[OPE-L:6417] Re: [OPE] What is prior?(was: two rates of profit)

Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au)
Mon, 6 Apr 1998 11:22:54 +1030

>I don't disagree with this as it stands; however I feel a more fundamental
>principle is that the total amount of value is determined independent of
>its distribution or division into individual parts as Chris's comments
>[Tue, 31 Mar 1998 12:41:33 +010] indicate
>I would thus modify Fred's presentation of the principle in two respects.
>First, the magnitude of value - not just surplus-value - is independent
>of distribution. Second, I use the word 'independent' instead of the
>words 'determined prior' because of the ambiguity of the word 'prior'.
>The decisive point is that distribution does not enter into the
>determination of the magnitude of value.
>Fred's principle follows as a consequence of this epistemologically
>more general principle, which I think is Marx's actual operating
>principle, as many texts indicate.
I don't know about Fred, but I would disagree with this. First, it is not
clear that the independence of the magnitude of value from distribution is
an ' epistemologically
>more general principle' or even an 'epistemological' principle. if the
>principle were justified, it could only be as an ontological principle,
>that social labour time and itrs measure are independent of its
>distribution within society.

However, even if Marx thought this, it is not clear that it is fundamental
to his theory. What is required for Marx's theory is that the rate of
surplus value be determined independently of distribution since he wants to
explain some fundamental features of distribution (division between wages
and profits) as at least being constrained by the division between the
labour time direct producers work for their historically conditioned
subsistence and the labour time which can be expropriated from the direct
producers. (Marx would have to accepted that the day to day rate of surplus
value was dependent on distribution, being influenced by the current
bargaining power of workers inb the labour market, supply and emand for
credit, etc) But the rate of surplus value can be determined independently
of distribution without either the magnitude of value or the magnitude of
surplus value being determined independently of distribution. ( any
variation in surplus value due to distribution would need to be cancelled
by a corresponding variation in variable capital flow). Even the
determination of the rate of surplus value independely of distribution
would not be required if the explanation Marx wanted to give of
distribution was that among interacting factors, one had greater weight in
determing the outcome of the interaction at a time or over time. But I
don't think Marx wanted this sort of explanation.

This is fortunate for Marx's theory, since I do not know of any
satisfactory way of determining the division of value between joint
products and the flow of value from fixed capital independently of
distribution, and I don't know of any satisfactory way of establishiong
that the effects of such distribution dependent values will cancel out in
the aggregate (either with total value or total surplus value)