[OPE-L:865] Re: Back to the future

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Mon, 29 Jan 1996 02:09:30 -0800

[ show plain text ]

Fred writes (OPE 858, 27/1/96):

This is what Marx said clearly and over and over again:
the prices of previously produced means of production are
determined by their current reproduction costs. e.g.

"As a result of increasing productivity of labor, however, a part of the
existing constant capital is continuously depreciated in value, for its
value depends not on the labor-time that it cost originally, but on the
labor-time with which it can be reproduced, and this is continually
diminishing as the productivity of labor grows." (TSV.II. 416)
(my emphasis - AF)

The general case, in which a part of these previously-produced means of
production are still in existence, I discussed in the example provided
in [OPE:828, 22 January] where I think I have provided a pretty
strong case that Fred's interpretation leads to contradiction and that
an approach based on Marx's method of averaging over all stocks of
a commodity of the same type, is both what Marx had in mind, and the
only way to avoid the deduction that there is a source of value other
than labour.

I think that John is building up a pretty strong case also, in that
the capitalists have to recover the actual money they paid.

But even in the simplest possible case where there is no fixed capital
and no buffer stocks, so that these previously-produced means of
production have already been consumed, as far as I can see Fred's
citations - particularly this one - prove the opposite of what he

Suppose on January 1st 1990, the capitalists buy 100 tons of corn for
money worth 100 hours and with it produce bread during 1990.

Suppose that at the end of 1990, the corn harvest yields 50 tons of
corn whose value is 100 hours, the harvest being a bad one.

Suppose that two days before the 1990 harvest begins, the last
ounce of 1989 corn gets turned into bread, and one day later, the
bread gets eaten.

(a)Marx's citation specifically refers to "existing" corn. This
corn doesn't exist. It's been converted into bread, indeed
it has gone one stage further and been converted into workers,
or capitalists, as the case may be.

(b)How can this corn - or the bread - be revalued, when it doesn't exist
any more? And the labour power can't be revalued, because its
contribution to value is independent of the wage.

(c)If the corn is revalued, why stop at the corn produced in 1990? Why not
the corn produced in 1989, 1988, 1987,..........1641?

(d)If the corn produced in these previous years is to be revalued,
along with all other intermediate inputs, were we wrong or were we
right when, at the end of 1988, we calculated, without foreknowledge
of the 1990 harvest, an altogether different value to that which we
now impute to this long-gone corn?

(e) if the corn in all these previous years is not to be revalued,
so that only the outputs of 1989 are revalued, then how is it that
the inputs to 1989 are valued at their historic cost, but those
of 1990 are valued at their reproduction cost?