[OPE-L:1226] Re: formal subsumption and the totality

riccardo bellofior (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Mon, 26 Feb 1996 09:13:53 -0800

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At 7:02 26-02-1996 -0800, Massimo De Angelis wrote:

>I believe however that these two aspects, the social meaning of the
>transformation and the method used by TSS are not separated.
>TSS not only shows that value BECOMES price of production - thus
>getting rid of the separation between the two systems of prices and values
> - but also HOW value becomes price of production. In the formal model
> this transformation occures through a sequential process.
>The importance of this method is not so much the fact that it brings
>"history" and "time" in the picture (post-Keynesians do it all the time),
>rather in the CLASS MEANING of this history and time.
>The TSS METHOD inherently shows that the transfromation of values
>into prices of production is based on the endless process of value creation,
> self-expanding values, boundless imposition of alienated labour. It is
>preciselly THIS that allows within the TSS method to maintain values
> and prices in one system, because as value *becomes* price, price
>does not cease to be a sum of value, whose substance is the transformation
>of human subjects into objects.

I think Massimo (BTW: welcome) has put his finger on one important problem.
I would like to know from the supporter of the TSS in what sense the
endless process of value creation is refuted in the simultaneous
determination of prices of production (I would be grateful of indications
on specific posts in which the problem was tackled: now I am not able to
follow all the discussions on the list, so may be I put forward silly
posts). I think - as I tried to argue in a previous letter: see OPE-L 1064
- that, *if* one is able to rescue the role of Marxian value theory as
built upon the extraction of living labor as forced and other-directed
labor, the priority of value (as value in process) over price is at the
same time shown to be present *even* in the simultaneous approaches. On
this view, the duality of values and prices is not a weakness, rather the
contrary: it means simply that the value dimension is always present
'behind' the price dimension, and the agenda of political economy is
richer, and different. In my way of seeing things, the 'history' lying
behind the price determination is the history of the class extraction of
(sorry for the capitals, but how one uses bold letters on internet?). Value
*becomes* price of production even within a simultaneous determination if
one distinguishes value in process (living labor) and actualized value
(dead labor) - a distinction which is nothing other than the abstract labor
theory of value itself. May be even Sraffa, Sweezy, etc. would admit that
their reasoning considers the economic system after the harvest, i.e. after
what interested Marx most.

Second, connected question. I have always thought that the strong
Sraffian criticism to Marx was that value (as already actualized, or
realized, values) are redundant in the determination of the prices of
production. I think, alas, that the neo-Ricardians are right here - but
that this does not mean that Marxian value theory boils down to a relative
price theory only, as they almost always seem to think (BTW: for true
Sraffians their prices are *not* equilibrium prices; if I should choose an
issue on which fight with Sraffians I would choose the absence and or
neutrality of money in their system which is inconsistent with Marx's
deduction of value and analysis of the cycle of capital). To show that one
is able to reconstruct, or interpret, Marxian value theory in a consistent
manner allowing the determination of prices of production is not enough, if
at the end these prices of production converge to Sraffa's prices of

I also am accustomed to think that for Marx it was important the
so-called tranformation problem for the following reason: book 1 of Capital
shows that the valorization of capital is the 'reification' process of
labor, i.e. traces the steps from the living to the dead, reified
magnitudes; book 3 of Capital aims to show that one can make the same
journey in the opposite direction, from the reified magnitudes to the
reification process, recognizing the living behind the dead. We now know
that (in theory!) this two-way journey cannot be done: the reification
process is so strong that it leaves no traces. What a wonderful achievement
would have been to show (in 'science') behind the surface the pulse of
class struggle. But this failure - it is one - can be interpreted along
Marxian lines, if one reduce the stress Marxian generally puts on value
theory as a theory of individual price determination.It is the same Marx
which gives us the reason to understand why the trasformation seems to
vanish in the air.

I find this approach compatible, as I said in 1064,with what Duncan
has said in these two months on the list. Simply, I think that the
macrosocial theory of exploitation needs to be grounded in Marxian
extraction of labor in individual processes. And that is just what the
'duality' of value and price dimensions guarantee. To stretch the meaning
of the word value from being (abstract) labor embodied i commodities to
something other seems to me to shift the emphasis in Marxian theory from
production to circulation.

Note of caution: I do not wish to deny that vol. III can be read in
different manners than the one I sketched above, I am simply arguing that
vol. III was a series of notes and that in it we find also Marx's idea that
a simultaneous determination of prices of production was OK.


Riccardo Bellofiore e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
Department of Economics Tel: (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2 (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo Fax: (39) -35- 249975