[OPE-L:1098] Re: individual prices in Volume 1

Duncan K Foley (dkf2@columbia.edu)
Sat, 17 Feb 1996 08:39:26 -0800

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Gil, commenting on Fred, says in part:

> [Again, my emphasis.]
> There is at least one step in the argument of Volume I for which the
> characterizations isolated above are manifestly not true. This is
> Marx's conclusion at the end of Ch. 5, where he argues that
> capitalist exploitation *must* be explainable on the basis that all
> commodities exchange at their values. In saying this he is clearly
> denying that "the main conclusions of Volume I do not depend in any
> way on whether or not the prices of individual commodities are equal
> to their values", since he is asserting that any case of capitalist
> exploitation is institutionally isomorphic to one in which
> price-value equivalence holds.
I don't think this follows logically. Any explanation ought to cover the
special case where prices are proportional to embodied labor
coefficients, and a failure in this case would call the whole explanation
into question logically. But I don't think this requires the explanation
itself to assume the proportionality, since it might also work in a
larger number of cases.

> Moreover, there is a two-fold problem with Marx's argument: first, it clearly
> does not follow from the arguments given in the chapter. For
> example, these arguments [to the effect that surplus value cannot
> arise from simple commodity circulation *taken alone* with or without
> price-value equivalence] are not inconsistent with the conclusion
> that surplus value requires "something ...in the background which is
> not visible in the circulation itself" and price-value *disparities*,
> and in fact it did in the case of surplus value arising from
> proto-industrial merchant's capital--as Marx repeatedly affirms in
> his historical analysis.
> Second, the conclusion is pernicious in that it has apparently led
> generations of Marxist economists to believe that the purchase and
> subsumption of the commodity labor power within the capitalist mode
> of production is a *necessary* condition for capitalist exploitation,
> contrary to marx's explicit and repeated affirmed historical
> analysis.
Here I would be more comfortable if the word "capitalist" were dropped.
This goes to the confusion ( stemming in part from Roemer's work) over
the concept of exploitation, and also the tendency to identify the
capitalist form of surplus value (say, in interest-bearing capital) with
capitalist exploitation (which Marx makes clear is connected to the
wage-labor form.