[OPE-L:5383] [ANDREW K] Re:Luxuries in the New Solution

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 28 Aug 1997 13:39:08 -0700 (PDT)

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A reply to two aspects of Rieu's ope-l 5371.

He writes:

Yes, as I noted in ope-l:5369, simultaneist framework doesn't guarantee all
results of Marx. But I don't think that our theoru must be able to replicate
all results of Marx. The problem is to maintain the key point of Marx's
surplus value theory, ie. profit is determined by surplus value produced in
all industries including luxury sector.

I'm glad we agree that simultaneism is incompatible with Marx's own value
theory. I'm also happy to let you and others have your own theory even if it
doesn't replicate all of Marx's results. But shouldn't an *interpretation* of
*Marx's own* theory replicate his results? If one interpretation does so and
others do not, isn't the former interpretation superior -- as an
interpretation of Marx's own theory? If you and others have a right to your
own theory, isn't Marx entitled to his own theory, even if it disagrees with

Despite the "Fundamental Marxian Theorem," I do not think that simultaneism is
compatible with the theory that profit is determined by production of
surplus-value. Take the following example: In year 1, 9 bushels of corn and
2 person-years of living labor are used to produce 11 bushels of corn.
Workers receive 1/2 bushel of corn per person-year of labor, i.e., 1 bushel of
corn. The simultaneist unit value of corn is 1, the rate of exploitation is
100%, the rate of profit is 10%. Positive surplus-value and a positive profit
rate. So far, so good.

Now imagine that in year 2, everything remains the same, except that bugs eat
a lot of corn, so that the output of corn falls from 11 bushels to 8 bushels.
The rate of profit falls to -20%. The simultaneist unit value becomes a
meaningless -2, and the simultaneist rate of exploitation computed by means of
it becomes a meaningless -200%. However, measuring the rate of exploitation
in terms of the "surplus product," we get -2/1 which also equals -200%. This
may still look okay, since we have negative surplus-value and a negative rate
of profit.

But the workers are just as exploited as before. They worked just as hard,
received no more wages. The reason "profit" and the "profit rate" became
negative had nothing to do with them, and nothing to do with any change in the
capital/labor relationship. It was caused by bugs. So simultaneism implies
that profit is determined not only by surplus-labor but also by bugs and other
natural conditions.

Moreover, note that profit and the profit rate will remain negative no matter
how much the wage is (notionally) reduced. As the real wage is reduced, the
simultaneist profit rate rises, but its MAXIMUM in year 2 is -11.1%. This
maximum rate would occur when the real wage was reduced to zero. So we would
have the following: the workers work for 2 person-years for nothing.
Clearly, they are exploited, they perform surplus-labor. Yet there's negative
simultaneist "profit."

Even if the real wage actually cannot get that low, the point is clear: no
matter how hard the workers work, and how little they get, i.e., no matter how
much they are exploited, their surplus-labor will not be a source of profit if
there's a negative "net product." Clearly, the underlying determinant of
profitability in simultaneist theory has nothing to do with the extraction of
living labor. Rather, profitability depends on use-values: the amounts of
use-values produced as outputs vs. the amounts of use-values used as inputs.
This is a use-value theory of profit, not a labor theory.

Andrew Kliman