[OPE-L:1158] Re: determination of constant capital

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Tue, 20 Feb 1996 13:17:28 -0800

[ show plain text ]

Andrew here, with a reply to Fred's latest (ope-l 1071) on the temporal
vs. retroactive determination of the value of constant capital (cc).

It is very difficult to know how to reply to Fred, because I wish to under-
stand Marx's concept by looking at all the textual evidence, including
the relative adequacy of different interpretations of the text in replicating
Marx's theoretical conclusions, but Fred's latest reply ignores a good
deal of what I said. I will indeed address his latest points, but to
avoid a piecemeal approach to the question, let me note that my last post
brought up a good deal of evidence that Marx's concept of cc is
incompatible with simultaneism, and that Fred's latest post does not
tell us how, if it all, it might be reconciled. Instread, he sticks with
what he seems to regard as the passages most compatible with a simul-
taneist interpretation. I really want to avoid a your-citation, my-
citation quote slinging battle. The only way to do so is if we each
address the other's evidence so that we're both examining the whole.

Thus let me first mention the things to which Fred has not attempted to
reconcile with simultaneism, at least yet:

(1) the discussion of Torrens in TSV III, pp. 77-79, which I believe
is impossible to reconcile with simultaneism. Marx uses Torrens'
input/output data and comes up with different conclusions concerning
values and profitability.

(2) my demonstrations that simultaneous valuation is incompatible
with the determination of value by labor-time. This is an incompatibility
with Marx as well if we accept that he held that value is determined by
labor-time (and there's a lot of evidence that he did).

(3) the beginning of the passage Fred has quoted on pp. 79-80 of MECW
30, where Marx writes that the means and materials of labor "only
re-appear ... to the extent that they were preposited to the latter
[production] as values, i.e., were values before they entered into the
process." Whether or not Hegel's logical terms "necessarily imply
chronological priority," whether or not Marx's logical terms
"necessarily imply" chronological priority--AND I NEVER MADE SUCH
identifies "preposited ... as values" with "were values before." In
the context of the pp. 79-80 passage, then, preposited, etc. definitely
means "before." Fred has not responded to this.

(4) the passage in Vol. III, p. 265, where Marx again identifies a
logical term with a temporal meaning: "error in the past is a matter of
indifference to the capitalist. The cost price of the commodity is a
given precondition ..." Again, this is textual evidence whether or not
every logical term always has a temporal meaning in Marx's work, and it
indicates the temporal determination of the value of cc. Again, Fred
did not provide an alternative reading of this passage consistent with

(5) the theoretical point I made that if cc is a determining factor
of the value of the product, as Marx (TSV I, p. 109) states, then it
cannot be determined at the same time, much less after, the product's
value is determined.

(6) the theoretical point I made that Fred's interpretation of the
passage in which Marx states that the value of a means of production (mp)
is determined in a different process from the one in which it serves
as a use-value (Vol. I, Vintage, p. 314) limits the applicability of
Marx's value theory to non-basics. This counts as evidence against
simultaneism if Marx himself did not limit his theory to non-basics,
and there's a lot of evidence he didn't (like the cotton-yarn and
Torrens' corn model examples).

(7) the evidence that, 4 pages later, Marx uses the pre-production
reproduction cost of the means of production in calculating the value
it transfers.

Now to some things to which Fred did respond:

(8) with respect to p. 314 (Vol. I), I showed that Marx's notion that
the value of mp is determined in a different process from the one in
which it is used means that it is determined *before* the process in
which it is used. "In the labour process it serves only as a use-
value ... and cannot therefore transfer any value to the product
unless it posessed value before its entry into the process."

Fred responds that, in his interpretation, the price of the mp does exist
before production, but its given [sic] magnitude can change during the
process as a result of tech. change. The mp enters with a given price,
and this amount is transferred if there's no tech. change.

Yes, Fred, but what if there IS tech. change, and the mp was free before
the process, but no longer free afterwards due to the tech. change?
Then in your interpretation, it would transfer a value it didn't
have. Hence, all the evidence I brought up about value re-appearing,
being transferred, preserved, original, old, past labor, etc., etc.
still counts against your interpretation. Marx is saying that
no more cc-value can emerge than went in before, and this is still
not compatible with your interpretation unless you limit the
applicability of Marx's theory to the case of no tech. change. He
himself surely doesn't limit his remarks about cc valuation here to
this case. Nor did he limit his value theory to that case.

(9) This is not strictly an interpretative issue, but Fred distinguishes
his interpretation from "neo-Ricardian" simultaneous determination by
saying that the mp enter production with a given price, and this price
is transferred if there's no tech. change. Hence, the values of inputs
and outputs are only simultaneously determined if there is tech. change.
This is playing with terms. The difference between this and
the neo-Ricardian variant of simultaneism is purely formal. Both it
and Fred agree that if there's no tech. change, the input price will
be the output price (if profit rates are equal). Both it and Fred
agree that if there is tech. change, the input price is revalued
retroactively to the output price. Fred's work on the "transformation
problem" has never, to my knowledge, specified how the values or prices
of individual commodities (the unit values and prices as opposed to the
aggregate values and prices of individual industries) are determined,
but the prices have to be the same as the "neo-Ricardian" ones given
all he's just said. So I see no *substantive* difference between
Fred's view and "neo-Ricardianism" regarding *real relations of

The only other things that Fred's newest post addresses are pp. 317-18
of Vol. I, again, and the passage on pp. 207-08 to which my earlier
post referred him. Unfortunately, he continues to quote the passages,
give his interpretation, and then say "this is clear," "can there be any
doubt?," etc. Yes, Fred, I read it all differently, based partly on
the overwhelming textual evidence elsewhere that Marx was no simultaneist,
including evidence that simultaneism is incompatible with the determination
of value by labor-time and that a temporal single-system interpretation
vindicates the internal coherence of his value theory again and again.
And partly, there are other ways to read these passages. Why do I have
to repeatedly jump to other people's interpretative challenges every
time they interpret the passage differently? Do they really think there
is no other possible reading? This is all quite ludicrous. Fred thinks
there's no doubt that Marx was a simultaneist, but also no doubt that
Marx thought prices enter into value determination. Gil, Paul C., and
Allin think there's no doubt that Marx thought prices don't enter into
value determination. Have some doubt, people! It's called being
self-critical and open-minded!

And why is it always I who have to jump to other people's interpretative
challenges, and not they to mine? Why are the simultaneists (excluding
the erstwhile simultaneists who now seem to want to have their
simultaneism and eat it too, using simultaneists examples and compliaing
when TSS results fail to conform, yet saying that they're happy with
temporal valuation), why are the simultaneists not showing how their
interpretation is compatible with Marx's critique of Torrens? Why
are they not rising to the challenge of replicating Marx's theoretical
conclusions (on a whole host of issues, not just the Ch. 9 transformation)
the way the TSS interpretation has?

I really dislike quote-slinging, and I real dislike being cornered to
give an interpretation of every single thing Marx ever wrote in a manner
that satisfies other people. It is becoming more and more clear that
this is a potentially endless process, that the vampire will not let
go, that the time in which I am able to do your interpretative bidding
is the time for which I will be forced to do your interpretative bidding
(see end of Ch. 10 of Vol. I).

So why do I continue to do your bidding. Simply because if I don't, you'll
all be able somehow, in some strange way, to ignore the fact that the TSS
interpretative replicates Marx's value theory while others don't, as if
this is not massive textual support for the TSS interpretation. You'll
all be able to RE-RELATIVIZE the criteria for the adequacy of interpre-
tation, to make it all into your view vs. my view (for the record: I have
never stated my views concerning vlaue theory on this list, only my
intepretation of Marx's theory). Because you refuse to accept the
implications of the jigsaw puzzle parable--the superior interpretation
of the puzzle's instructions is the one that enables you to fit the
puzzle together so that the result conforms to the picture on the
cover of the box--you've got me cornered. I have to keep doing your
bidding. But I tell you, you're wearing out three generations of my
labor-power in the space of one. (Fred, if you've been following some of
the other discussion I've been having, you'll know this isn't directed
to you in particular. Ten years of people not changing their minds in
the face of conclusive new results because they don't like the theoretical
implications of the new results has caused my frustration to reach the
point of explosion.)

Okay: Here I jump through one more hoop: pp. 317-18 of vol. I:
the yarn transfers to its product (maybe sweaters, etc.) a doubled value
because the value of yarn has gone up along with the value of cotton.
So in terms of the sweaters or whatever, there is a revaluation of the
value of the constant capital BEFORE production. Read carefully, the
passage does not say the cotton transfers double value to the yarn,
but that the cotton already spun into yarn transfers a doubled value
to its product.

Yes, there can be doubt about the obviousness of others' interpretations.

On to the next hoop: pp. 207-08 of vol. III: the price of cotton rises,
so the price of cotton goods also rises. This is not stated to be
definitional, and that's a weird interpretation, I think. Nor is it stated
to be simultaneous. E.g., the price of cotton rises at 10:05, maybe, just
maybe, Marx meant that the price of cotton goods rises at 10:06. And
then, completely consistently with everything I've said about pre-production
reproduction costs, Marx says already produced cotton in the warehouse,
but not yet having entered production, rises in price too. Cotton in the
course of manufacture he says rises--but this is what he BEGAN with in
this example. Then there's more elaboration of how cotton in the
warehouse and cotton goods (and generally, stocks and finished goods)
are revalued in accordance with the the cost of reproducing them. None
of this has anything to do with whether the constant capital that has
already entered production is retroactively revalued.

Do we really have to go on and one like this? In my view this kind of
thing will not settle anything. It's happened many times, most recently
in my discussion with Gil, that we each think the other's interpretation
is weird, neither can convince the other by examining passages in
isolation, and we end up still thinking the other's interpretation is
weird. Why can't we just look at the EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE, people--ther
relative adequacy of differnt interpretations in replicating Marx's
theoretical conclusions?

Andrew Kliman