Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

Date: Sun Mar 11 2007 - 11:41:52 EDT

For some reason -- even though his address below is subscribed --
Riccardo's messages have been bouncing. / In solidarity, Jerry

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------

Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 09:38:24 +0100
From: Riccardo Bellofiore <>
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

>At 22:06 -0800 10-03-2007, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:
>>  > "Proves" does not seem to me the appropriate
>>>  term here. The real point is to show that any
>>>  new value produced comes ONLY from the
>>>  objectualisation of *living* labor in monetary
>>>  form: from the exploitation as the USE of labor
>>>  power. This requires an argument, which is this:
>>>  the capitalists have all the money, and the
>>>  commodities (means of production, means of
>>>  subsistence); without putting the workers (as
>>>  'free' individuals compelled to sell their
>>>  labour power) to work, *no* value produced,
>>>  hence no surplus value, and even no transfer of
>>>  value from constant capital. And this is not
>>>  granted ex ante, before the actual production
>>>  process, because of the *specific* nature of
>>>  labour power, a commodity whose use value is
>>>  inseparable from the seller: according to the
>>>  "right" of commoditry production, that use value
>>>  pertains to who has bought that labour power; at
>>>  the same time it is clear that the workers have
>>>  any reason to be interested in what is done of
>>>  the use value which can be extracted from the
>>>  commodity they have sold, because it is THEIR
>>>  body and minds that capitalist have to *use*
>>>  when they extract living labour. This, btw, has
>>>  NOTHING to do with the ahistoric feature that
>>>  labour is active, and nature or means of
>>>  production etc passive (that's why I cannpot
>>>  agree with the train of thought of Diego, and of
>>>  all those who in my view are regressing to
>>>  Smith). It has to do with the specific social
>>>  relation of capital.
>>I don't follow your claim here that what you are saying has NOTHING to do
>>with the putatively ahistoric way in which labor may be uniquely active.
>>Of course capitalists have to extract labor from labor power for otherwise
>>the otherwise inactive factors of production would not even be, properly
>>speaking, factors of production at all. Perhaps you could elaborate the

I don't see nothing more active than capital in
production processes. The point however is that
the 'exploitation' has to do with something
which is absolutely peculiar with capitalism.
Remember that we are not talking here of
concrete labour but of abstract labour, since it
is abstract labour which is the substance of

>>Once you have in mind this
>>>  argument, you do NOT have to *prove*
>>>  exploitation in your sense, as the fact that
>>>  surplus value refers to some notion of *surplus*
>>>  labor. Because at this point this is true as a
>>>  consequence of the founding argument relating
>>>  the new 'value added' to living labor. If all
>>>  the new value is living labour "objectualised"
>>>  in the period, of course any surplus of the
>>>  money receipt over the capital advanced CANNOT
>>>  BUT BE surplus labor.
>>Yes but I don't see how that does the trick. Sure, labor may supply
>>surplus labor but the wage may represent the fair price for that labor,
>>properly discounted. In that sense the provision of surplus labor is not
>>proof of exploitation in itself. So I don't see what you have proven.

Exactly. My point is that wage may well be a
fair "price". The point has to do with the
nature of the extraction of living labour in
CAPITALIST labour processes as contested
terrain, i.e. with the nature of CAPITALIST

>>>>>>I am not saying that other questions are not important.  I am just
>>>>>>saying that the production is the most important feature of capitalism,
>>>>>>and therefore the most important question in Marx's theory of
>>>>>  I  strongly disagree with this formulation as well.
>>  >>> Sorry, I misspoke.  What I meant to say is that “the production OF
>>>>  SURPLUS-VALUE is the most important feature of capitalism” (consistent
>>>>  with my preceding paragraphs), not just production per se.
>>>  The production of surplus value is by definition
>>>  also production of value, and value does *not*
>>>  exist if the commodity is not sold. Probably you
>>  > mean the production of surplus value as a
>>>  *latent* magnitude.
>>>>  I also emphasize that circulation is a necessary and important part of
>>>>capitalism.  Marx’s analytical framework is the circulation of money
>>>>capital, which begins in the sphere of circulation, with the advance of
>>>>money capital (M) to purchase means of production and labor-power.
>>>>This is one of the reasons that I argue that this initial money capital
>>>>in the sphere of circulation is taken as given in Marx’s theory.
>>  >
>>>  Yes, as a quantitative conceptual
>>>  determinatiion, but not as the *specific*
>>>  amount, because it depends on ruling exchange
>>>  ratios, and  exchange ratios has yet to be fixed
>>>  theoretically. So nothing is said about a fixity
>>>  of the SAME magnitudes across volumes.
>>What then would you make of Shaikh's or Gouverneur's argument that the
>>fixing of exchanging ratios entails only nominal changes in the magnitude
>>of surplus value?

May you explain why it is relevant here?

>>>  Btw:
>>>  - since, as you know, in vol. I clearly Marx
>>>  very often refers to necessary labor as the
>>>  labor required to produce means of subsistence
>>>  (labour contained in those commodities), which
>>>  is the same as the labour bought (commanded) by
>>>  the money wage if exchange ratios are simple
>>>  prices but *not* if exchange ratios diverge
>>>  from those simple prices (e.g., prices of
>>>  production)
>>>  - and since vol III was written before vol I
>>>  - and since Marx was again and again obsessively
>>>  rewriting his economic work (even on fundamental
>>>  categories)
>>>  - and since the vol. III we have is constructed
>>>  by Engels from the drafts by Marx
>>>  it is clear (at least to me!) that:
>>>  - there IS a logical problem to be dealt with(I
>>>  am not saying it cannot be dealt within the
>>>  Marxian labor theory of value)
>>>  - it cannot be resolved using the authority of vol. III to re-read
vol. I.
>>>  I think we should start recognize that there
>>>  does not exist, because it CANNOT exist, THE
>>>  right interpretation about Marx, meaning the
>>>  definitive and final.
>>>  We are forced to go on in an uncertain terrain,
>>>  assuming our responsibility, in developing *our*
>>>  prolongation of an unfinished business.
>>>  otherwise, we will look more and more similar to
>>>  the true believers who make battles of quotes
>>>  about the Bible, or the Koran, or Keynes'
>>>  General Theory, or Mises' Human Action.
>>>  riccardo
>>>  PS: if I am wrong, why Marx in the several
>>>  editions of Vol. I didn't put a very simple
>>>  footnote saying the following: the exchange
>>>  ratios of the elements of constant capital and
>>>  variable capital are not
>>>  supposed to be transformed? Instead, he wrote in
>>>  the footnotes, more or less: the exchange ratios
>>>  assumed here are simple prices, i. e. not
>>>  immediately capitalist prices; this creates a
>>>  problem, to determine prices of production,
>>>  which I'll do in vol. III.
>>I don't think is fair to Fred as he has said many times that Marx allows
>>the reader to work under the assumption that the cost prices are
>>determined on the assumption of  simple prices only to show later on that
>>they had to have been determined by market prices or prices of production
>>which deviate from simple prices.  I too don't agree with Fred but there
>>seems no reason not to understand what he is saying while suggesting that
>>he is a fundamentalist and ideologue in pejorative terms.

I am not implying any pejorative. Fundamentalism
does not seem to me pejorative. Just the
affirmation that what is in the text can be
shown to be true. Now, THE text does not exist.
The text are many texts, and the same text is
often contradictory. Now, when  you show this,
the answer usually is: quotes. When quotes are
inconsistent, then the general thrust of the
argument according to the interpreter iks called
to decide which interpretation is to be chosen
(but there is no 'outside' to make this choice).
Btw, Fred is one of the most 'open' persons I
have ever met, in that he love discussing ov er
and over again with people disagreeing with him,
always trying to understand what vthey say.

>>As for this transformation problem stuff, it is clear to many Marxists
>>that the criticism is trivial, phony, invoked first and foremost by
>>Sraffians who want to send socialism back to JS Mill by showing that the
>>surplus does not rightfully belong to capital or workers alone so that the
>>left Keynesian technocrats can get their hands on it and play the most
>>minor redistributional games (at least I agree with Michael Lebowitz about
>>something; indeed his anti Sraffa article is to me more important than his
>>theory of the needs of wage labor).

Rakesh, this is trivial. Sraffians are much more
complex (and divided), as Marxians are. The
criticism Ajit did in a very brief post to Fred
some days ago I did several times to him.  As
most Marxists he just seem to stop at chapter 2,
btw missin g important paragraphs! Freeman and
TSSI simply invet their own Sraffa, doing with
Sraffa and Sraffians what they would justly see
as inventions if done to Marx, i.e, purely and
simple invent an author of their own
construction. And you repeat the vulgata against
Sraffians. I have written several times against
Sraffians, but this requires a thorough
knowledge of what is criticized.

>>The transformation problem is an anti scientific attack dressed up as a
>>scientific attack; the labor theory of value runs against some common
>>appearances, and is politically dangerous. These are not scientific
>>grounds for rejecting it, so a scientistic criticism had to be invented.
>>That's the intellectual sociology of the transformation problem, plain and
>>simple. That's this is what bourgeois economics has banked on is risible.

No, I just pointed not to the usual
transformation problem, but to a difficulty in
some positions, here Fred's. For me the
transformatoion problem does NOT exist. You know
me and you should know that for me the game is
domne in Vol. I. For me THE problems in Marx
are: WHY the new value exhibits ONLY labour
time? and which kind of MONEY does this entail?
Once the two (which in Matrx, and in me, are
linked, are resolved, no transformation PROBLEM,
just several transformation procedures. The
problem in Fred, who is much, much better than
TSSI, is just that in his simultaneous
determination he can say that the rate of profit
is given before prices (also in Sraffa!), just
because he ASSUME that the MELT is given ex
ante. But how, if the MELT is actuallly defined
ex post, with market prices? Then, you must
believe in gravitation, but that is not enough.
If one sticks to Marx, he actually has the MELT
given ex ante but, first because he has
COMMODITY money, second because its value is
fixed by BARTER at the points of inflow, so that
expected money prices are already labour time
equivalents before final exchange. Then the
question: do we have to believe in commodity
money, and in this peculiar way of determining
the 'value of money'. Then Fred at a certain
point said no, and developed for todays
capitalism the insight of Max about the MELT
with Fiat state money. But this is done in a
situation in which money is NOT fully
endogenous. I repeat: fully. At this point, I
hve not very much to discuss with Fred because
we are talking about different theoretical
objects. For me capitalism is a monetary economy
with money as capital first and foremost
represented by bank finance fully endogenous.
This happens because I am not committed to
develop Marxian theory along internal lines: I
am interested in developing Marxian theory
taking into account political economy after
Marx. And the political economy after Marx teach
us that money is endogenous, just as Ricardo
taught that labour 'contained' was better than
labour 'commanded' as a theory if prices.

Btw, your reference to the sociology of the
transformation problem implies that there is a
truth that those bastards of economic professors
had to build their career simply inventing
problems. Are you joking? Freeman presented a
paper with this thesis in London a couple of
years ago, saying that Bortkiewics, Sweezy and
Sraffa invented the problem for academic
respectability. This seems to know nothing of
their life, and of their work too. Whereas most
of today's defenders of LTV are academic
professors. I very much prefer a discussion
about different arguments, with NOBODY
pretending to have the FINAL word with the TRUE
interpretation just to be TESTED to see if that
theory is also RIGHT. Btw, this has been
destroyed by XXth century epistemology.

>>Marx towers above these putatively most excellent findings of 20th century
>>economic science.

Marx towers because his PROBLEMS were much ahead
of economic theory, including Marxists's. He had
the two problems I said (grounding of new value
referring to living labour, essentiality of
money in the value dimension). These problems
are NOT understood by today's orthodox. So Marx
towers over Marxists. No surprise he didn't
succeeded fully. Research is a succession of
errors, in which the new generation should build
on the knowledge also of the limits of the
inherited theory.

>>And for goodness sake what unfinished business is accomplished by Sraffa's
>>exercise in counting equations and unknowns, treatment of the wage as if
>>it were a part of this year's net product (this any Marxist should know is
>>simply wrong), inherently static and money-less formalism which can have
>>nothing to teach us about tendencies, profits or anything in the actual
>>capitalist world?

Where did *I* said about this? Sraffa knew very
well Marx, for a guy trained in the 20s-40s. But
his problem was RICARDIAN, and he knew that. The
fact that you speak of *static* about Sraffa,
however, jmust says all about your
oincomprehension of Sraffa's basics.

>>If you could lay out for Fred and the rest of us, what new developments in
>>modern economics we should all be so impressed by, that would be great.

Rakesh, I said this several times, and I repeat.
ALL that I know about these things I have
written ikn my works. Are you interested? Read
my publications. It is difficult to me to write
in English, and for sure I am NOT a fanatic
email-list contributor. Take these interventions
of mine as just an incursion, which is punctual
and rare.

>>Keynes, game theory, Sraffa, Schumpeter--does Marx really have something
>>to learn from economists? I think not.

Marx, you are right. He is dead. We, definitely.
Remember, Marx learned even from vulgar

>>Of course the story is different
>>once we consider anthropology, history (especially of Asia and black
>>slavery), sociological studies of institutions, and feminism.

Granted. Also philosophy, psychoanalisis. And
economics. Wicksell, Keynes, Schumpeter, Minsky,
postkeynesians, but also Stiglits and
neokeynesians. Even Arrow and Debreu, if one
wants really criticize general equilibrium
theory. WE should learn from political economy
and vulgar economy OF OUR DAYS. For example, if
we wants really to understand the novelties in
economic policy.

>>I understand that you think Marxists need Keynes' and Schumpeter's
>>theories of credit money, so perhaps we should focus on that rather than
>>these very tired criticisms of Marx's theory of value.

No, I don't repeat the usual criticism. That can
be said by somebody who sees in ANY  criticism
about the LTV the tranformation  problem. S/HE
is OBSESSED by these tired criticism (which,
btw, was NOT shared by Sraffa). I put forward
OTHER more fundamental criticisms. And Keynes
and Schumpeter are relevant exactly for THIS.
Value AND money. They are important for the
money side. But they lack value: so they must be
CRITICIZED by Marxians. As Marx did with Ricardo.

But I repeat, my post was just repeating what is is in my writings.

You know what. I realize that most people quote
without actually reading. So, Kliman, but also
Diego, quoted a prase from a 1996 paper whoich
is NOT in the published version. And why is not
there. Because discussing with TSSI people I
realized it was understood in the way that makes
people believe I support the usual criticism
about the transformation problem. My problem is
DIFFERENT, and my way out is DIFFERENT. But of
course, it would mean a change of perspective.
Stop to be obsessed by the tranformation, and be
freed from the dream that showing that there is
no inconsistency in Marx's procedures, all the
rest is OK. Nice sociological, and
psychological, situation, isn't it?


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