasted labour", i.e. 
hours of working time that are socially wasted, 
i.e. get a much less paid than other hours of 
labour which are technically just the same 
(overproduction crisis) etc. etc. etc. Again the 
limitations of a static framework to "show what 
will actually happen in a freely competitive 
market system" reveals themselves brutally.

Again: why it is interesting to look for "a 
reference to a specific analytical discussion of
Sraffian vs Marxian concepts of surplus" - as 
long as there is no explicit formulation of 
Marxian surplus in a dynamic framework?


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