Re: [OPE-L] fully automated economy and capitalism

From: Ian Hunt (ian.hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Sat Dec 01 2007 - 19:14:42 EST

Dear Jerry,
On the theory of abstraction, I don't think limit cases do need to be
consistent with the postulates of the theory. In looking at the limit
case, one abstracts from the payment of wages to discover that the
rate of profit must always be strictly less than the 'maximum profit
rate": it must be strictly less than it because payment of zero wages
cannot occur within a capitalist system of production-that takes care
of the inconsistency between the limit case and the theory's
presuppositions. In other cases, the limit case can be part of theory
eg Galileo's 'frictionless' inclined plane (at least if a supercooled
object is sliding on a supercooled plane friction might be zero-but
even if it is not it shows the limits of the postulates of Newton's
laws of motion rather than being inconsistent with anything in them).
But this is one of those issues where we may just have to find
convenient ways of talking about the thing: all I am saying is Sraffa
is entitled to show that the rate of capitalist profit must be
strictly less than his R,

>Sraffa is not interested in interpreting a system of zero wages as a
>real social possibility: whether such as system could be realized is
>not the point. Sraffa is asking what  is the upper bound of the rate
>of capitalist profit, not because he ever expects the system to
>reach that bound but because it may be theoretically useful to know
>that a rate of profit will always be below it. No doubt Kliman could
>also engage in the same exercise.
>Hi Ian H:
>The issue concerns the meaning of limit cases and whether
>a specific limit case if _beyond the limit_ of a particular
>If one postulates a limit case, then the limit case must
>be logically consistent with the rest of the basic propositions
>of the theory.
>Within the Sraffian paradigm, there is (of course) production
>of commodities by means of commodities.  Within Marx's
>perspective, commodities under capitalism are produced
>by wage-labour using commodities (and nature).
>The key difference here is the role of *labour* in creating
>commodities. For Marx, value represents a  *specific social
>relation* which requires the expenditure of *human* labor and
>that labor take a particular form.
>The limit case where V=0 is _beyond the limit_ from a Marxian
>value-theoretic perspective.
>To begin with, where V=0 (the 'limit case'), *non-labor*
>can produce commodities (and hence our thought experiment).
>This is _beyond_ the limit of Marx's paradigm.
>Furthermore,  in the limit case where  V = 0, then _all_ of
>Marx's formulas break down.  What is the formula for the
>rate of profit  where V = 0?  If V = 0, then the formula
>becomes S/C.  Yet, that is a vulgar perspective which
>suggests that S is created by C - a theorem which Marx
>emphatically rejected.
>If you want to hop on board the Sraffian paradigm, then
>assuming V = 0 is OK, I guess.  But, it is a limit case
>_way_ beyond the limit of Marx's perspective.  It is
>ironic that it has been included in "numerical
>illustrations" which claim to simply re-state "Marx's
>Marxism" in its allegedly "original form".
>In solidarity, Jerry

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Dept  of Philosophy, School of Humanities,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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