[OPE-L:3849] Re: conservation laws

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 07:38:20 -0800 (PST)

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Fred wrote in [OPE-L:3846]:

> In my view, Marx's two aggregate equalities are TRUE BY ASSUMPTION, or by
> methodological presupposition. According to Marx's logical method, the total
> amount of value and surplus-value are determined prior to and independent of
> the division of these total amounts into individual parts. These total
> amounts of are TAKEN AS GIVEN, or as predetermined, in the further analysis
> of the individual parts. Therefore, these total amounts cannot be altered
> by this division into individual parts, because they are determined and
> taken as given prior to this division. The sums of the individual parts are
> equal by assumption to the predetermined totals of value and surplus-value.

Our minds must work in different ways, Fred. You seem to believe that the
above settles the question of the meaning of the twin equalities. Even if
I grant you all of the above, from my perspective this just raises *more*
questions than it resolves.

Most importantly, how are we to interpret the meaning of the twin
equalities. To say that it is true by assumption begs the question. One
must explain *why* and ... , even harder, *how*

For instance, are there always these equalities or are they realized
tendencially? If they are realized tendencially, this implies periods of
time when the equalities will not hold.

If they are realized tendencially, what are the social forces that will
bring about these equalities and disturb the equalities?

Are prices of production and a general rate of profit also formed
tendencially? I believe that to the extent that these processes have
meaning and are real social processes (a claim that has been challenged on
this list before), then one must explain how these processes are realized
over time rather than just take them as given.

Moreover, if we *only* take these equalities as given, don't we lock
ourselves into a non-temporal equilibrium framework?

At the risk of being repetitive, I will again state that from a
methodological perspective, that which is taken as given by assumption,
must then later be explained at a more concrete level of abstraction.
Although this may be a controversial point, I *don't* believe that Marx's
method would is consistent with the simple axiomatic method. If an axiom
is advanced, it must later be explained as being consistent with a real
social force peculiar to capitalism.

> The possibility that these two aggregate equalities are not simultaneously
> true - indeed in general the impossibility that both will be simultaneously
> true - follows from an entirely different logical method - the method of
> linear production theory, in which the initial givens are the physical
> quantities of inputs and outputs and the total amounts of value and
> surplus-value play no role whatsoever. If these total amounts are
> considered at all, they are derived as the sum of individual values and
> prices, not determined prior to the division into individual parts, as in
> Marx's theory.

>From a historical perspective, I think you are correct. That is, the
"attack" on the twin equalities, going back to Tugan-Baranowsky and
Bortkiewicz, took place within the context of the development of linear
production theory. More recently, it has been a component part of the
Neo-Ricardian critique of Marx in Steedman, Lippi, et. al. This does not
mean, though, that *all* those who question the meaning of the
"conservation laws" embrace the method embodied within the math of linear
production theory.

In solidarity, Jerry