From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Wed Jan 25 2006 - 12:18:42 EST
Rakesh I think this direction is in general right, but to nail down the argument requires more. I too think that Marx's starting point is counterfactual. Marx's chapter 9, Vol. 3 has an interesting argumentative structure. It seems to go like this (although more than happy to be corrected by others more well-versed in this issue): (i) Counterfactually, assume (a) the rates of surplus-value in sectors are uniform and also (b) assume that prices exchange at values. (ii) Deduce from these assumptions that rates of profit are non-uniform, which contradicts the principle of uniform returns to capital invested. (iii) Conclude, then, that (a) and (b) are false; that is rates of surplus-value are not uniform and there are price/value divergences. Surplus-value is redistributed to capitalists according to capital invested, rather than the number of workers they employ in their sector. The problem with this argument is step (iii): you can't conclude that *both* (a) and (b) are false from the contradiction in (ii). Of course, the fact that Marx doesn't transform cost prices, and lacks a general equilibrium framework, is cause for further doubt regarding the precise details of his argument, at least if we do the Bortkiewicz thing and abstract from the dynamic process of the formation of the general rate of profit. The problem with simply specifying a MELT to translate between prices of production and values, as you are proposing, is that, according to the neo-Ricardian critique, not all Marx's aggregates (total profit = total surplus-value, total price = total value, and rate of profit = value rate of profit) will hold. According to this formalisation of the problem, there is no MELT that can do this, including Foley's. So the quantitative connection between value and price accounting is missing, and Marx's thesis of conservation of value in price fails. So that's why I think the argument requires more, even if I agree with the direction you are taking it. Best, -Ian.
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