[OPE-L:1730] Re: productive assets

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Tue, 9 Apr 1996 17:21:34 -0700

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A reply to Gil's ope-l 1700 and 1701:

I've got no problem with assuming differential ownership of productive
resources as long as one doesn't try to make it the ultimate cause of
everything. Most variants of neoclassicism have been perpetrating
that scam for over a century. One must *ultimately* also explain
where the "initial endowments" come from, as Marx did in Chs. 23-25
of _Capital_ I (the real issue is not the historical origin, but the
reproduction of the separation of workers from means of production
and subsistence).

Of course, I didn't think that Gil denied that surplus-labor is the
basis of capitalist profit. But for Gil to say "No one denies this
" is certainly an exaggeration. I think most ecomists, and economics
students, etc., see "marginal productivity theory" as precisely a
denial of what Marx held. All I was trying to do was to point out
that they don't refute Marx so much as play a shell game with the
question (instead of "where does profit come from" they substitute "what
conditions are necessary and/or sufficient for positive profit"). It
is very much in the ideological interests of the powers that be to
have the theoretical discussion deflected from the sphere of production
and the antagonism within it. (Marx once wrote to Engels: "so long
as the determination of value by labor-time is itself left 'undetermined,'
as with Ricardo, it does not make people shaky. But as soon as it is
brought into exact connection with the working day and its variations,
a very unpleasant light begins to dawn upon them." [quote as
remembered]. How true!)

So I think it is important to *focus theoretical attention* on the
labor process when discussing profit. My main beef with Roemer's
work is that he enables the reader to conclude that distribution
relationships are sufficient to explain profit.

I must apologize for not having kept up with the intracacies of the
debate over Ch. 5. I got lost because I didn't understand the terms of
the debate after a certain point. So, refraining fron devastating or
nondevastating salvos for the moment, let me just ask Gil to
clarify 2 things:

(1) When you speak of "price-value equivalence," do you mean the
condition in which (all) commodities exchange at (or proportional to)
their values (however one "defines" value)?

(2) In the phrase "must be explained on the basis of price-value
equivalence," do you take "must be explained" to indicate "is impossible
except under this condition"? If not, then what do you take it to mean?

Andrew Kliman