[OPE-L:7258] [OPE-L:783] Re: assumptions, assumptions, assumptions

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sun, 28 Mar 1999 04:13:11 -0500 (EST)

Reply to John's [OPE-L:782]:

> Wait a minute. Where is the v=0 assumption? Why
> have you jumped on this?

In the proceeding paragraph that I excerpted from Andrew's post. There he
indicated several places in Marx where *Andrew has said* that Marx was
making the v=0 assumption.

> Why not just assume that the real wage is .000000000000000000000000
> 0000000000000000000000000001 whenever you think someone says, "let
> v=0." Do you then have a problem? Is so, what is it?

This was not the assumption made. Workers were assumed to be "living on
air", not v was relatively small.

> The point of assuming that the real wage is
> 0 is *not* to claim that capitalism can do without workers

Yet that is precisely the meaning of the assumption.

> but rather
> to argue that even if the real wage is constant, the rate of profit
> can fall for Marx and for Andrew.

*Then make the assumption that v is constant*.

> The assumption itself puts the focus of
> the theory on the accumulation of constant capital and technical change.

The assumption itself precludes accumulation as a possibility.

> Your "bottom line" suggests that the
> level of the real wage is part of the "essential class relations of
> capitalism." I disagree.

It asserts rather that a positive real wage (v>0) is part of the
"essential class relations of capitalism".

> If you actually deal with the problem of technical change and choice
> of technique as Andrew and I have, then I think you'd agree that
> the assumption v=0 is made solely for the purpose of simplification
> and one which neither of us uses as a basis for our conclusions. It
> does indeed simplify the math.

The math could also be simplified with the assumption that real wages are
*constant*, yet *that* assumption has not been made.

If what you are saying is right and a challenge to this assumption is
"stupid" then we should stop criticizing neoclassical general equilibrium
theory (or other theories) for the assumptions that they make. Indeed,
the implications of assuming away money are no way as severe as the
implications of assuming away wage-labor. Of course, the Walrasians would
probably also say that the assumptions simplify the math. Indeed they do.
They also mis-specify the subject matter.

I suppose we would also have to throw away a lot of Marx's critique of
Smith, Ricardo, et. al. in _TSV_ if we allow for these kinds of

If we gain a trans-historical theory in which the rate of profit falls
beyond capitalism, what have we gained? (simpler math). What have we lost?
(a theory capable of grasping the characteristics and dynamics of
capitalism). I'd call that a poor trade-off when all that is gained (so
you believe) is mathematical convenience.

In solidarity, Jerry