[OPE-L:1605] Re: Temporality vs simultaneity

Bruce Robert (broberts@usm.maine.edu)
Thu, 28 Mar 1996 08:18:42 -0800

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Replies to several people, with apologies to others not yet replied to.

To Paul (#15xx), who wrote

whilst value is well defined as corn embodies labour,
price is undefined if there is only one commodity. You need at least 3
for prices to be meaningful.

Point taken--the phrasing was sloppy, though I suspect that people were
able to understand what I meant. But, a question: why 3 commodities? Two
would seem entirely sufficient to have an exchange-ratio that differs from
the value ratio, therefore the possibility of surplus transfer and a need
to distinguish price from value, expressed in common units.

To John (#1570):

Some things are clearer. So that I'm not being unclear, I applaud the
introduction of "real time in the analysis of capitalism." I really do. I
just don't think that taking up that task requires throwing out the
extremely useful insights that SSS numbers provide about the structure of
equivalent exchange in capitalism, which to me is conceptually crucial in
thinking about what Marx's categories mean in Vol.3. (It's that, rather
than an attachment to "equilibrium," that makes SSS numbers continue to be
relevant, even if in real time other numbers are needed too.) So while I
may not much care for the specific TSS equations that I've been
criticizing, I really do want to see dynamic "real time" analysis move

I also do comprehend the obvious fact that, having actually laid out $1000,
a capitalist doesn't entirely forget that just because prices and values
subsequently change. (I think that the concepts of "release and tie-up of
capital" and a changing "monetary expression of labor" are needed in order
to see how that historically given $1000 fits in to the other numbers that
are relevant in subsequent periods. But I can't really elaborate that

Unfortunately, I don't understand precisely what you mean in referring to a
"visible r" and a "value r" and the "social value" and "individual value"
of commodities. (I'm used to using the term "individual value" to refer to
the output of a single capital in a larger industry, but that doesn't seem
to be the temporal sense of the term in your usage.) Is it possible to
clarify for me what your terms mean? I don't want to fetishize the
numbers, but can you tell me in the context of either of my examples what
numbers would express these terms?

To Alan (#1565):

Your argument deserves a more serious and lengthy reply than I can give it
now, but to briefly consider your question: "why should *all* *other* money
sums represent magnitudes of value, *except* the money price of capital

Speaking strictly for myself, sums of money, as such, are *never* to me
direct representations of value, and that includes flows as well as stocks
of constant capital. The money which represents an *equivalent* for the
(flow) constant capital does indeed represent the value contributed to
output by those consumed means of production, but the presence of the word
"equivalent" is not a trivial matter. Market prices, in practice, never
directly express equivalence relations, so just because a capitalist
actually pays a certain sum, that does not make that sum an immediate
expression of value.

To Andrew (#1569):

If I understand you correctly, I do think that I have a clearer sense of
where we differ. I would summarize your view, and my own, as follows:

Concerning the case in my numerical example (falling productivity, rising
L): Andrew: the change *is* profitable in TSS terms, but capitalists
*won't* go down this road, basically because of the possibility of other
changes (the list of "uncertainties") that might decrease the *future* rate
of profit by affecting wages (or the general terms for extracting future
surplus labor). My view: the change is not profitable *in itself*, and
that's why capitalists don't do this; what makes it unprofitable is
precisely the rise in V, for a given real wage, that emerges from the SSS
solution (relative surplus value in reverse). It's interesting, I think,
that this rise in V seems to be exactly what Andrew is hinting at first on
his list of uncertainties, when he says that "the rising price means that
either wages will have to rise or . . ."; indeed, the same effect on V and
S/V pops out of the dreaded iteration of the TSS equations in each period
after period 2.

Concerning Massimo's case (rising productivity, falling L): Andrew: the
change is not profitable in TSS terms, but capitalists do it anyhow,
because . . . what? if there's any symmetry at all, they presumably do it
because of the possibility of other changes that here may lower wages and
improve extraction of surplus labor. My view: the change is profitable
*in itself*, precisely because (even with a given real wage) the falling
value=price of the good will generate relative surplus value and raise the
rate of exploitation; again, that rise in S/V emerges from both the SSS
solution and the further iteration of TSS.

I don't get the resistance to iteration. Granted, all sorts of other
unforeseen and unforeseeable events can occur over time--I'm not assuming
away historical time here. But, returning to my case of falling
productivity: if Andrew thinks that uncertainty about possible future
increases in the value paid to workers (at a given real wage) is likely to
figure in the minds of capitalists and keep them from pursuing my change,
then why not simply say that capitalists are capable of looking beyond
period 2 to the subsequent effects *of the original change* (the rising V),
and that an iterated TSS solution generates the numbers for r that make it
clear why (even without bringing in other changes) capitalists *know* that
this is a dumb move? And similarly in Massimo's case, why not acknowledge
that, despite the fall in the TSS r in period 2, an iterated TSS solution
shows the *rising* r that makes it apparent why capitalists *do* this with

Bruce B. Roberts
Department of Economics
University of Southern Maine
Portland ME 04104-9300
(O) 207-780-5503
(H) 207-772-7047
fax 207-780-5507-------------------------------------------------