Fred B. Moseley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wed, 20 Oct 1999 10:49:40 -0400 (EDT)
I am trying to find the time to prepare a lengthy reply to Andrew's latest
series posts on the determination of the value transferred component of
the value of commodities. But there is one point in particular that
especially caught my attention in reading Andrew's posts, that I would
like to seek clarification about.
As a framework for the discussion, I will distinguish between three phases
of a given circuit of a given capital (using the example of cotton and
yarn to stand for any and all means of production and final products,
respectively): (1) BEFORE production (and after purchase of the cotton)
in which the purchased cotton exits as a stock of raw material awaiting
production; (2) DURING production, in which the cotton is being
transformed into yarn; and (3) AFTER production (and before the sale of
the yarn), in which the cotton exists as yarn circulating on the market.
The question at issue in the current discussion is: if the price of
cotton changes due to a change of productivity in each of these intervals
of time, does this result in a change in the value transferred from the
cotton to the price of the yarn?
I argue that Marx clearly stated many times that if the price of cotton
changes due to a change of productivity in each and every one of these
three phases ("at whatever stage of completion"; C. III. p. 207), then the
value transferred from the cotton to the yarn also changes accordingly.
The value transferred by the cotton is determined by the current cost of
cotton, and the current cost of cotton may change in one of these phases.
I argue that there is lots of textual evidence to support this
interpretation (much of which I have presented in previous OPEL posts). I
am working on a paper that collects in a comprehensive fashion everything
that Marx ever wrote in all his various manuscripts about this question of
the determination of the value transferred in the specific case of a
change of productivity in the production of the means of production
(similar to my IWGVT paper last year on everything Marx wrote on his
concept of prices of production).
Andrew's interpretation, as I have understood it up until now, assumes
that the value transferred by the cotton is determined at the point in
time at which the cotton enters into production. Therefore, according to
this interpretation, if there is a change in the price of cotton due to a
change of productivity during phase 1 (i.e. after purchase of the cotton
and before production of the yarn), then the value transferred by the
cotton will change. However, if there is a change in the price of cotton
during phases 2 or 3 (i.e. after production has begun), then the value
transferred by the cotton will NOT change.
Therefore, I was surprised to read in Part 3 of Andrew's latest posts
that, although he continues to argue that, if the price of cotton changes
during stage 2 (during production), then the value transferred from the
cotton to the yarn will not change, he seems to agree that, if the price
of cotton changes during stage 3 (after production and before sale), then
the value transferred from the cotton to the yarn will CHANGE accordingly.
Andrew writes that the well-known passage from Chapter 8 of Volume 1 of
seems to contradict the temporal interpretation more directly,
because Marx wrote that the value transferred to the existing stocks
of yarn rises *after* the cotton contained in them entered
production. This however is also not in dispute; it is clear
that, because values are determined by current production
conditions, when the value transferred to newly produced yarn
rises, so must the value transferred to existing stocks of yarn.
The dispute instead concerns the precise meaning of the
determination of values by current production conditions.
It therefore pertains to the valuation, not of existing stocks,
but only of yarn that is *currently* produced.
If I understand this correctly, there is an interval of time (phase 2) in
the circulation of a given batch of cotton during which a change in the
price of cotton does NOT affect the value transferred from the cotton to
the yarn, and then there is a later interval of time (phase 3) during
which a change in the price of cotton DOES affect the value transferred
from the cotton to the yarn. Is this correct?
If I understand this correctly, then it seems to me that: if there is a
change in the price of cotton while a given batch of cotton is in phase 2
(during production), then, according to Andrew's logic, this should result
in a change in the value transferred by this batch of cotton when it
reaches phase 3 (after production and before sale), in order to catch up
and adjust to the new current price of cotton, which reflects the change
of productivity that occurred while this batch of cotton was in phase 2.
Therefore, in the final sale of the yarn at its price of production at the
end of phase 3, the value transferred by this batch of cotton DOES change
as a result of the change in the price of cotton in phase 2, as in my
interpretation. The only difference seems to be that the adjustment of
the value transferred to the change in the price of cotton is delayed
slightly, from phase 2 to phase 3.
Therefore, it seems to me that Andrew's surprising interpretation of phase
3 seems to imply that his interpretation leads to the same value
transferred from the cotton, and hence the same price of production of the
yarn at the end of phase 3, as in my interpretation.
Andrew, would you please clarify this point? Thanks a lot. I look
forward to further discussion.
P.S. It should be mentioned that the prices that Marx is talking about
are very abstract prices; they are not everyday market prices. They are
prices of production, which are "center of gravity" around which actual
market prices fluctuate. Hence, Marx is not assuming that the actual
market price of the yarn adjusts this quickly to changes in the price of
cotton. Actual market prices take some time to move toward the new
"center of gravity" price. But the abstract "center of gravity" price
changes immediately. Once productivity has changed in the production of
cotton, then there will be a new "center of gravity" price of yarn from
now on, until there is a new change of productivity in the production of
cotton or yarn. (Please see my IWGVT paper last year for a further
discussion of Marx's abstract concept of prices of production.)
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