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At 16:58 +0100 6-04-2000, Alejandro Ramos wrote:
>thanks for your stimulating questions.
>>(i) according to you, when time enters as an essential category in Capital?
>>I would argue that this does not happen in the first chapters. Is it not
>>the beginning of Capital an analysis of a 'point in time' (what we can
>>argue looking at the final exchange on the commodity market)? Of course the
>>commodities exchanged are commodities produced, but this is not the focus
>>of the analysis when Marx analyses the dialectics of commodity and money
>In my understanding of Capital, "time" enters in scene from the very
>Firstly, it's put as a general condition, or perhaps "background", of the
>whole analysis. In the Preface to the 1st edition Marx says that the
>"ultimate aim of this work is to reveal the economic law of motion of the
>modern society" (Penguin, I, p. 92). I think it's difficult to think of a
>"law of motion" out of time. At the end of the same Preface, he says that
>"within the ruling classes themselves, the foreboding is emerging that *the
>present society is no solid crystal [nice methaphor!], but an organism
>capable of change, and constantly engages in a process of change." (p. 93,
>my emphasis). So, Marx's general vision of capitalism is not that of a
>"solid crystal" but a "changing organism". This general approach is very
>different e.g. to general equilibrium in which it's attemped a description
>of society as a "solid crystal", and in which "time enters later", in
>general without relevant consequences. I would say that this "organism
>capable of change" is necessarily "embedded in time" and this makes an
>important methodological difference regarding the solid-crystal approaches.
>As this is a point emphasized by the author from the very beginning, I
>think we should be careful in tracing down its real consequences along the
>whole work: the purpose of the work is to understand "the law of motion",
>the *processes of change* in capitalism.
>Secondly, right on p. 1 of Ch. 1, when Marx is explaining what is a
>use-value, he says that the "discovery of [the ways in which the things are
>useful] and hence of the manifold uses of things is the work of history."
>(p. 125). So, this suggests a conception of use value as a historical
>--then time marked-- aspect of the commodity. IMO, this should discourage
>approaches in which use value becomes a metaphysical, ahistorical,
>atemporal thing, always equal to itself, as our old friend "corn" and its
>Thirdly, when Marx steps into the concept of exchange value he writes:
>"Exchange value appear first of all as the quantitative relation, the
>proportion in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of
>another kind. *This relation changes constantly with time and place*." (p.
>126, my emphasis) So, when Marx is analysing exchange value, he seems to
>be have in mind a *process* in which there are real changes continuously.
>In his analysis, exchange value undergoes a constant *change* in *time* and
>*place*. It's on the basis of this "dynamic" setting that the "derivation
>of value" is done, not a supposely "tranquil", identically self-reproducing
>world, nicely describe by a set of simultaneous equations.
>Fourthly, and perhaps more central, when Marx analysis the *magnitude of
>value*, he says that this magnitude is measured "by means of the quantity
>of the value forming substance, the labour, contained in the article. This
>quantity is measured by its *duration*, and the labour-time is itself
>measured on the particular scale of hours, days, etc." (p. 129, my
>emphasis). Here we are before one of the most important categories of what
>perhaps you call the "dialectic of commodity" and we see that the very
>nature of this category is the "duration" and its scale is "hours", "days",
>etc., i.e. "time". In other words, I'd say that when developing a central
>category of the commodity analysis, Marx "assumes" the existence of
>temporal processes, both, the exchange and the production process, These
>are processes which necessarily spans over time, having starting and ending
>points. Moreover, what *determines* the magnitude of value is a process
>developed in time. And, in the most general terms, it's also a process
>which involves continuous *changes* in both, use-values and exchange
>values. So, by using your own words, I'd say that Marx "focus" on time when
>analysing the magnitude of value and this is right Chapter 1. How could we
>say here that time is not an "essential category", and think that it enters
>"later", after Ch. 3?
>Fifthly, regarding Chapter 2, it's called "The *process* of exchange". I
>find difficult to imagine an atemporal process.
>Sixthly, on Chapter 3, we meet the famous "C-M-C" (p. 200-9) which is
>described by Marx as a succession of temporal processes, made up from 2
>"metamorphoses". We have also the famous (Italian!!) "salto mortale" of the
>commodity. Again, it's difficult for me to think of a "metamorphosis" or a
>"salto mortale" as atemporal concepts. A "metamorphosis" is the *change* of
>one thing that becomes another, a change which evidently takes time.
My answer would be that Marx *constructs* history from within the analysis,
which *starts* from the analysis of exchange, *assuming* the existence of
temporal processes which are not - at the beginning - the object of his
>>(ii) according to you, if we assume that the prices of the output are the
>>same as the prices of the input, this cancels the processual nature of the
>>cycle of capital? And if so, why? I would say that time i essential even if
>>there are no 'dated' magnitudes in the models we construct from Marx. E.g.:
>>circuit models very often have no time subscripts, but they are surely 'in
>>time', talking about a succession of phases within a given period: this
>>would remain even if the prices of the input are evaluated as equal to the
>>prices of the output.
>I have no problem in *assuming* that input prices = output prices but now I
>consider that results we can obtain from this are quite poor. The point in
>"introducing time" or, better, in taking what is a general condition of the
>analysis explicitly into account, is not to describe an economy which is
>eternally equal to itself through time. I think Marx's methodological point
>in the Preface is that the scientific task consists in discovering the
>"motion" or the "change" in a given phenomenon. We can attach a clock to a
>"solid crystal" and confirm for our satisfaction that it's equal to itself
>from t = alfa to t = omega. But this would be only a "formal" way of
>"introducing time", in which the substance of the matter, i.e. *change*, is
>I certainly disagree with methodological procedures, quite usual in Maxian
>Economics, in which it's attempted to derive general conclusions on the
>basis of very poor and restricted assumptions like input prices = output
>prices. For example, Steedman's famous "redundancy" of value derives only
>of such an assumption or, more generally, of his representation of
>capitalism as a "solid crystal", probably with a Swiss clock attached to it!
I do not agree (I guess!). The 'results' are explained by Marx as the
outcome of decisions and struggles and occurences within the period, in a
class-based monetary analysis. This seems to me far than 'formal'. Also
because it *opens the way* and *compels* the inquiry to consider the
out-of-equilibrium and dynamic processes.
>>(iii) have you read Hicks on time and economics? Don't you think it may be
>>relevant for the topic under discussion?
>Let's say that I've "browsed" "Capital and Time". Sure, it'd be relevant
>for this topic. I browsed it when I was trying to make a research project
>on the "Austrian" readings of Marx, in particular the work of Weizsaecker
>and Wolfstetter, incredible interesting authors. Unfortunately, this takes
>time... and perhaps good friends who also want to take part in such
I think that if we want to discuss the role of time in economics, even in
Marxian economics, Hicks is quite relevant. Not only Capital and time, but
also the essays on time in economics, on causality, on dynamics. I would
suggest also to have a look at Georgescu-Roegen.
These are just a few, small reactions. Thank you for your answers, which
were enlightening to me.
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