[OPE-L:3748] Re: average commodities

Allin Cottrel (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Sun, 1 Dec 1996 20:34:36 -0800 (PST)

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Sorry, but I have to say that I don't think Fred is reading
my stuff very carefully before firing off his replies.
Naturally, he's under no obligation to read it, carefully or
otherwise, but if he's going to take the trouble to reply it
would be helpful if he also took the trouble to try to make
sense of it first. This would save time in clearing up
pointless misunderstandings.

Anyway, of course I was not saying that the equality of
price of production and value, for commodities of average
composition, is *always* an "as if" matter for Marx.
Provided the composition in money terms mirrors the
composition in value terms, price of production = value for
such a capital (i.e. one of average composition) in every
interpretation of Marx that I'm aware of, with no "as if"
about it. The passage that, as I claim, bears the "as if"
interpretation is the specific one that we have been hashing
over, namely section II of chapter XII of vol. 3, which is
the *only* locus (that I know of) where Marx discusses the
price-value relationship for commodities produced by
capitals of average composition *under the specific
assumption of a divergence between the magnitudes of c and v
in price terms and their value counterparts*. (Elsewhere --
that is, in his other discussions of the pricing of the
products of capitals of average composition -- we can easily
read him as assuming that c and v are priced in
correspondence with their values, in which case
single-system and dualism give the same result.)

Let me review my grounds for the "as if" claim.

1. The argument Marx is making in this section -- namely,
that a change in the wage will leave unchanged the price of
production of commodities produced by a capital of average
composition (in money terms), even if the cost-price of such
commodities differs from "the sum of the values of the
elements which make up this component of their price of
production" -- goes through under the "as if" reading.
Marx's theoretical point does not require that p = v under
these circumstances. I spelled this out with an example a
short while ago.

2. At one point Marx says that "the price of production =
cost-price plus profit = k+p = k+s; i.e. in practice it is
equal to the value of the commodity." This may appear to
validate single-system, but then what is the "in practice"
doing there? On the SS reading it's quite odd. Marx might
as well have said "in theory", or nothing at all. My claim
is that the above sentence is misleading (badly expressed,
or possibly badly translated) and Marx's sense is better
expressed infra, when he says, "The practical result is
therefore the same as it would be if [the products of the
capital of average comp.] were sold at their real value."
This reads counterfactually. It fits in with my reading.
Marx is concerned to make a point about the (null) effect of
a change in wages on the product of capitals of average
composition, in the general case where we're not assuming
that composition in money terms mirrors the corresponding
value magnitude. This requires only that such commodities
behave as if they are sold at their values. And Marx has an
argument to that effect.

3. The other reason for favouring the "as if" interpretation
of the passage is that it renders the passage consistent
with the opening paragraph of the section. If we insist
that price of production = k+p and value = k+s -- with the
same "k" appearing in both expressions as a general
theoretical matter -- then we can't make sense of that
opening discussion of the *two* factors that drive a wedge
between price of production and value... unless we resort to
the expedient of claiming that Marx meant something
different by the term "value" in that context than in the
rest of the section.

Allin Cottrell