[OPE-L:6393] Re: Re: Two Rates of Profit?

C. J. Arthur (cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk)
Wed, 1 Apr 1998 12:03:55 +0100

Some replies to fred's long post of 30/3/98
1. I stress again that I am not concerned with what Marx really meant. I
already said he treated 'general' and 'average' as synonyms. Thus I agree
with almost all of Fred's interpretation. The one thing I differ on is his
calim that Volume 1 is about aggregates. As I have pointed out to Fred
before there is no textual evidence of this. Vol.1 constructs the concept
of capital (but see below my point 6)
2. What I am suggesting is that my two definitions clarify some issues we
should be concerned with. Insofar as I quoted bits of Marx this was to show
how they could be sorted between *my definitions*. I do not claim to find
these in Marx. But I think we can improve on Marx by distinguishing them.
To remind people they were: a) the notion of a 'general rate' implies that
we have here something determined by other generalities.
b) the notion of an 'average rate' implies an average of prior
differences; hence a redistribution (of something created in particular
sites) as a result of the interrelations of individual capitals, that is to
say, as a result of competition.
3. Since both definitions give the same numerical result it might be
thought I am hair splitting. But I think entirely different ontologies lie
behind them and this does affect how we defend the theory. In particular, I
think if one can defend the GRP this strengthens the case against
4. Given the GRP one can speak of real determination as opposed to
arithmetical determination of the RP. Fred insists that even with the ARP
alone this would be logically prior to prices of production. He says in his
point 4
<A question for Chris: if the average rate of profit is
determined simultaneously with prices of production, EXACTLY
HOW is the average rate of profit determined? What is the
equation (or set of equations) for the determination of the
general rate of profit (and prices of production)? >
The answer is that it is determined by the same *equation* as Fred. The
catch lies in the term 'determined'. Here, in an equation, it means in
effect *theoretically* determined when *we* undertake the averaging
procedure. Within the framework of my definition of ARP alone this has no
*effectivity*; within this framework the only effectivity is that of
competition that eventually arrives at the result we theoretically
predicted ( along with the relevant prices). Here the 'aggregates' used in
calculating the ARP are merely arithmetically prior to prices of
The great advantage of the GRP as I defined it is that if this really
exists as the expresson of system wide determinants it is *really* prior to
production prices; and competition in *no* sense determines it but merely
enforces it on the calculations of individual capitals just as Marx wants.
Fred writes
<This clarifies the meaning of the passage from the beginning of
Chapter 10 of Volume 3 that Chris interprets to mean that the
general rate of profit is determined by competition. But Chris
is confusing the THEORETICAL DETERMINATION of the general
rate of profit with the ACTUAL EQUALIZATION of profit rates
through competition and the mobility of capital. In the quoted
passage, Marx is not talking about the determination of the
general rate of profit, but rather about the actual process of
equalization of profit rates to the otherwise determined general
rate of profit. >
So far from confusing these, I insist this distinction be taken seriously.
There are two different processes - the determinaton of the GRP which is
nothing to do with competition and the actual equalisation achieved through
competition. But for me, and I hope for Fred, the GRP is *not* a mere
'theoretical determination' but a reality.
5.Note: here in the dertermination of the GRP it is inappropriate to speak
of aggregates but better of totalities. More hair-splitting I'm afraid: by
aggregate I mean a theoretical sum of individually detrermined amounts; by
totality I mean a whole of which individual amounts are mere aliquot parts.
The difference is that a totality acts as a whole while an aggregate can
only act in piecemeal fashion since ontologically it comprises independent
6. I see I have to say more on ontology. What is capital? Is it just a
class name for a common feature of Ford, Microsoft, Volkswagen etc.? In
this case 'capital' is a rhetorical fiction. All that really exists are
individual capitals which may be compared or aggregated but in realtiy act
as fully individuated beings. In such a case only the ARP on my definition
would have meaning and the ARP would be arithmetically, but not really,
prior to prices of production.
I reject this atomistic ontology. In Volume 1 the concept of capital is
defined as self-valorising value. This means it is imbued with the same
objective abstractness and ontological inversion of universal and
particular that valuue itself has.. Thus just as the commodity is merely
the bearer of value , and as an instantiation of a certain value
qualitatively identical with every other value, so the enterprise, in spite
of its earthly material existence in factories etc. is determined ideally
as identical with all other capitals. It follows that 'capital' is not a
class name to group similar things it is a homogeneous totality which is
determied in the individuated enterprises as aliquot parts of itself. In
the paper I am working on I will use Hegel's logic of One and Many and
Attraction and Repulsion to illuminate this. One consequence of the
'Repulsion' aspect is that competition is inherent in the very logic of
capital if it is to give sense to its individuations - competition is not a
force external to capitals acting on them , it is how they act on
I cannot go into Hegel here. But I would draw attention of marx's very apt
image of capitals as 'hostile brothers' (also used by Fred). They are
brothers because they share the same logical origin in the mother of all
capitals, so to speak, and as such act as a totality against the workers as
a totality, yet as hostile quarrel over the spoils they have collectively
produced. In sum 'capital is the enemy' in a much more literal sense than
'disease is the enemy'. The latter is a metonymic rhetorical totalisation;
the former is a literal truth 'out there'.
This post is already too long. I'll give notice when I have a paper worthy
of distribution.

Chris Arthur