[OPE-L:3864] [FRED] conservation laws

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 21:47:16 -0800 (PST)

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Date: Thu, 19 Dec 1996 22:34:49 -0600 (CST)
From: Fred Moseley <fmoseley@laneta.apc.org>
To: ope-l@anthrax.ecst.csuchico.edu
Subject: conservation laws

This is a brief reply to Jerry's (3849) on Marx's "two aggregate
equalities" or "conservation laws."

Jerry asked a series of questions:

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?

Let me just say quickly that I am think that, in Marx's determination of
prices of production in Chapter 9 of Volume 3, that he was assuming that
there is at least a tendency toward equal rates of profit and that prices of
production are the long-run equilibrium prices that correspond to this
equality of rates of profit.

However, the two aggregate equalities do not depend on this equalization.
The two equalities mean that the sums of individual prices and the sum of
individual profits are equal to the total price and the total profit (or
surplus-value). These two equalities follow from Marx's methodological
premise that the total price and the total profit are determined prior to
the division of these sums into individual parts and are not affected by
this division. If rates of profit are not equalized, then the individual
prices and profits will be different. But this different distribution of
surplus-value does not affect the magnitude of the totals. What one
industry gains by a higher than average rate of profit other industries lose
by lower than average rates of profit. The sum of the individual prices and
individual profits remains the same, i.e. remains equal to the predetermined

I look forward to continuing this and other discussions when I return in two

Happy holidays to everybody!