Re: [OPE-L] basics vs. non-basics

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Fri Sep 23 2005 - 08:18:19 EDT

[Sraffa wrote:]
"Consider a commodity which enters to an unusually large extent into the production of itself. It may be imagined to be come crop such as a species of beans or of corn the wastage on which is so great that for every 100 units sown no more than 110 are reaped. It is clear that this would not admit of a rate of profits higher than, or indeed, since other means of production must be used as well, as high as, 10%.
"If the product in question is a basic one there is no problem; it simply means that the Maximum rate of profits of the system will have to be less than 10%.
If however it is a non-basic product, complications arise ..." etc.


At the Maximum rate of profits in the Sraffian system, workers "live on air".
If we were to translate this into Marxian categories, it would mean that
the Maximum rate of profits 

R =  S/ C + -0-

in other words,  the formula for the rate of profit is reduced for all
practical purposes to 

R =  S/C

Therefore (if you're actually interested in this stuff)  if you are
concerned about the maximum rate of profit in the basic sector vs. 
the maximum rate of profit in the non-basic sector then you have to
zero in on (no pun intended) what would happen if in the non-basic
sector the surplus produced varies in a different way than the basic
sector when inputs in the form of means of production,  and non-
living labour inputs ,vary.  

If one is going to refer to *value* and surplus value rather than only
physical magnitudes and the surplus product, then one would
have to throw out the proposition that living labour in the form of
wage-labor produces value (since there is no wage-labour at the
maximum rate of profits).

Perhaps this suggests a direction to examine.   Marx, as we know,
held that *wealth* (as distinct from *value*) can be created by 
labor and *nature*.    Perhaps you can think of a 'non-basic' that
is *not produced* by labor but which  nonetheless comes to be sold.

I.e. if we are to examine the surplus product in physical terms then
we have to consider the fact that "nature" to varying degrees 
contributes to the production of goods (again, a point that Marx
was well aware of).   *Non-produced* goods,  objects created by
natural forces without the expenditure of human labor but which
come to be *privately appropriated* by capital and sold on markets,
are a case to consider.  A non-produced non-basic then might be 
ambergris.  The price that ambergris sells for and the revenues received
by the sellers of the ambergris has, unlike basic goods, no necessary
relation to costs.  Rather, the price is driven by demand and the extent to
which there is or is not competition among sellers of ambergris.  For 
instance, one could easily envision a circumstance in which the ambergris
market was controlled by a monopoly or a quasi-monopoly.  In 
general, we would anticipate that the "rate of profits"  for monopolies
would systematically differ from the average rate of profits, including
the rates of profit in the basic sector.

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Sep 29 2005 - 00:00:03 EDT