[OPE-L:5124] Re: RRI and The Rate of Profit

John Ernst (ernst@pop.pipeline.com)
Mon, 26 May 1997 20:13:39 -0700 (PDT)

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RE: OPE-L 5118


Given what follows, I think I may have been a bit off on this one. Let's
go over this.

Responding to me,
In ope-l 5112, Duncan Foley wrote:

"I think Marx uses the phrase 'the most important law of political economy'
[when referring to the law of the tendential fall in the profit rate] to mean
the most important law discovered by Smith and Ricardo. I think he views it as
important because he sees it as a reflection of the technologically
revolutionary character of the capitalist mode of production in contrast to
other technologically stagnant modes of production. In this sense the
'falling rate of profit' for Marx is the other side of the coin of 'relative
surplus value'."

Andrew wrote:

This is not supported by the context:

"This is IN EVERY RESPECT the most important law of modern political economy,
and the most essential for understanding the most difficult relations. It is
the most important law from the historical standpoint. IT IS A LAW WHICH,
CONSCIOUSLY ARTICULATED" (Grundrisse, p. 748, caps added).

The text indicates that he views the law as important "in every respect," and
that he is referring to his own original contribution.

John comments:

When I discussed "the most important" law, I thought I referring to
Part III of Vol. 3 of CAPITAL. A quick search of that text indicates
that I may be wrong here. (Can anyone find "most important" in that
part of CAPITAL?) You clearly dug out a quote in which the description
of the law as "most important" does occur. I do note that after
Marx began to refer to his own efforts as "a critique" the law
of the falling rate is referred to as one of political economy.
(See letter to Engels 4/30/1868.)

The questions concerning Marx's view of the law are not a
matter of mere Marxology. Indeed, your post suggests that
much more is at stake. I think that this whole matter raises
the following questions.

1. Is the "law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall"
(written in 1865) equivalent to "the law of motion of modern
society" (a phrase written in 1867)?

2. How does the "law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall"
or "the law of motion of modern society" relate to Marx's idea
that the periodicty of crises should be linked to the turnover
of fixed capital? Indeed, for how long did Marx have this
hypothesis concerning the periodicity of crises?