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

Date: Sun Mar 11 2007 - 17:10:24 EDT

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 20:05:28 +0100
From: Riccardo Bellofiore <>
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

Hi Fred:

We agree on these

>I agree that capital could also be defined as "value in process", where
>value alternatively assumes the forms of money and commodities.
>>And I agree that the main question of Volume 1 is to explain how M-M'
>>happens systematically, for the economy as a whole.
>I agree that "proves" is too strong a word.  I should have said that
>Marx's theory deduces surplus-value as the result of surplus labor
>(i.e. exploitation) on the basis of the assumption of the labor theory
>of value.  Arguments can be given for the plausibility of the labor
>theory of value, including your argument, but this is not a logical

We disagree on this

>Instead, the validity of the labor theory of value and the surplus
>labor theory of surplus-value should be evaluated on the basis of its
>explanatory power (including the necessity of money, conflict over the
>working day and over the intensity of labor, inherent technological
>change, boom-bust cycles, etc.) (as Marx suggested in his famous letter
>about the review of Capital in the Centralblatt).

It seems that you think that Marx could have started just *assuming*
that value exhibits only money, and then goes into the business of
the explanatory power.

Certainly this does not clarify why he revised several times the
beginning of Capital, exactly to ground the LTV.

>I would say that Marx assumes in Volume 1 (and indeed throughout
>Capital, as a general rule) that supply = demand, and therefore the
>actual magnitude is the latent magnitude (as we have discussed many

I know, but that is clearly, as Marx says, a preliminary assumption.
You must have an argument not to drop that assumption later on. If
you drop it, the problem of latent-actual comes into the picture (as
you know, I resolved it through the effective 'ordinary) demand and
short-term expectations fulfilled). Anyhow, on this there is no
final word in Marx.

>I argue (as you know) that the total surplus-value is indeed "fixed" in
>Volume 1 and is then taken as given in Volume 3, which analyzes the
>division of this predetermined total surplus-value into individual
>parts.  I think there is tons of textual evidence to support this
>interpretation, which I have presented in several papers.

Yes. But because of the problem of necessary labor, how to interpret
it, that evidence is inconclusive. It is inconclusive also because
Marx never published his manuscripts. So it was work in progress.
And I strongly resist to utilize a work in progress to reinterpret
vol. I.

>Ajit says that "the whole world knows" that this is what Marx tried to do,
>although he thinks that Marx failed in this attempt, because he "failed
>to transform the inputs".

I doubt Ajit implied that. What is known is that in vol. III the
general rate of profi is in value terms, and then applied to the
inputs, evaluated at simple prices. You rightly insist on
simultaneous determination. But when you go there, as I told you
several times, you are actually in the impossibility to have the
rate of profit known before prices, unless you impose that. Any how,
I repeat: one thing is to say that in vol. I we are talking of
quantitative determinations. Another one is the amount.I don't see
what is against Marx in saying that.

>I agree that there is no "right interpretation" of Marx's theory, and
>that different interpretations are possible and reasonable, on the
>basis of the sometimes ambiguous textual evidence.


>However, I would argue that my "macro-monetary" interpretation at least
>belongs to the set of reasonable interpretations of Marx's theory (and
>I would acknowledge that your interpretation of NLT, which is different
>from mine, also belongs to this set).

I agree that your interpretation is reasonable, but ...

>And I would argue that an advantage of my interpretation is that it
>makes Marx's theory a logically consistent, without unsolved "logical
>problems" that have to be dealt with.  Why not give Marx the "benefit
>of the doubt", instead of insisting on an interpretation for which
>there remains unsolved logical problems?

That's where we disagree. You resolve the problems, IMHO, as a
stipulation. Better: at first with a given MELT, in the end
resorting to S = D, "gravitation", quantity theory of money. I doubt
this can be attributed to Marx, in its entirety. But is a sensible
development by Fred Moseley: anyhow, I do not think that a theory
may be assessed on this ground. It si assessed studying it in how it
is formulated (preferably in the original). That's why I would say
that you are original thinker trying honestly to face an appproach
which on some points is inconclusive (I didn't say: wrong).

>>>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.
>>But Marx does say something to this effect in a very important footnote
>>at the end of Chapter 5 (a footnote to the famous "Hic Rhodus, hic
>>salta" challenge).
>>"[We should] formulate the problem of the formation of capital as
>>follows:  How can we account for the origin of capital on the
>>assumption that prices are regulated by the average price, i.e
>>ultimately by the value of commodities?
>>I say 'ultimately' because average prices do not directly coincide with
>>the values of commodities, as Smith, Ricardo, and others believe."
>>This is not entirely clear, but at least it suggests that average
>>prices are not equal to values, but this does not affect the theory of

It is exactly what I referred to. He coluld have said: look, my
exchange ratios here there is no need to be transformed ... It seems
to me that he says the opposite.



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