Dominique LEVY -CEPREMAP (levy@msh-paris.fr)
Tue, 27 Feb 1996 01:57:11 -0800

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This is a message from Gerard Dumenil (thank you Duncan for your
help): A reply to Alan Freeman (Hello!).

What follows only expresses the opinion of the author, and should not
be mistaken for Marx's view, even in quotations, since they always
abstract from their context.

You were happy with the first part of my statement: "the basic
relationships Marx wanted to established are not subject to the
assumption that commodities are exchanged at their value or at PRICES
OF PRODUCTION", but not with the second part of it stating that Marx
"generally assumes' in volume I and II, and even, often in volume III,
that commodity exchange at their value (what Duncan calls a
pedagogical assumption).

Let me begin with your assertion: "The alternative reading - that
Marx did not make this assumption and that his derivation of value
does not depend on it". I have difficulties with the two parts of this

- The first part "Marx did not make this assumption". What do you
mean? Never? Marx often does this assumption. Sometimes, it is just
a simplifying assumption. Sometimes, it is rather closely linked to
the core of its demonstration. Consider, for example, the following
lines in Volume I, in the chapter "Contradictions in the General
Formula" (I cite from the Marx Library, p. 261): "It is true that
commodities may be sold at prices which diverge from their values, but
this divergence appears as an infringement of the laws governing the
exchange of commodities. In its pure form, the exchange of
commodities is an exchange of equivalents, and thus it is not a method
of increasing value." There, the exchange of commodities at their
values is important in Marx's argument since he wants to derive
exploitation UNDER THE ASSUMPTION of prices proportionnal to values:
exploitation does not follow from a violation of the law of exchange
(introduced in chapter 2: commodities exchange at their values). Note
parenthetically that, in a capitalist economy, the law of exchange
("in its pure form") is the exchange of (capitalist) commodities at
their prices of production. Exploitation must again be analyzed
even assuming that this new law is not violated (this is another basic
point about our interpretation of the transformation).

- The second part "that his derivation of value does not
depend on it". If this is what you and the "small, though growing,
body of people" believe, you can count me as one. I do not see how
Marx could begin with the idea that commodity exchange at their value,
to then derive his concept of value. And this is the reason why
chapter 1 of Capital (on the commodity) comes before chapter 2 (on

Gerard Dumenil.