[OPE-L:2086] Re: Jerry's quiz

riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Mon, 6 May 1996 01:02:29 -0700

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At 16:08 5-05-1996 -0700, Alan Freeman wrote:
>Well I guess that makes it Steedman, but I can't find the precise passage.
>Here's another quiz: not about where the following quote comes from
>( it is from Steedman's Marx after Sraffa p207) but to ask who agrees
>with it. This isn't a trick question; I think it would help our thought
>processes. I've broken it down into points so people can be selective
>(i.e. the words are Steedman, with nothing missed out, and the numbers
>are mine):
>"(1) On the basis of assumptions to be found in Marx's own political
>economy, it has been proved that Marx's value reasoning is often
>internally inconsistent,
>"(2)completely failing to provide the explanations which Marx sought
>for certain central features of the capitalist economy.
>"(3)By contrast, these same features can be given a coherent explanation
>in terms which make no reference whatsoever to any value magnitude.
>"(4)Marx's value reasoning - hardly a peripheral aspect of his work -
>must therefore be abandoned in the interest of developing a coherent
>materialist theory of capitalism"
>"(5)Some of the elements of such a theory are to be found within the
>Sraffa-based critique itself.
>"(6)It has been shown that the proximate determinants of the rate
>of profit, the rate of accumulation, the prices of production, the social
>allocation of labour, etc, are the physical conditions of production,
>the real wage and the capitalist drive to accumulate.
>"(7)The next step is then to investigate the social, economic,
>political, technical, etc determinants of those proximate determinants"
>"(8)That immense task will perhaps involve the study of, among
>other things, the historical conditions under which specific capitalist
>social formations developed, class relations (both at the point of
>production and at the level of politics), the role of the state, the
>development of scientific and technical knowledge (considered not
>as a deus ex machina but as an endogenous product of the society
>in question) and international relations
>"(9)Such study can no doubt draw on much of Marx's work, as
>one source amongst the many which will be needed.
>"(10)But it will involve no reference to Marx's value magnitudes
>"(11)Which are mere derivates of the things to be explained.
>"(12)It can scarcely be overemphasized that the project of
>providing a materialist account of capitalist societies is dependent
>on Marx's value magnitude analysis only in the negative sense
>that continued adherence to the latter is a major fetter on the
>development of the latter"
>a) In expressing views points can be taken out of context, eg I could
>agree with points (5) or (9) if I can drop the word 'such'.
>b) dialectical and modal constructions allowed, eg 'I do not necessarily
>disagree with point (7)'
>I would be particularly interested in Steve and Gil's response
>to points (1) (2) (3) and (4) because Gil's pained reactions to my OPE-L 1625
>leaves me exceedingly puzzled; I think I know what he thinks is wrong
>with Marx's value theory, but I can't for the life of me work out what he
>thinks is right with it.

Alan, a lot of work to do and another quiz on the computer!

Only a quick answer, now:

1. YES
2. NO
3. NO
4. NO
5. NI - which means yes and no, or, if you wish, may be with further details
6.7.8. NO NO

A quick justification:

Sraffa's simulaneous system of equations is following a stream of thought
which is in Marx. Prices of production are shown to be deducible without
starting from value magnitudes. This really creates a problem for Marx's
"orthodoxy" since for Marx value theory wanted to show that exchange values
are the essential (i.e., not dispensable) starting point to reach price of

However, value theory is not reducible to this idea. Most relevant on this
point is its role as the theory which explains how profits are originated,
and how this origin is dissimulated on the surface. From this point of
view, there is a logical priority of values over prices.

This priority can be rescued if there is a way to show that, in a sense
very far from Engels, there is a real sense in saying that value magnitudes
are also 'historically' prior to prices. I don't think this can be done in
the sense of the sequentialist solutions - on this I would rather side with
simultaneity! But it can be done saying that *looking at each capitalist
circuit*, if the object of analysis is to explain capital (which means that
we do not presuppose it), we must logically start imagining that wage
labour produces mere commodities exchanged at value (living labour =
necessary labour), then imagine a prolongation of living labour (living
labour > necessary labour), and only eventually see what happens if the
capitalist surplus is redistributed according to some rule.

Here then my position has a similar structure to Steve's one, but with a
different content. I stick to the abstract version of the labour theory of
value, and stress the labour/labour power distinction (and its consequences
for the analysis of production) as the heart of the matter.

>From this point of view, then, the logical structure of the argument
requires that there are *two* system of exchange ratios [values and
prices], though in reality obly the second are the 'actual' ones. And from
this point of view I can fully accept the Sraffa-based critiques against
those who want to rescue Marx's transformation procedure 'as such' as the
only 'true' theory of prices of production .

I think that this gives a hint on the reasoning behind all of my answers to
your questions. Only two qualifications: I think that some of Marx's
conclusions according to the orthodox (e.g., the falling rate of profit, et
similia) are in fact wrong, but I do think that Marx's value theory is the
correct basis for analysing the topics of accumulation etc., so I do not
accept the general statement 3 of Steedman but I am not completely against
it. Second, I think that the simultaneous solution may be seen as internal
to a larger project, which explains my answer to 5.

I don't know if this is useful.

The comic thing is that, as we all know, Sraffa was in favour of the labour
theory of value (if Joan Robinson's memory did not fail); and that I think
Garegnani would reject most of the anti-Marxia statementes of Steedman...


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