[OPE-L:4414] Re: KM's interpretation of the TP

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Mon, 17 Mar 1997 11:08:36 -0800 (PST)

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In response to Ajit's ope-l 4402:

Ajit: "I mostly agree with Fred and Allin on their criticisms of Andrew
Kliman and
Ted McGlone and others who are following a similar approach to the
transformation problem. Their approach has never made any sense to me."

This is fine by me. The purpose of our work on this issue was not to develop
something that made sense to Marx's critics, but to refute allegations that
Marx's own transformation account was internally inconsistent, and that it had
been proven to be inconsistent. We succeeded, and if the result doesn't make
sense to Marx's critics, so be it. Actually, this is not surprising at all.
His own transformation account, which ours replicates, never made sense to
them. So why should ours make any more sense to them? The point, however, is
that no one has proven inconsistency; they've just used this macho language
instead of acknowledging that they couldn't make sense of what Marx was doing.

Ajit: "The problem is simple: KM claim that the input prices are equivalent
to value
and the divergence between value and prices occur only in the outputs."

This is not what we claim. At best it is misleading. We do not claim that
the prices of means of production and labor-power (or means of subsistence)
employed as inputs are equivalnet to the values of means of production and
labor-power (or means of subsistence).

Ajit: "Let us suppose the system is in simple reproduction schema, just for
simlicity sake, and that nothing in the world changes from period zero to
period one. In this case every reasonable person would think that the prices
in period one would remain the same as the prices in period zero."

Good. I guess I'm reasonable. I agree with this 100%. Note, however, that
"nothing in the world" includes more than technical and real wage
coefficients. It also includes input prices.

Ajit: "Now as KM claim that the prices in period zero is given, "we know it",
then it is
quite clear that in our hypothetical case we also know the prices in period
one. No need for a theory of prices! This reveals the bankruptcy of KM

Hogwash. In the first place, did or did not Marx's own account of the
transformation take the constant and variable capital as given (as well as the
results of the immediate process of production) in order then to compute
production prices?

Second, all dynamic results depend on initial conditions. If the system in
question is an equilibrium system, then, as time approaches infinity, the
particular initial condition will matter less and less to the quantitative
results. But this is not true in general. Ever hear about sensitive
dependence on initial conditions?

Third, Ajit's notion of theory is quite mechanical. It is as if the only
possible purpose of theory were to predict the magnitudes of things. What
about a theory of what prices ARE? That's what Marx was doing in Ch. 9:
definitizing the concept that prices and profits ARE forms of value and
surplus-value and are limited by them in the aggregate.

Ajit: "You cannot have a theory of prices when prices are determined by
prices themselves, no matter whether you call one price "value" or whatever.
To have a theory of prices, you must determine prices from some data other
than prices."

This is again a very mechanical concept of determination. Ever hear of
self-determination? I realize that as an Althusserian you won't agree, but I
am self-determining in that Kliman is determined by Kliman himself. Human
beings make their own history, though of course not under conditions of their

Moreover, Ajit is ontologizing the value/price relation in a way that Marx did
not. The issue for Marx was not that prices were dependent on values but
values weren't dependent on prices, but that one cannot COMPREHEND prices
without reference to values. Of course, this makes no sense if one's notion
of theory is just prediction of magnitudes, so Marx's concept gets
"translated" into something he didn't say or mean. That he definitely did
know that TODAY's values depend on PAST prices is clear from the several
passages in which he notes that the capital-values advanced can differ from
the values of means of production and subsistence.

Ajit: "Otherwise, your theory turns into 'check it out theory', ie. go
out in the market and check it out what prices are prevailing--let's leave
the question of which prices should we check out, since there are always too
many different prices for the same commodities in this world."

I do not understand what Ajit is trying to say here. It seems to presuppose
his mechanistic concept of theory, but I still don't really understand it.

My question for Ajit is this: since your own theory cannot make sense of what
Marx was doing, in this case and many others, why not just call it "Sraffian"
or "surplus approach" rather than attribute it to Marx?

Andrew Kliman