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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Apr 18 2007 - 15:20:39 EDT

I am happy that I can play the very important function of bringing
antagonists together on this list. Someone has to do it. Yet on the
question of whether Marx thought technology was stable enough such that
(modified) unit values are sufficiently stationary to serve as centres of
gravity, Marx certainly thought no such thing.

Do note that Fred has only cited one ambiguous sentence from chapter 50
which he thinks suggests Marx belief in the existence of stationary
modified unit values.

And against this....

First in the ninth chapter Marx is clearly interested in why prices of
production change in less than what Fred is calling the long term. Second,
the  section on the FROP makes many references to constant improvements in
technique. Third, Marx writes in the sixth chapter of Capital 3 in a
passage long important to Michael Perelman (Nathan Rosenberg makes much of
it too):

"The continual improvements which lower the use-value, and therefore the
value, of existing machinery, factory buildings, etc. This process has a
particularly dire effect during the first period of newly introduced
machinery, before it attains a certain stage of maturity, when it
continually becomes antiquated before it has time to reproduce its own
value. This is one of the reasons for the flagrant prolongation of the
working-time usual in such periods, for alternating day and night-shifts,
so that the value of the machinery may be reproduced in a shorter time
without having to place the figures for wear and tear too high. If, on the
other hand, the short period in which the machinery is effective (its
short life vis--vis the anticipated improvements) is not compensated in
this manner, it gives up so much of its value to the product through moral
depreciation that it cannot compete even with hand-labour.[15]"

After machinery, equipment of buildings, and fixed capital in general,
attain a certain maturity, so that they remain unaltered for some length
of time at least in their basic construction, there arises a similar
depreciation due to improvements in the methods of reproducing this fixed
capital. The value of the machinery, etc., falls in this case not so much
because the machinery is rapidly crowded out and depreciated to a certain
degree by new and more productive machinery, etc., but because it can be
reproduced more cheaply. This is one of the reasons why large enterprises
frequently do not flourish until they pass into other hands, i. e., after
their first proprietors have been bankrupted, and their successors, who
buy them cheaply, therefore begin from the outset with a smaller outlay of

So clearly this passage is much stronger evidence for non equilibrium
Marxism than a half sentence in the fiftieth chapter (which can easily be
read in another eay).

There does not seem to be sufficient evidence to put Marx in the
straightjacket of (neoclassical) equilibrium continues, on the contrary!

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