[OPE-L:1109] Response on TSS, I: Essentials

Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Sun, 18 Feb 1996 17:53:26 -0800

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This is the first part of a two-part response to Andrew's postings of
960214-960217 on the TSS interpretation of Marx. This one concentrates on
what I regard as the essentials; the second is more expansive and picks up on
several specific points where Andrew reckons he is owed a response.

Andrew complains that the people he is debating with have neither refuted nor
conceded his claims. Below I restate as clearly as I can (a) the primary
concession I am ready to make, and (b) what I see as the most important
element of a refutation of his position.

The concession: As I have already indicated, I concede that the TSS
interpretation saves Marx's statements in vol. III regarding aggregate
price-value invariances. (Although I haven't checked this in detail for
myself, I'm prepared to believe it.) This concession does not, however, mean
that I accept the point that Andrew wishes to roll into the package, namely
that TSS is the only way to save the falling rate of profit (and all that)
from destruction at the hands of Okishio and others. That is a large topic
in its own right, and I will not try to get into it here. (For one example
of an argument that supports the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall on
the basis of the standard interpretation of value, see Cockshott, Cottrell
and Michaelson in Capital & Class no. 55.)

The refutation: In terms of Andrew's jigsaw puzzle metaphor, his reading
requires that one very prominent piece be pushed under the rug, namely Marx's
oft-repeated insistence that the value of a commodity is equal to "the
labour-time expended in its production". Statements to this effect are
peppered throughout Marx's writings. They appear in a variety of contexts,
where the surrounding argument is at various levels of abstraction and at
various degrees of dialectical development: the precise wording is
not always the same but the verbal differences are trivial, inessential.
(The actual form of words above is from Capital, III, p. 42 of the Progress

This was the context in which I was tempted to talk of forced and unforced
readings. Andrew has to deny that Marx meant what he said here. When he
said "the labour-time expended in the production of X" he meant "the sum of
the direct labour-time expended in the production of X and the labour-time
commanded by the means of production used up in producing X". These are just
not the same things. They are incompatible. The second is not a refinement
of, or development of, the first: it implies the abandonment of the first.

To press my point, here are 3 questions.

1. Is it possible for the market price of the non-labour inputs to some
commodity X to increase for a reason unconnected with any change in the
labour-time required for the production of those inputs? (Other than a
change in the value of money.)

2. If the answer to 1 is Yes, let's suppose this happens: Does that mean that
the value of X increases (cet. par.) on Andrew's definition?

3. If the answer to 2 is Yes, does that mean that the "labour-time expended
in (or required for) the production of X" has increased, as per Marx's
explicit definition?

I'm assuming that Andrew is bound to answer Yes to both 1 and 2. Then he has
a dilemma on 3. If he answers No, he is admitting that his definition of
value is not Marx's. If he answers Yes, how can he possibly square this with
the fact that, by hypothesis, neither the direct labour requirement for X,
nor the labour-time expended in producing the non-labour inputs to X, has
increased? I say he cannot.

Allin Cottrell