[OPE-L:2124] Re: Somebody Got It, the sequel

riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Thu, 9 May 1996 09:03:11 -0700

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>From:bellofio@cisi.unito.it (riccardo bellofiore)
>Subject:Re: Somebody Got It, the sequel
>>To:Alan Freeman <100042.617@CompuServe.COM>
>>From:bellofio@cisi.unito.it (riccardo bellofiore)
>>Subject:Re: Somebody Got It, the sequel
>> I am here in Trento to hear to a conference honouring Robert Clower
>>for its 70th birthday, so my post is only replying to the first long Alan's
>>post answering my requests for clarification. I don't know if there are other
>>interventions, so may be I am a bit out-dated - definitely we live in a
>>non-simulatenous world.
>> I thank Alan for his very clear statement of his position. There is
>>always the risk, however, that when the discussion becomes too much detailed
>>something is lost. So, I try again with my maieutic device, and put forward
>>some other questions, and disagreements, in a tentative middle ground
>>language between Alan's and my own. I'll be obliged, this time, to start with
>>some thoughts of mine preliminary to the issues involved.
>> [You know, there is an old Italian theatre sketch, where a guy is
>>waiting another one, and he plays this to the public: "He told me: if you
>>come first, make a sign on the wall; if I come first, I efface it. I don't
>>understand him". That's what I would like to avoid. But to understand each
>>other, you must also understand from where my problems come in. This is a
>>tentative post on this issue.]
>> Let me start with the following Alan's positions [the order of the
>>quotes will often be different from Alan's].
>>>I am leery of any implication that there is a 'hidden' process that
>>>transfers dead labour from one capital to another independent of the
>>>market. Here, I think your use of language is strictly speaking correct,
>>>or to put it more neutrally, I find nothing to disagree with in it,
>>>but the words still make me anxious because of the way they will be
>>>read by a dualist.
>>>For a dualist, 'embodiment' is a process that takes place independent of
>>>the market.
>>>I say the labour that is embodied in constant capital becomes embodied
>>>in the product *via* circulation.
>>>Circulation is socially necessary to capitalism.
>> I am eager to declare that I totally agree with this position. In
>>fact, as most of you know, non-dualism has been one of my favourite ideas,
>>even on this list, as an *interpretation* of Marx.
>> I even came as far as to affirm that in Marx social abstract labour,
>>when it is actualized, is the concrete labour producing the money-commodity.
>> Let me however state that in Marx Capital vol. I all value in
>>production is presupposed to be 'realized'. Moreover, Marx in that same
>>volume assumed that a unit of money represents a unit of labour. Hence, gross
>>profits in money = surplus value as surplus labour 'embodied' - embodied both
>>in the money-commodity and in the commodity itself. At the level of analysis
>>of capital in general there is no problem which comes from the side of the
>>value of money to the identification of the rate of surplus value (the ratio
>>between magnitudes of living labour as extracted in production) and the
>>(gross) profits/wage ratio (as arising in circulation, the ratio between the
>>labour bought by gross profits and the wage bill). Here, in vol. 1, the value
>>of labour power is the labour embodied in workers' consumption.
>> When Marx goes on to vol. 3, on the contrary, there *are*
>>complications arising from the value of money. That is, the forementioned
>>identification does not hold anymore. Marx is not very clear on the issue, I
>>think. In any case, the substantive issue is: we have two streets ahead.
>>Either we do as you do - i.e., we *immediately* identify the value of
>>constant capital and variable capital with the value of the money paid for it
>>- or we allow a distinction between the two magnitudes - i.e., the value of
>>the elements of constant and variable capital, on one side, and the value of
>>the money paid to buy them, on the other.
>> I think the following quotes are very clear that you chose the first
>>>As soon as the cotton and the coal are alienated by sale from the mills and
>>>the mines, the dead labour in them is always transmitted to the
>>>purchaser via the intermediary of money and its magnitude is
>>>represented, for the purchaser, by the value of this money.
>>>What then has to be remembered is that this money sum represents a magnitude
>>>of abstract social labour. It represents an aliquot portion of the past
>>>labour of society, expressed in money. That's the only 'extra'
>>>My preferred mode of expression is therefore:
>>> The value of constant capital is the value of the money paid for it
>>>and I try to use this term everywhere; I think it is the correct,
>>>rigorous term that expresses Marx's value theory correctly. I think
>>>moreover, when one reads the words that Marx actually wrote (in any
>>>language and any translation) this is what he actually says. Why
>>>make matters more complicated?
>> I fully admit that yours (as before you, Duncan's and others "new
>>interpretation") is legitimate, it has its birth place in *one side* of Marx
>>- indeed, I think it is part of the story. I fully grant that mine is, at a
>>certain point, a departure from Marx: but I maintain that the 'resolution' of
>>the rate of exploitation to the magnitudes *actually* extorted *in
>>production* of vol. 1 was essential for Marx, a necessary preliminary to your
>>story. Thus I maintain that I am, as you, faithful to the spirit of Marx. I'm
>>not interested in Marxology, but in the content of the problem. I would even
>>say that yours reading of Marx by construction eliminates any tension between
>>the two Marxes, thus you will almost surely have the upper hand if going to
>>read Marx's quotes *as you do*, i.e. attaching to the terms your rules of
>>translation. On the contrary, I explicitly distance myself from the 'master',
>>and have to struggle with the usual meaning of the words in Capital.
>> Why make matters more complicated? you rightly ask. Because there is a
>>true problem here. My starting point was that Marx's analysis created an
>>undesired result. If wages are anticipated in money, if money cannot be a
>>money commodity [two propositions that I take here as granted, though they
>>are not], and if you 'transform' values into prices of production, then, the
>>rate of exploitation becomes immediately determined - *at one stroke* - by
>>what happens in production, circulation, distribution. I take that Marx's
>>project was rather to *distinguish* among all these things. I hold that you
>>cannot distinguish among them, or gives production priority in a meaningful
>>sense if you do not disengage labour magnitudes from money at the *end* of
>>the circuit, having labour before and money in the metamorphosis with
>>commodity after. But how to do that not becooming a dualist, and leaving a
>>place to money?
>> To do that we must cut the gordian knot created by Marx, that is we
>>must say that what is for Marx abstract labour "in the making" -i.e., the
>>living labour of wage labour *before* circulation - is *already* abstract
>>labour in full, in production, while value arise on the market [while I do
>>not think this distinction between abstract labour and value is in Marx, as
>>Chai-on thinks, may be it is useful to put it in the picture]. I don't want
>>to go into debate on this, if it is unnecessary. I want only that you
>>understand that I distinguish Marx's own words from what I think must be done
>>to be faithful to Marx's problematics [a very different strategy from yours].
>> My way of thinking to the transformation does just that. You have
>>*first* the rate of exploitation of Capital vol 1, and *then* the gross
>>profits/ wage ratio in transformed magnitudes. The same for the Marxian rate
>>of profits and the simultaneists rate of profits. I have no quarrel at
>>Duncan's normalization procedure, and I fully accept his results (may be that
>>yours is in fact an intelligent generalization of Duncan's approach). So I
>>may have, and I do wish to have, his value of labour power, and his value of
>>money [which, according to me, is in fact only the value of money spent as
>>income at the end of the circuit]. I contest however the interpretation by
>>the new approaches, as I understood it, according to which the rate of
>>exploitation collapses into the magnitudes arising in circulation: as if the
>>fact that there is 'unequal exchange' changes the social relations in
>>production, or makes obsolete the analysis of vol 1. [This comes out very
>>clearly from the definition of surplus value and of value of labour power in
>>the Foley approach]. For me, on the contrary, there is a logically justified
>>argument for which there are *two* exchange ratios - hence, two value of
>>labour power - in the transformation. For me the 'values' (surplus labour,
>>and necessary labour: in my meaning) are still there, behind the prices, and
>>it is the duty of Marxian critical political economy to disclose them.
>> For me Capital vol 1 is still there, while deriving the prices of
>>production. For you, Capital vol 3 is already there, while introducing value
>> The key words here is: mediation. Mediation means that there are two
>>distinct experienxces, both real, to be mediated: the class relations in
>>production as experienced by workers, and the individual capitalist
>>experience of competition among branches of production. How the first is
>>grounding the other, without dissolving in it? Marx's theory must be
>>operative, but cannot be *immediately* operative.
>> Let us look at these others quotes:
>>>Constant capital as such is a money sum, on this Marx is very clear. I think
>>>that by the phrase 'labour embodied in constant capital' you mean what I
>>>would call the labour embodied in the *elements* of constant capital, or
>>>even more simply, the value of the elements of constant capital.
>>>The value of constant capital is the value of the elements of
>>>constant capital after being transformed in circulation, in the preceding
>>>period. The value of constant capital has a very definite relation to
>>>the labour embodied in its elements: it is the transformed form of
>>>this labour resulting from circulation, a definite portion of the total
>>>living and dead labour of the past represented by their money price.
>>>This view as such is of course not
>>>ours alone. We share it with the New Solution and the 'simultaneist
>>>nondualists' Bruce/Antonino/Rick, Fred, and Ramos/Rodriguez. What
>>>is distinctive about our view is that we hold that this value of labour-power
>>>is strictly and only determined by the *past* value of wage-goods, or
>>>just as with constant capital, the value of the money sum that paid
>>>for them.
>> Very enlightening. The problem here is not dualism or non dualism.
>>Marx was not dualist, and we must maintain what is positive in it. But we
>>must also allow for a *distinction* between production and circulation, and
>>for the process of mediation. The problem is not simultaneity or
>>sequentialism, either, because the 'historical' aspect behind the
>>transformation problem must be seen *within* the same capitalist circuit.
>> If you don't do that, I would dare to say, you can reach *all* the
>>results of the simultaneous solution - as Andrew said, you may have that
>>s/(c+v) = r, because you have in mind your meaning of (c+v) - simply because
>>you are reducing the solutions of the standard interpretations to amounts of
>>labour commanded by money. That was already partially done by Duncan, who
>>however, rightly, did not claim too much for it. The success here is
>>guaranteed. I'm no better, I am not 'resolving' the transformation, just
>>putting forward a reading. But I'm trying to rescue the *link* between class
>>analysis of production, on one side, and price and distribution theory, on
>>the other, as one of the most important *problems* in political economy,
>>discovering a new continent to social and economic analysis. Sometimes I
>>doubt that for you that is no problem at all.
>>>My view is quite straightforward: this *is* Marx's theory. But as regards
>>>the other participants in the debate I don't wish to impose on them
>>>that they should agree with it. I do, however, think it is completely
>>>to ask them to understand it. Many thanks to Riccardo for doing so.
>> In a sense, it is Marx's theory. And it is a compelled way to
>>interpret Marx if one does refute 'embodied' theories a la Dobb, or Meek, or
>>Sweezy, and puts the money in via the circulation of commodity. As you, I
>>also refute technological 'embodied' Marxism, and want to gve a proper place
>>to money. I hold however that to have money in the circulation of
>>commodities, at the end of the circuit, you must have money *in* the system
>>already at the *beginning* - a good point Clower raised but did not answer
>>for general equioibrium theory! As again vol III shows, in the cycle of
>>capital money must seen as money-capital, finance to production. If this
>>initial finance cannot be done in money-commodity, as I maintain, money
>>reduces to a pure symbol: indeed a really material symbol, the
>>forward-looking capitalist "command" over living labour: at a macro level,
>>that means industrial and monetary capitalist 'unconsciously' decide how much
>>output, and how to produce it, and how it is divided between profit goods and
>>wage goods.
>> Thus I am going towards 'embodied' labour in a monetary economy with
>>finance. It is not necessarily against your views, but definitely against
>>your way of reading them!
>> So you see, I myself was making my story too short. I hope this
>>longer one explains more than it puzzles.

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