Re: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] what is irrational in the functioning of capitalism?

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Fri Dec 01 2006 - 22:49:05 EST

Hi Ian,

I think we may be the only two people on this list who worry that the
Sraffian view may depend on metaphysics-the false attribution of
timelessly physical or material existence to evanescent
technical conditions of production. For only if they are fixed
against time is there anything physical or material in terms of which
to have prices and profits determined. The theory presents itself as
hard headed, more materialist than thou and empiricist; but its basic
data dissolve in one's hands in the course of dynamic analysis. There
is nothing there but a detour into Platonic realm of ideal technical
conditions of production, frozen against the passage of time.

The Sraffian theory of value seems in fact to be metaphysical in a
way that Marx's theory of value is
not. It's metaphysical because it depends on an alchemical
transformation of something which is evanescent  (the technical
conditions of production) into something that is timelessly material
and physical.

Those who eliminate time should not throw around the charge of metaphysics!

As for the corn theory:  as even Amartya Sen has suggested, it would
have to  lose sight on how it is that there is surplus of this or any
other commodity. But of course much more needs to be said about this.

Ajit wrote:

>Now, the proposition
>Marx is making is not that empirically profits and
>surplus labor are observed to go together but rather
>the *cause* of profit lies in surplus labor. This
>proposition is simply asserted but never proved by

Again this is not what Marx intended to do as any reading of the
first six chapters of
Capital I should make clear. Marx *deduces* that *cause*; he does not
directly prove it or assert it!
If value regulates price, then the difference in the monetary
expression of C' and C in the circuit of capital (M-C-P-C'-M')  must
have resulted the appropriation of unpaid labor time.

One can certainly argue that Marx's arguments for the labor theory of
value are at best unpersuasive. The deduction of the third thing, the
conclusion that it must be abstract labor, the bullying that abstract
labor must exist as a material or real abstraction, etc. Bohm Bawerk
had his reasons for skepticism. I still think these hoary criticisms
remain  more important than the von Bortkiewicz-Steedman line of
attack. Schumpeter surely had no interest in being detained by the
transformation problem or the straightjacket of linear production
theory. If I were a bourgeois, I would be concerned that my hired
prize fighters had lost sight of the most important philosophical
objections to Marx's theory!

>Marx has a problem with his falling rate of
>profit thesis. He simply cannot allow the rise in the
>rate of surplus value to outstrip his rise in organic
>composition of capital due to technical change because
>that will bring the metaphysical nature of his basic
>proposition about labor and value to sharp relief.

I don't see how this follows at all. One can certainly hold to the
labor theory of value
and not allow for that outstripping. The countertendencies just would
have proven
stronger than the tendency. Any superficial survey of the literature
will show that many
Marxists have reached just that conclusion without abandoning the
labor theory of value.

In fact I have suggested that even if one accepts TSS it's still
possible that the consequence of a rising
surplus of use values will have the indirect effect of staving off
precipitous falls in profitability. That is, one can be in the TSS
school and be very skeptical of FROP.


>to your horse analogy: You don't have a theory of
>horses. You just have an observation that they don't
>talk. If you had said that horses cannot talk because
>of this or that reason and somebody showed you that
>logically horses could talk because they have the
>capacity of whatever talk entails, then of course your
>theory of horses will be as good as grass. Cheers,
>ajit sinha
>Do you Yahoo!?
>Everyone is raving about the all-new Yahoo! Mail beta.

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