[OPE-L:7025] [OPE-L:519] TTCS -- OPEL 514

John R. Ernst (ernst@PIPELINE.COM)
Thu, 25 Feb 1999 14:57:28


Thanks for Brenner stuff. I, too, would like to see him or others
work things out a bit more.

David wrote;

So. Here goes! The *inquiry* in value theory which I find to be
singularly fruitful and hope to pursue, and with which I do not mind being
identified, may be called:

*T*heoretical *T*ime / *C*onsistent *S*tructure

Explanation. First, time, like all essential aspects of reality, must
be theorized; that is, different processes and activities are captured in
their most fundamental aspects by being placed on different levels of
time-abstraction. This sounds mysterious, but an example should make clear
what I have in mind. The competitive shaping of value under specific
(capitalist) production relations involves what Marx captured in his "pooling
and redistribution" metaphor, and to grasp the full force of this requires
that we (theoretically) imagine it being played out *over time*, while
*other* processes -- such as class polarization, accumulation and technical
change -- are held constant. Thus, on this plane of analysis value formation
takes place *at one level of time,* while deeper levels are (theoretically)
frozen. Time enters the theory hierarchically; this is the sense in which
time is treated theoretically -- hence, TT.

My comment:

Wait a minute. As you move about in your analysis using TT, how do we
know that the stuff you do has any relevance when the other levels are
taken into account? That is, as you examine the "pooling and
redistribution" metaphor, how do we know that your results will hold
when, say, technical change and accumulation take place? Maybe
you've got this worked out but I haven't seen it. Using TT it is
not clear how we can ever account for Actual Time (AT). Indeed, as I
recall when you move to a consideration of technical change, your
interpretation of Marx forces you to insist on a falling output to
constant capital ratio as you develop the notion of the FRP.

David wrote:

Next. Value theory is about the underlying *structure* of capitalist
social relations, that is, their inner essence (use of this category is not
equivalent to "essentialism") stripped of fortuitous and accidental aspects.
Identifying this skeletal structure, as captured by benchmark configurations
or centers of gravitation, is at the heart of scientific method, and is what
enables us (in principle!) to distinguish between immanent tendency and
historical accident; to find the unavoidable core of a given social reality
and its necessary paths of development. Values, then, are (among other
things) what really existing prices would tend to in given social/technical
conditions, were those conditions held constant so that the inner reality
represented by value were allowed to reveal itself. They never are, and it
never is! But that is precisely why we *need* value theory. Hence, CS.

My comment:

I thought that the capitalism system revealed itself even to "practical
bourgeois" when the system enters a crisis. You claim that
when we hold things constant we can then see some "inner reality."
But how do we know it if is an inner reality of anything at all and
not just a clever reconstruction of classical political economy?
In CS, you may have a consistent structure but one which forces
you to make even more unrealistic assumptions as you consider the
accumulation process with technical change in real time.

David wrote:

So from now on -- and pending further evolution in my own thinking and
self-designation -- I would like my position to be referred to as the TT/CS

This will at least help us to avoid the sterile (and neologistic)
"simultaneist/non-simultaneist" dichotomy, as well as the canard that I or
anyone else thinks that *production* is a timeless process, that inputs are
purchased and outputs sold simultaneously, etc. etc., or any of these other
"simultaneist" gems that it would be insulting to foist onto me -- *let
alone* onto Marx!

My comment:

As far as I know, no one refers to Marx as a simultaneist. I take it
for granted that you don't think inputs and outputs are sold
simultaneously. Yet, as you examine matters in theoretical time or
with your consistent structure the unit prices/values of the inputs
are often set equal to those of the outputs. The prices of inputs
and outputs are determined *simultaneously* via a set of equations.
Marx's falling rate of profit (FRP) becomes the FERP -- the falling
equilibrium rate of profit. When we consider technical change and
accumulation, this can and often does lead to the rather bizarre
result that a capitalist can invest $100, recapture only $60 of it
upon sale of the output and experience positive profits. Such results
should at least cause us to question the origin of that "unavoidable core
of a given social reality."

In non-theoritical time,