Re: [OPE-L] Marx on the general rate of profit/rate of interest: a translation error

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Sun Oct 28 2007 - 14:11:22 EDT

--- Paul Cockshott <wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK> wrote:

> What is left unstated in your summary Gary is
> whether Marx expects the dispersion of profit rates
> to narrow with
> time?
> If that does not occur what does a tendancy to
> equalise mean?
> Instead of a tendancy to equalise, one might
> hypothesise some constraints on the dispersion.
> Paul Cockshott
What time? What could be empirically the starting
point in time to see if dispersion rate norrows or
not? The idea of the center of gravitation cannot deal
with what Joan Robinson called 'historical time'.
Historical time is the time of growth and
accumulation. Now, growth and accumulation theories
also put various constraints  on certain
parameters--but those constraints on parameters can be
dealt with by empirical investigations of how
'reasonable' they are. But for the gravitation
mechanism to work itself through, you need to assume
that both techniques of production and the rate of
profits and the real wages (and consumption and
savings paterns etc.) remain constant while the
mechanism works itself out. Now, as long as growth (or
movement along historical time) is expected to break
any of these constants, the gravitational mechanism
will have to continuously restart itself a
fresh--therefore, you will not have a starting point
or a finish point to empirically test if it works.
That's why you will have to assume steady state growth
path on the historical time to let the gravitational
mechanism work. The classical economists, such as
Smith and Ricardo, did not asssume a steady state
growth path (Marx came close to modeling one though).
Thus in their framework, the idea of center of
gravitation works on 'logical' or notional time and
not on 'historical time'. But as we have shown in our
paper, the logic of it is not all that sound. Cheers,
ajit sinha
> -----Original Message-----
> From: OPE-L on behalf of Gary Mongiovi
> Sent: Sat 10/27/2007 2:06 PM
> Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Marx on the general rate of
> profit/rate of interest: a translation error
> A distinction without a difference, in my opinion.
> In either translation Marx is talking about a
> mechanism that causes profit rates to tend to
> equalize, as in Ricardo, as in Smith. Marx thought
> this tendency to be an integral aspect of how
> capitalism works, though no doubt there are nuanced
> differences between his account & Smith's. But on
> fundamentals, as regards the existence, operation
> and centrality of the mechaninsm, they are in
> agreement.
> Gary
>         -----Original Message-----
>         From: OPE-L on behalf of Jurriaan Bendien
>         Sent: Sat 10/27/2007 7:41 AM
>         Cc:
>         Subject: [OPE-L] Marx on the general rate of
> profit/rate of interest: a translation error
>         When, in an often ignored passage, Marx
> discusses the relationship between the general rate
> of profit and the rate of interest (in Capital
> Vol.3, Chapter 22), we read in the official
> translation:
>         On the other hand, the general rate of
> profit is never anything more than a tendency, a
> movement to equalise specific rates of profit. The
> competition between capitalists - which is itself
> this movement toward equilibrium - consists here of
> their gradually withdrawing capital from spheres in
> which profit is for an appreciable length of time
> below average, and gradually investing capital into
> spheres in which profit is above average. (...) The
> general rate of profit... derives actually from
> causes far different and far more complicated than
> the market rate of interest, which is directly and
> immediately determined by the proportion between
> supply and demand, and hence is not as tangible and
> obvious a fact as the rate of interest. The
> individual rates of profit in various spheres of
> production are themselves more or less uncertain;
> but in so far as they appear, it is not their
> uniformity but their differences which are
> perceptible. The general rate of profit, however,
> appears only as the lowest limit of profit, not as
> an empirical, directly visible form of the actual
> rate of profit.
>         We see here, that the official translation
> used by mentions "this movement towards
> equilibrium", suggesting Marx is an equilibrium
> theorist, rather than a dynamicist, contrary to the
> general tenor of his discussion.
>         Intrigued by this, I consulted the original
> German text. Whaddaya know, the German original DOES
>         Here is the passage again, now in the
> original German:
>         Dagegen existiert die allgemeine Profitrate
> beständig nur als Tendenz, als Bewegung der
> Ausgleichung der besondren Profitraten. Die
> Konkurrenz der Kapitalisten - die selbst diese
> Bewegung der Ausgleichung ist - besteht hier darin,
> daß sie den Sphären, wo der Profit auf längre Zeit
> unter dem Durchschnitt, allmählich Kapital entziehn
> und den Sphären, wo er darüber, ebenso allmählich
> Kapital zuführen (...) Die allgemeine Profitrate
> schöpft also in der Tat ihre Bestimmung aus ganz
> andren und viel komplizierteren Gründen, als die
> durch das Verhältnis von Nachfrage und Angebot
> direkt und unmittelbar bestimmte Marktrate des
> Zinses, und ist daher kein handgreifliches und
> gegebnes Faktum in der Art, wie es der Zinsfuß ist.
> Die besondren Profitraten in den verschiednen
> Produktionssphären sind selbst mehr oder minder
> unsicher; aber soweit sie erscheinen, ist es nicht
> ihre Uniformität, sondern ihre Verschiedenheit, die
> erscheint. Die allgemeine Profitrate selbst aber
> erscheint nur als Minimalgrenze des Profits, nicht
> als empirische, direkt sichtbare Gestalt der
> wirklichen Profitrate.
>         What Marx actually says is: "The competition
> of capitalists - which itself is this movement of
> equalling out [of profit rates]...".  The word
> "Ausgleichung" (i.e. equalisation) is rendered as
> "equilibrium" by the official translation, but this
> is in no way what it actually means. In the vastly
> superior Pelican translation by David Fernbach, this
> mistranslation is corrected however (p. 488-490,
> loc.cit.).
>         Jurriaan

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Oct 31 2007 - 00:00:20 EDT