[OPE-L:1214] Re: individual prices in Volume 1

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Sat, 24 Feb 1996 16:43:41 -0800

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Duncan writes:
> I still think it is useful analytically to separate out the form of
> surplus value (rent, profit, interest) from the social relations through
> which the surplus value is exploited.

I agree with this and Duncan's corresponding argument against Roemer:
that one can get no sense there of the historical *development* of the
social relations through which surplus value is appropriated.

> Still, it seems to me that Marx's pedagogical aim in the first part of
> Volume I of Capital is to address someone familiar with Ricardian
> economics, and to explain his view of exploitation in the language of
> Ricardian value theory. Where he's heading is the distinction between
> labor and labor-power and the idea that labor-power becomes a commodity.
> He's at pains expositionally to distinguish his view from the commonplace
> idea that capitalists get rich by buying cheap and selling dear, and he
> uses the assumption that commodities exchange at their value to underline
> this point.

I also think this characterization rings true. The tricky part, in
my reading, is the status of price-value equivalence in Marx's
analysis. It is certainly powerful as a heuristic device, but it
seems that to Marx it is something more: it is the "pure" case of
commodity exchange. This characterization seems problematic if it is
not simply tautological.