[OPE-L:3606] vol. 3, chs 11 & 12

Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Wed, 6 Nov 1996 12:07:35 -0800 (PST)

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Once more on single-system. This is more of a response to
Fred than to Alejandro.

1. Chapter XI of vol. 3 is concerned with the impact on
prices of production of a change in wages, assuming both the
length of the working day and the value of the individual
elements of the workers' consumption bundle to be fixed.
Marx shows that a fall in wages will (a) leave unchanged the
price of production of commodities produced by capitals of
average composition, (b) lead to a reduction in the price
of production of commodities produced by capitals of
below-average composition, and (c) raise the price of
products produced by capitals of above-average composition.

Here the "dog that did not bark" is relevant. Note that
according to the single-system view such a fall in wages
would not only affect prices of production in the way Marx
describes -- it would also produce a change in the *values*
of commodities produced by capitals of other than the
average composition, by affecting the cost-price. Marx does
not breathe a word about this possibility. One would think
he would have remarked on it (given his customary
thoroughness) if he indeed held the single-system view.

2. In Chapter XII (the "Supplementary Remarks" to which Fred
has recently drawn our attention), Marx says:

"We have seen how a deviation in prices of production from
values arises from:
1) adding the average profit instead of the surplus-value
contained in a commodity to its cost-price;
2) the price of production, which so deviates from the
value of a commodity, entering into the cost-price of other
commodities as one of its elements, so that the cost-price
of a commodity may already contain a deviation from value in
those means of production consumed by it..." (Moscow, pp.

This is very clear. But note that it is flat wrong on the
single-system view. On that view, Marx's point 2 is *not*,
as he states, a cause of "a deviation in prices of
production from values", since (on the single-system view)
the *value* of the output commodity, just as much as the
price of production of that commodity, is altered by
price-value deviation in the means of production consumed.
If the consequences of the single-system view are pursued
rigorously, Marx's point 2 has to be seen as causing not a
deviation of prices of production from values, but a
*deviation of values from the labour-times required actually
to produce commodities* -- a deviation which, I claim, is
nonsensical within Marx's theory.

3. Here's a trickier one. As discussed by Fred, Marx
proceeds to consider what difference it makes (if any) if
there is a price-value deviation in the c and v magnitudes
of a capital of average composition (Moscow, p. 207).
Specifically, Marx wants to know whether it makes any
difference to the theorem he has worked out in the previous
chapter, namely that a change in the wage rate has no impact
on the price of production of commodities produced by
capitals of average composition. He claims that the theorem
remains valid. He states that so long as the c:v ratio is
the same for some capital X as in the aggregate, capital X
generates a profit equal to the surplus value produced, and
hence "the price of production = cost-price plus profit =
k+p = k+s; i.e. in practice it is equal to the value of the

That is, from the premise that surplus value equals profit,
for commodities produced by capitals of average composition,
Marx claims to infer that price of production equals value.
There is clearly a suppressed premise. Is it (a) that the
aggregate price of production of the means of production,
including labour-power, equals the aggregate value of the
means of production (even though c and v, individually, may
carry a price-value deviation)? Or is it (b) that the
magnitude that must be added to s to determine the value of
the commodity is the same as the k (i.e. the cost-price)
that factors into its price of production -- *irrespective
of whether k carries a price-value deviation*.

Since (b) -- which Fred favours -- stands in contradiction
to the statement with which Marx introduces this part of
Chapter XII (see my point 2 above), I tentatively favour
reading (a). But I have to say that I find this particular
argument of Marx's quite obscure. It seems a slender reed
on which to base an interpretation of his basic concepts.

Allin Cottrell