(OPE-L) Re: Negative values in pure joint production

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Oct 12 2004 - 09:37:43 EDT

>>> DumÚnil and LÚvy (1999, p.17, 2000) reach an impasse:
"Each joint product is disaggregated into as many single production
processes as commodities produced.  The difficulty lies in allocating
inputs to the various commodities.  A problem of indeterminacy is
posed, that the theory of value, in the strict sense, cannot solve." <<<


Although the issue as posed by Sraffa et al concerned basic theory,
did you ask whether there is a _real_ indeterminacy?  If one
considers actual cases of joint production (such as the chemical
industry where a single technology can be used by a single firm to
produce dozens of distinct commodities) then the determination
of value and market price on the micro  level -- especially given
the degree of product differentiation and advertising -- becomes
very complex, to say the least.

>>> If we were to follow Sraffa here I think we would have already
gone wrong.  Firstly, we should not operate with industries or
processes.  We should talk about firms rather than processes. <<<

Why not talk about industries or branches of production?  Why
not talk about different technologies/processes being used within
an industry/branch of production by capitalist firms?   You obviously
must have reasons for arguing that the focus should be on firms
rather than industries and processes but you have not indicated
what they are.

>>> Further, we assert the principle that no two firms produce the same
commodity.  <<<


>>> They may produce very similar, even practically indistinguishable,
use-values but never the same commodity. <<<

This is generally the case in late capitalism, but the explanation is
to be found by examining the changing forms of competition.

>>> Sraffa's joint production processes are rigid in the sense that the
joint products are produced in fixed proportions.  If there is only one
firm producing them we do not know how to split the constant capital
transferred and the labour-power expended between the two products.
Is this a problem?  It would be a problem if, in this situation, the firm
were producing two commodities.  But is it?  It produces two different
types of use-value certainly.  But why should we assume it is producing
two different commodities?  I shall argue that in rigid joint production
there is only one "composite" commodity.

I'm not sure if the following example is one of 'pure' joint production
but you can tell me if I'm mistaken.   Suppose there is a single firm  using
a single technology/process to produce shoes and boots.  Aren't the
shoes and boots 2 different commodities?  It is hard to imagine a
single 'composite' commodity  (a shoot? ... a bhoe?).  In any event,
in this case what would prevent a firm from, for instance, selling shoes
at a price below their value and boots at prices above their value?

>>> The selling off of old machines or used vehicles to other firms could be
treated similarly.  Suppose the firm sold off its oldest vintage of vehicles
once a year, then we treat the second hand vehicles as the same commodity
as the firm's regular product. <<<

This can be a pretty messy -- and 'indeterminate' -- topic because of moral

>>> Rigid joint production of limited interest.  Production where outputs
are produced in flexible proportions presents a more challenging
problem.  <<<

OK.  What do you see as are the issues posed at that more challenging
level of analysis?

In solidarity, Jerry

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