[OPE-L:2515] Re: theory of surplus and theory of prices

Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Thu, 13 Jun 1996 10:26:17 -0700 (PDT)

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On Thu, 13 Jun 1996, Fred wrote:

> Paul C. has asserted in several recent posts that "one cannot have a theory
> of surplus-value without a threory of relative prices." This assertion is
> simply false.
> I have presented an aggregate theory of surplus-value in my 1993 paper on
> the transformation problem in Marx's Method (which I summarized in a recent
> post (2441)), which does not depend in any way on a theory of relative
> prices. This aggregate theory of surplus-value depends primarily on the
> assumption that the total money value added in the capitalist economy as a
> whole is proportional to the total current labor in the capitalist economy
> as a whole. From this assumption, it is easily derived that the total
> amount of surplus-value is proportional to the total amount of surplus
> labor, where surplus labor is defined NOT as the labor-time embodied in
> surplus-goods, but rather as the number of hours that workers produce money
> value added over and above the equivalent of their money-wage.

I'm going offline for 10 days or so, but a brief response to Fred
before doing so.

My question is: what is the status of the "assumption" that total money
value added is proportional to total current labour? Presumably the
idea of "proportionality" must mean that if we compare the economy in
various different periods, we find a common ratio of money value
added to labour performed. Now this is obviously empirically false,
and presumably to save the assumption we need to add in the
cetris paribus clause, "if there is no change in the value of money".
But then the assumption becomes, as Duncan puts it, a "stipulation".
What we have, it seems to me, is not any sort of proof or demonstration
that surplus labour-time is the source of profit, but rather a
proposition of the form, "let us consider the consequences of supposing
that surplus labour-time is the source of profit." If I understand
him right, Duncan may reckon that that is all we are entitled to
propose. On the other hand, I suspect that Fred (and others) are
in search of a "stronger" formulation. If relative prices are
(to a first approximation) proportional to labour-contents, then we
can justify a stronger formulation -- and I take this to be
Paul's point.

Allin Cottrell.