[OPE-L:4513] Re: In defence of Marx's Marxism

Ajit Sinh (ecas@cc.newcastle.edu.au)
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 20:20:27 -0800 (PST)

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At 03:06 AM 3/24/97 -0800, Alan Freeman wrote:

>He suggests we consider an extended passage from Fred,
>also while he is away. I respect his motives but I would like
>to discuss, not Fred's general views but a specific
>theoretical position he advances, namely, I repeat [2193]
>the value of constant capital and the value of labor-power
>are not equal to the values of the means of production and
>the means of subsistence, respectively...[they] are then
>determined as the value represented by these given money
>quantities of constant capital and variable capital.

Okay Alan! Since you are not going to let me be quiet, here is my two cents
on the above quote from Fred:

The whole approach turns into determining values from prices. It is simply
putting Marx on his head. Every child knows that the amount of money you pay
for a commodity is its price. To determine values of constant and variable
capital, what you do here is two things. First, you say that we know the
prices (one needs to ask, how did you know that?) then you add some
aggregate condition such as total live labor time (say L) is equal to total
prices of the net output (say y). Now, by dividing L/y you determine the
"value of money" in labor-time unit. Then you use these labor-time units
attached to the prices of all the commodities, and voila! you determined
values. What is the point of this excercise? How are these prices determined
in the first place?

Secondly, if you define values through such determination of "value of
money" and define variable capital and surplus value in terms of "value of
money" by taking 'money wages' as GIVEN and not 'real wages', you will find
that your rate of surplus value would change with simple change in
capitalists' consumption habits, everything else remaining constant. So what
happens to the whole idea of exploitation is determined at the level of
production? This particular fact is so far away from Marx's notion of
exploitation that the proponents of this approach should have immediately
noticed that there is something wrong with their approach, and gone back to
look for the mistake. I feel like the kid who exclaimed, "Emperor has no
cloth!". Nice to be a kid again!

>I would like Ajit to tell us (and I would like us to listen)
>why he thinks Marx is a surplus approach economist, what is
>wrong with the above theoretical proposition, whether this
>theoretical proposition is completely excluded or merely
>debatable, and so on.

I have taken a lot of pain to discuss this position in my paper published in
RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY VOL. 15. It is about 30 pp. long in print. So
I hope people would read it and come up with their criticisms. The way the
debate on value is evolving, I suspect some of the crucial issues of
'scarcity' and 'surplus' approaches would come up in due course.

Cheers, ajit sinha