[OPE-L:3734] only one composition of capital

Fred Moseley (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)
Sat, 30 Nov 1996 08:06:52 -0800 (PST)

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This is a belated response to Paul C.'s 3701 (I have been away the last few

Paul wrote in response to Alejandro R. concerning the two "sources" of
deviations between prices of production and values:

It depends upon how you define the average commodity.
If the average commodity has an average value organic
composition you would be right, if on the other hand
it has an average price organic composition, there remains
the possibility that constant capital used in it has
been purchased above or below its value.

This comment brings out another difference between the standard interpretion
and the "monetary" interpretation of the initial givens in Marx's theory.
According to the "monetary" interpretation, THERE ARE NOT TWO COMPOSITIONS
OF CAPITAL, a value composition of capital and a price composition of
capital. There is instead only one composition of capital - the price
composition of capital, which is the ratio of the money constant capital
invested to the money variable capital invested. These two quantities of
money capital are taken as given in Marx's theory, as the M in the general
formula for capital, M - C - M', not derived first as the value and then as
the price of production of the given physical quantities of means of
production and means of subsistence. Therefore, these given quantities of
money constant capital and money variable capital do not change in Volume 3
as a result of the determination of prices of production.

Marx never once mentioned that there are or could be two compositions of
capital. Also, when Marx discussed commodities produced by "capitals of
average composition," he did so unambiguously, without any hint that these
"average" commodities might be different for values and prices and
production, even though these discussions were usually concerned with prices
of production and the fact that the prices of production of these "average"
commodities are equal to their values. It seems to me that this complete
lack of any mention of two compositions of capital, even in discussions of
"average" commodities where it clearly would have been necessary, is further
evidence against the standard interpretation and supporting the "monetary"

The same point applies, by the way, to the rate of profit and for the same
reasons. There are not two rates of profit (a value rate of profit and a
price rate of profit). Instead, there is only one rate of profit, the price
rate of profit which is the ratio of the total surplus-value (delta-M) to
the total money capital invested.