[OPE-L:862] Re: OPE-L 793: NonEquilibrium values and prices

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Sun, 28 Jan 1996 12:49:38 -0800

[ show plain text ]

Simon writes:


> The reason why a notion of equal exchange is required is to theorize the
> existence of exploitation; it is not good enough to say that if we have a
> labour theory of value and we notice that there are profits, then
> exploitation exists, because that exploitation might be attributable solely
> to unequal exchange in the market-place. This in turn suggests regulatory
> reforms which leave the mode of production unchanged. If exploitation is to
> be considered a feature of the capitalist mode of production, inseparable
> from it, then we have at least to begin with a notion of equal exchange.
> This is what I take Marx to be doing in CI, chs. 1-6.

I fear that this interpretation is misleading at best and incorrect
in general. First, misleading: there is no need to "begin with" a
notion of equal exchange to justify the claim that exploitation is "a
feature of capitalist production." As the "Fundamental Marxian
Theorem" shows, it as at least possible to demonstrate the
equivalence of capitalist profit and capitalist profit without
price-value equivalence.

[I realize there are issues surrounding the current formulation of
the FMT, but believe those can be addressed without altering the
above assessment. At the least, the FMT as now constituted shows Simon's
conclusion is not general.]

But there is also a problem of validity here. As Marx repeatedly
confirms, capitalist exploitation--extraction of surplus value, i.e.
self-valorizing value, not just redistributed value--did not
historically require the capitalist mode of production. But these
earlier circuits of capital necessarily required non-equivalence of
price and value.

Thus, not only is price-value equivalence not in general necessary to
explain surplus value and capitalist exploitation, it is not
sufficient--asserting the condition excludes important historical
cases by fiat.

Gil Skillman