[OPE-L:1150] p. 265 of Vol. III

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Tue, 20 Feb 1996 08:51:48 -0800

[ show plain text ]

Andrew here,

I hope to respond to the recent postings of Gil, Allin, and Paul C. on
the TSS interpretation, etc. But first I owe a response to Fred and
I want to comment on Duncan's thoughtful posting.

Let me first, say, however, that I very much welcome Paul's comments on
the reasons he reads Marx the way he does. Paul basically states that
he is concerned with which theory of value is right, most explanatory,
etc., and that his purpose in discussing Marx's value theory is not
to arrive at the most adequate interpretation of Marx's own value
theory. This I definitely consider to be "putting the cards on the
table," since I really do think a lot of the differences between us
(not Paul and I specifically, but everyone who talks about these
issues) that have the *semblance* of differences in interpretation are
mostly due to our reading the text for different purposes, or better, having
a different relation to Marx's body of ideas.

As I've noted before, if people would clearly distinguish between what they
think and what Marx says, and not use "Marx's says" as a synonym for "I
think this," a lot of interpretative difficulties (not all) would soon be
cleared up.

Okay, the moment you've all been waiting for (or at least Gil). I've
declined to point out the implications of the passage on p. 265, partly
because I don't think it will do any good. Allin manages to read the
passage as if Marx were a two-system theorist, and Gil will just say that
it shows that Marx was internally inconsistent. For what its worth,
however, let me repeat that ALL THIS IS IRRELEVANT. Of course one can
interpret Marx as a two-system theorist--its the classic way of weasaling
out of Bortkiewicz's critique that marx was internally inconsistent because
he wasn't a two-system theorist. And one can use what I'll call the
Method of Substitutionism (Marx says A and B; substitute X for A and or
Y for B and show that X and Y are inconsistent) to "prove" "internal
inconsistency" in Marx. But the two-system interpretation is fundamentaly
incapable of replicating Marx's theoretical conclusions, and clearly
Marx didn't subscribe to it (as Bortkiewicz pointed out), while the TSS
interpretation replicates his conclusions again and again. And whether
or not one thinks Marx is internally inconsistent is irrelevant to the
meaning of the passage--*especially* if one dictates that each passage
must be read in "context" (i.e. in isolation).

The main reason I've put off a discussion of the passage, however, is that
I discussed the passage and its implications at length in a letter to Gil
several months ago. If I seem frustrated and annoyed, this is a large
part of the reason--Gil knows my interpretation (unless he didn't read
the letter) and he seems to be trying to move the debate away from
which interpretation replicates Marx's results to which interpretation
gives a more "probable" rendering of each passage taken in isolation.
If he's read my letter, then there's really not much point in rehashing
my interpretation of p. 265, except to make me defend an interpretation
on a terrain I reject and detest (isolated quote-slinging).

But here goes: the cost-price of a commodity is used up constant capital
plus variable capital. These are the terms of Marx's Ch. 9 transforma-
tion, NOT value of means of production and subsistence. Now, on p. 264
Marx writes that "[T]he development given above [the transformation] also
involves a *modification* in the determination of a commodity's cost
price. It was originally *assumed* that the cost price ... equalled the
VALUE of the commodities consumed in its production. [My emphases in
stars, Marx's in caps. On p. 265, he continues:] As the price of production
... can diverge from its value, so the cost price ... can also stand above
or below the portion of its total value that is formed by the *value of
the means of production* going into it. It is necessary to bear in mind
this *modified significance* of the cost price [which almost no one has
done since at least 1907], ... if the cost price of a commodity is equated
with the *value of the means of production used up in producing it, it
is always possible to go wrong [as almost everyone has since at least

[ the paragraph continues to explain why] "this error *in the past* is
a matter of indifference to the capitalist [and that, and here is the
point that matters in the recent discussion about the labor-time contained
in the commodity being influenced by past value distribution] .... The
cost price of a commodity simply depends on the quantity of paid *labour
it contains*, while the value depends on the total quantity of *labour
it contains*, whether paid or unpaid; the price of production [cost price
plus average profit] depends on the *sum of paid labour* plus a certain
*quantity of unpaid labour that is independent of its own particular
sphere of production."

This is all true, in Marx's view, despite the modified significance of
the cost price. It is still determined exclusively by the amount of
labor it contains, though this amount is influenced by deviations of
past prices from values.

I have quoted and saved my soul.

Andrew Kliman