[OPE-L:949] Re: the "transformation problem"

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Sun, 4 Feb 1996 15:28:02 -0800

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What is also at issue is: what are the necessary conditions for value to
be deterimed by labor-time? I don't presume to know all of them, but one
is clearly that input and output values are not simultaneously
determined. If determination is simultaneous, the profit rate will always
be 20 0n Torrens' example, no matter how much living labor is extracted,
or what fraction of the 100 qtrs. are real wage outlays, etc!

But when value is determined temporally, then it becomes *possible* for
it to be determined by labor-time. Output values (and prices) can FALL
relative to input values (and prices)--which cannot happen when
determinatn is simultaneous. And so it becomes *possible* for the
output/input ratio to rise due to higher labor productivity but, instead
of this giving a higher profit rate, the profit rate falls because the
rise in productivity
causes the output values to fall sufficiently.

Your use of the word simultaneous is rather strange.

The 100units of corn are sown in the spring, the
120 are harvested in late summer. They do not therefore
exist simultaneously. What Torrens was assuming was
not a simultaneous determination of the values of
corn sown and corn harvested, but that agricultural
conditions this year were the same as last year when
the seed corn was harvested.

Marx raises the objection that the harvest this year
may be unusually good so that the value of the 100
units of corn sown may be greater than that of the
120 harvested this year. Given the figures used in
Torren's example this is not a very plausible objection,
since 20 0s a very low rate of surplus production,
so this objection ammounts to assuming that last
years harvest was so bad that agriculture produced
no net surplus. But in general, the point made by
Marx, that the conditions of production can vary
from year to year, making the value rate of profit
different from the rate of profit expressed in a
single use value, is valid.

But Marx was perhaps being a little unfair. Agriculture
has ever been subject to the vagaries of the weather.
In discussing a rate of profit in agriculture it
may well have been customary for people to abstract
from this and implicitly take an average over several
years, or to do as Torrens does, assume that weather
conditions were the same last year as this. But I
do not see that Torrens was assuming that the spring
and the autumn occured simultaneously.