[OPE-L:1027] Re: Definitions and Tautologies

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Fri, 9 Feb 1996 14:04:26 -0800

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In ope-l 1025, Paul C wrote:

"one should not be defining values as in any way dependent upon prices or
upon circulation. Values are logically prior to prices[;] if we allow
price into a definition of value, we no longer have a labour theory of
value, just a price theory of price."

But *why* should values be totally independent of *past* prices and
distribution of value? According to whom are they totally independent?
The TSS and other single-system interpretations (Wolff-Callari-Roberts,
Lee, Moseley, Ramos & Rodriguez) argue that in *Marx's* theory, values
and prices are not 2 separate systems, and have a good deal of textual
evidence to support this.

Marx does say that we must begin with the laws of value and surplus-value
in order to comprehend prices and profit, and that if we reverse the
process, we cannot comprehend either. But this doesn't imply that the
values have to be determined in a completely separate system from prices.
Nor does it imply that the vector of output prices is derived, much
less only derivable, from the vector of output values. What Marx was
really referring to is that (a) prices and profits need to be understood
as forms of appearance of value relations and magnitudes and (b) aggregate
price and profit are indeterminate unless the level of the profit rate is
set, and, given the outlay of capital, its magnitude is determined by the
labor and surplus-labor extracted in the production process.

The TSS interpretation does not imply that prices determine prices (although
they partly do), because aggregate price and profit are determined partly
by the extraction of living labor in production.

I don't care whether one calls this a "labour theory of value" or not. I
myself don't use the term, because it means different things to different
people, because I don't believe Marx had any theory *of value* at all--his
objective was not to explain value, but to understand labor relations in
capitalism as value relations, and because my interpretation is specifically
an interpretation of Marx's theory.

Nonetheless, in the TSS interpretation, although *past* disribution of
value can make the current values, prices, profit rate, etc. different
from what they would have been under a different past distribution of value,
value neither arises in circulation nor is its sum (or the sum of surplus-
value) altered in circulation. All new value comes from the extraction of
living labor in the process of capitalist production.

Andrew Kliman