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

From: Pen-L Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Sun Mar 25 2007 - 10:14:49 EDT

Quoting Ian Wright <wrighti@ACM.ORG>:

>> I disagree.  I also assume equilibrium (equal rates of profit), and
>> there is no logical problem.  The difference betweeen us is simultaneous
>> vs. sequential determination, not equilibrium vs. disequilibrium.  That
>> is, if one assumes a different logical method (simultaneous
>> determination) from Marx's method (sequential determination), then
>> there is a logical problem.
>> But it has nothing to do with Marx's theory.
> Fred, if your model is sequential then introduce time subscripts. Then
> your argument is not circular. But unless you also have dynamic laws
> that govern how the system changes over time, and you derive a fixed
> point such that the state at t is the same state at t+1, then your
> model is not an equilibrium model.
> The difference between is is not "simultaneous vs. sequential
> determination". I am interested in both, and reject neither.
> Simultaneous equations and sequential models are intimately related,
> since a system of simultaneous equations can represent a fixed point
> of a more general sequential model. I am sure you are well aware of
> this.
> The point of my recent work is to show that the purported link between
> simultaneous determination and the logical impossibility of a labour
> theory of value is bunkum.

Ian, as I have said before, I think that the work you are doing is
valuable work, within the context of the debate between the Sraffians
and the Marxians.  The Sraffians are more likely to listen to you than
to me, because you accept their basic framework of simultaneous
determination, and I don’t.  But I still don’t think that this has
anything to do with real price determination in the real capitalist
economy, in which prices are determined sequentially by costs, rather
than simultaneously by physical quantities.

> It is hard not to wonder whether the rejection of simultaneous
> determination is simply a convenient immunizing strategy. But we can
> do better than that, no?

I can see how you might wonder that.  But I am convinced that the logic
of Marx’s theory, as he himself intended it, was sequential
determination not simultaneous determination.  And I think I have shown
that, within Marx’s logic of sequential determination, there is no
“transformation problem”.

Now you (and many others) suggest that Marx’s logic be interpreted as
simultaneous determination.  But this revision of Marx’s logic creates
a “transformation problem”.  So it seems to me that it is not a good
idea to convert Marx’s theory into simultaneous determination, because
it creates logical inconsistencies in the theory.

At least it should be recognized and acknowledged that Marx’s logic as
he intended it was sequential determination, and that within this
logical framework, there is no “transformation problem”.

Plus, I am also convinced that sequential determination, with costs
taken as given, is the way that prices are determined in the real
capitalist economy, rather than by simultaneous determination, with
physical quantities taken as given, for reasons outlined in my last


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