Re: [OPE-L] questions on the interpretation of labour values

From: Diego Guerrero (diego.guerrero@CPS.UCM.ES)
Date: Mon Mar 05 2007 - 09:16:17 EST

Hi, Fred,

You wrote:
> Thanks, I am glad to finally understand your "m".  And I would say that
> you have finally explained more clearly what you mean by "m".  This is
> a very important point, and should not be buried in footnote 24 of your
> paper.  It should be discussed and emphasized the first time you
> mention "market price" on p. 2, especially since your defintion is
> different from Marx's usual one.  And in the text, not in a footnote.
> And maybe briefly mention in your abstract.

Thanks for your wise advice.
I meant that I am happy of having explained my point about _market prices_ a
bit better. Allin made the same point as you, and I must insist that the _m_
I used in my paper are not daily prices. In fact, all direct values and
prices, production values and prices, and market values and prices, have to
be understood as both important categories of the LTV and social averages of
actual magnitudes in a triple sense: time, place and individuals. When one
says the value of a litre of milk last year was 2 minutes of labour, or its
price one euro, this should be understood as an average of social (not
individual) values in different places, days, months, etc. And the same
applies to production prices and market prices. The fact that I did not
clarified the point sufficiently shows that I did not put due attention to
the foreseeable reaction of readers, but also shows how important is the
inertial understanding or the pervasiveness of tradition in using words and
terms, since in the last instance I cannot see any a priori reason to
clarify the point MORE in the case of market prices than in the case of
direct and production prices.

>> Therefore, it seems like if it were a question of names and of levels of
>> abstraction. Therefore what I am reclaiming makes sense to me: we have to
>> change from the usual approach in just two levels (values and prices of
>> production) to a more complete approach in 3 levels:
>> 1) in the first level we make m = w;
>> 2) in the second, m = p;
>> 3) finally, m = what Marx calls "real price of production", that is
>> different from w and p.
>> What do you think?
> I think that you are largely correct here, and that it is important to
> move on and extend Marx's theory to lower levels of abstraction.
> However, I also think that it is also important to continue to show and
> emphasize that Marx's determination of prices of production in Volume 3
> is logically correct and complete (so far as it goes, excluding more
> concrete levels of abstraction).  Borkeiwicz' critique is wrong,
> because it is based on a misinterpretation of Marx's logical method.
> This point needs to be firmly established as the latest chapter in the
> long debate on the "transformation problem".  Then the next chapter
> would be the extension of Marx's theory to lower levels of abstraction,
> as you suggest.
> I agree that this next chapter should become a priority, but I also
> want to make sure that we finish this latest chapter.
> Comradely,
> Fred


I agree with what you say about volume III and Borkiewicz (btw, have you
read the excellent discussion made by Rodríguez-Herrera, A. (1994): Le
travail et la formation des prix, Louvain-la-Neuve: CIACO?). But let me
insist in the idea that the important point is to see how labour processes
explain market processes, i.e. values explain prices. But in the _process of
explanation_ the fact that values are more abstract than prices of
production does not mean that we need to obtain universal agreement on the
former BEFORE beginning to analyse the latter. Likewise, we don't need to
solve all problems with the concept of production price or the
_transformation problem_ before dealing with long-run market prices (_m_) as
regulating daily prices.

Let me claim for the importance of _m_. Some sectors are structurally more
indebted than others. If the rate of profit that is equalized among sector
has to be computed AFTER paying interests, then _m_ will differ from pop.
Should we take the pop as the regulating price of one Kw-hour, or _m_
instead? Let's take the commercial sector selling clothes or whateve.
Shouldn't we include the huge differences in the costs of paying a square
metre in a luxurious downtown shop compared with a shop in the most outlying
district of the same town? Or take the case of tobbaco, whisky, gasoline...
Their taxes have been much more than the average of all commodities for
decades: shoud we interpret this as a daily deviation?


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