[OPE-L] Christian Marazzi on Measure & Finance

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sun Sep 30 2007 - 12:29:01 EDT

Marazzi's barely literate argument does not make sense of Marx's theory of the valorisation and realisation of capital. He writes:

"fixed capital cannot be amortised on the basis of the labour theory of value. The only way to recuperate what is invested in fixed capital is through the mechanism of prices, which are not a reflection of the portion of value that has been created by labour."

This is wrong in at least five ways:

(1) Marx did not have a labour theory of value, and never claimed he did, this is more a post-Marx convention to describe a cluster of theories which attribute the formation of net new value to labour-effort alone. 

(2) the value (in Marx's sense) of fixed capital depreciates, regardless of actual depreciation write-offs in money prices.

(3) It is not that "the only way to recuperate what is invested in fixed capital is through the mechanism of prices" but that "the only way to recuperate what is invested in productive fixed capital" is through living labour which conserves value, transfers value and creates new value, which permits the capital value to be replaced (the valorisation process). 

(4) It is true that actual depreciation write-offs for productive fixed capital in price terms will not accurately reflect the fixed capital and depreciation in value terms, but the write-off in price terms does presuppose depreciation in value terms. It is indeed "a reflection of the portion of value that has been created by labour" insofar as labour has to create a new product value, which conserves capital and creates new capital - the sale of this product generates the gross revenue from which depreciation is written off.

(5) Just because we cannot reliably measure something, does not mean that it does not exist, that would be an empiricist error.  

Marazzi just tries to invent a Marxian version of the theory of human capital in a slipshod manner, but this is a reification by the professional classes, because so-called human capital is not and cannot be invested by its owner for a profit. At best you can say that a consultant can set up business to profitably sell his expertise, or that consultancies can trade in staffs on a profit basis.

As Marazzi acknowledges, it is not even clear in economic theory how education & training should be accounted for - whether as an item of consumer expenditure, or as investment expenditure. The reason for that is, that in neoclassical economics producers do not exist in any independent role; neoclassical "economic agents" are either investors or consumers, but not producers. The "factors of production" are not economic agents.  

If human capital was a reality, it should be possible to identify economic laws governing the returns on this capital. But to my knowledge nobody has ever succeeded in doing this. All that has been done, is to infer empirical correlations between the level and type of education on the one hand, and the gains in income from work obtained by people who have this education, yielding generalisations and predictions that an investment in education will result in a certain amount of additional income. But the valuation of education & training is very variable across time, and there may be no direct causal relationship at all between the content of education received, job-content, and income level. 


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