[OPE-L:7256] [OPE-L:781] assumptions, assumptions, assumptions

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sat, 27 Mar 1999 19:35:23 -0500 (EST)

Sorry, folks.

Oh, dear. I don't want to get into an argument with Andrew over topics
that we have discussed at length, but I feel I must take exception to a
few of his remarks in [OPE-L:780]:

> He says the profit rate must fall even if workers were to live on
> air. Elsewhere, he says that the profit rate must fall even if the
> full 24 hours of the day were to be appropriated by capital. Still
> elsewhere he says that nothing is more absurd than to explain the
> fall in the profit rate on the basis of rising wages.
> A correct interpretation must correspond to the original theory. (I
> don't think there's really any disagreement about this.) <snip>

I think it is a "correct interpretation" to assert that the category of
wage-labour was crucial for Marx. To assume v = 0 as above (I put aside,
for the moment, whether the assumption of v = 0 was actually made in the
passages that Andrew is referring to above. Listmembers might recall that
we had an exchange from way back on that topic in the "assumptions,
assumptions, assumptions" thread), is a hypothetical construct that
assumes away the very *possibility* of a capitalist economy. It even
asserts that if wage-labour were eliminated/surpassed (zero v), we
will still have capitalism!

Moreover, if a theory says that the rate of profit falls _even when
there is no wage-labor_, then this is a *big* mark against such a theory!
For it suggests that the fall in the rate of profit is *trans-historical*
and occurs even where there is no wage-labor!

> In the
> original theory, the profit rate falls *because* productivity rises,
> and it would fall even if wages were zero. (I don't think there's
> disagreement here either.)

See what he has pinned on this *assumption* of v = 0? First he makes this
assumption and then -- far from being a convenience to simplify the math
(as some once suggested) -- he comes to a strong *conclusion* about the
role of wages and falling productivity based (in its strongest version, as
above) solely on his assumption.

*At the very least*, he would have to demonstrate conclusively that:

a) Marx made this assumption;

b) it is a valid assumption to make in a situation where we are developing
a theory of capitalism.

Andrew has failed to date in both of these tasks.

>-- > It is true that, when the value of labor power is constant,
> technical change that is labor-saving and capital-using will lower
> the rate of profit on new investment. Yet, given a zero real wage,
> such technical changes would not be viable.

So what? "Given a zero real wage" is an artificial situation that has no
meaning for how we interpret the dynamics of the capitalist accumulation

Indeed, capital accumulation and reproduction itself would be impossible
with such an assumption. E.g if there is zero v then *by definition* even
simple reproduction would be impossible.

Bottom line: the conclusions that Andrew is making rely heavily on the v
= 0 assumption. This is a assumption at odds with Marx's
understanding of the essential class relations of capitalism

In solidarity, Jerry