[OPE-L:6566] [OPE-L:31] Re: Weeks and the FRP

John R. Ernst (ernst@PIPELINE.COM)
Sat, 23 May 1998 00:29:00 -0400 (EDT)

In OPE_L 29, Alejandro Ramos writes:

I've been reading John Weeks' Capital and Exploitation, Princeton, 1981,
particularly the chapter devoted to Accumulation and Crises, and I would
wish to share with the list a couple of passages that I find particularly

Passage 1

Weeks writes:

"Accumulation is initiated by the *advancing of capital*, and the elements
of production are purchased at some *set of prevailing values*. Further,
production occurs on the basis of workers employing a quantity of fixed
means of production *purchased at some set of values*. Technical change
reduces living labor relatively to the means of production, raising the
organic composition of capital. Once the production process is completed,
the produced commodities must be realized. Since technical change does not
occur evenly, different capitals bring the same commodities to the market
after using different quantities of concrete labor in their production. In
the process of realization, *new values* are objectified in these
commodities, *lower than before*.

John comments:

While I tend to agree with what Weeks is getting at in the above, I
think it also brings to the fore some of the weaknesses in the TSS case.
That is, using labor time as the dimension for comparing the values
of inputs and outputs as well as for computing the rate of profit is,
at best, a starting point for the analysis of accumulation. Here, for
example, we find no hint of what the capitalists see as this rate
of profit falls. Indeed, why "in the process of realization"
cannot the "new values" be objectified in the same set of prices as
the "old values"? Put another way, must one hold the MELT constant
for the the rate of profit fall?

Weeks writes:

"This results in two major consequences. First, within each branch of
industry, a redistribution of surplus value occurs. Those capitals
unaffected by technical change will have higher cost prices than those
which have introduced the new technique. As a consequence, at the uniform
selling price, the former will realize less surplus value as profit than
the latter. For the less efficient capitals, the rate of profit will fall.
This fall in the rate of profit for these capitals is the result of *having
initiated the circuit of capital at one set of values and realizing their
commodities at a second*.

John comments:

Again, the output values fell relative to the input values. But Weeks
is still talking about commodities realizing their values. Unless we
assume a constant MELT or one that doesn't change much, the fall itself
is easily called into question.

Weeks writes:

"But this is also true of the innovating capitals, and leads to the second
effect. For all capitals, the *realization of values are below the initial
values*, so that the capital advanced (the denominator of the profit
formula) is calculated upon values that are higher than the values that
determine the amount of surplus value realized. The greater the increase in
the productivity of labor, the greater will be the quantitative difference
between these *two sets of values*. (pp. 205-6; emphases added.)

John comments:

If capitalists experience innovation in this fashion, why would they
ever innovate? Do capitalists not take "moral depreciation" into
account prior to making investments? If they do, why would this
rate of profit fall? Again, by dragging the "realization of values"
into the picture with no reference to the MELT, we are trapped
in a one-dimensional world in which valorization and realization
are not processes but mere products of the assumption that the MELT
is constant or little changed.

Passage 2

Alejandro cites another passage:

Weeks writes:

"The task... is to explain both why the rate of profit does fall and why
under some circumstances it does not. A theory that always predicts one or
the other is no guide to understanding reality, where *both* occur." (p. 205)

John comments:

Viewing the accumulation process as one in which input values differ
from output values in the manner Weeks describes, it's relatively simple
to see why his rate of profit falls as innovation takes place. Missing
is the notion that as that rate of profit falls, the rate of profit
computed using exchange values is probably rising. "Both" occur albeit
simultaneously. But I don't think this is the "both" to which Weeks
refers. Rather Weeks seems to have difficulty imagining how his
rate of profit might increase. Without reference to prices, Marx's
counteracting tendencies to the fall in the rate of profit become
a mere laundry list and are never fully integrated into the accumulation