[OPE-L:1981] Re: Actually existing capitalism

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@wesleyan.edu)
Fri, 26 Apr 1996 08:25:11 -0700

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In response to the following,

> Gil
> ---
> What I continue to question is the *significance* or
> *centrality* of the case of price-value equivalence to the Marxian
> theory of capitalist exploitation. Why focus on it at all, given that
> a) as Marx acknowledges, prices typically diverge from values,
> b) surplus value may exist even if price-value disparities arise in Marx's
> canonical case (i.e. there is capitalist production and wage labour,
> but the real wage is not equivalent to the value of labor power) and
> c) some vehicles of capitalist exploitation (i.e. historical circuits of
> usury and
> merchant's capital extended to small producers) *require* price-value
> disparities as the basis for capitalist appropriation of newly created value?
Paul C. writes:

> ----
> Thes are true points, but it is a question of how important they are.
> Usurers and merchants capital are no longer of great significance,
> and in practice the correlation between actual prices and values is
> very high, so Marx's assumptions seem very reasonable approximations
> to what actually happens.

I'm willing to agree (subject to a point of information: is the
correlation high for all capitalist economies, developed and
developing alike?). But the issue here isn't accuracy of
approximation, it's the *analytical* centrality of price-value
equivalence in Marx's account. My point is that the diminished
significance of usurers' and merchants' capital (and the
corresponding heightened significance of wage labor and capitalist
production under the capitalist mode of production)) does not stem
from any substantive sense in which price-value equivalence constitutes
the "pure" case of commodity exchange. For that matter, these phenomena
do not stem from any observed high correlation between prices and values,

In solidarity, Gil

2nd point of information: The literature on interindustry wage
differentials alone indicates that there is dramatic variance in the
correspondence between wages and the value of labor power. Are these
factored into the above-indicated correlations?