From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Tue Jan 31 2006 - 12:12:01 EST
Hi Andy > But the 'no necessary relation' argument is, on this account, simply due > to assuming away the necessary relation by assuming away choice of > technique. What you are getting at requires unpacking the meaning of > 'necessary relation' OK. And I agree that Steedman's account of choice of technique is intended to show the irrelevance of labour-value accounting for the allocation of social labour-time. Labour-values are "necessarily" related to the price rate-of-profit, but only in the weak sense of a consequence, or side-effect. The reason that Steedman's views labour allocation in this way is because he affirms, following Bortkiewicz, that the price rate-of-profit (or general rate of profit) is not S/(C+V) as Marx claims. So, contra Marx, labour-value accounting cannot fix the general rate of profit. Why can't it? Because there is this "informational gap" between prices and labour-values that I mention, and which Steedman introduces early on in his book (the diagram with the two unconnected prongs). > You say 'it may well be so'. But the point is it must be so if > capitalism reproduces. Therefore you cannot argue that (i) capitalism > reproduces and (ii) there is no necessary relation between SNLT and > price. We know (i) is true hence (ii) must be false. That's enough to > immanently refute the neo-R critique. To show exactly where neo-R goes > wrong is a secondary task (see below). OK. You may need to expand a bit. I interpret your paragraph as saying: Steedman says allocation of social labour-time is partially dependent on price rate-of-profit. Hence, there is a necessary relation between price and labour-time. This is a good thought. But I think you need a bit more to refute Steedman. You'd have to show that the distribution of social labour-time, in turn, determines the price rate-of-profit, even if indirectly. But that is what his redundancy critique denies. > I read Marx in the same way. The point about market prices has a number > of implications: firstly, it warns us against approaches to the TP which > get the result that the aggregate equalities *do* hold at market prices. > Secondly, it shows that the whole problem is down to levels of > abstraction. Thirdly, if the limits take effect only through rupture and > crisis then they will not show up in the static case - to the theorist > unaware of the structure of abstraction and causation in Marx's work > then it is therefore going to look like Marx imposes rather than > 'proves' the aggregate equalities. All good points. I have certainly felt in the past that capitalism may be constituted such that the conservation claims cannot "show up in the static case". I also agree with TSS school that putting Marx into a static equilibrium framework does no service to his irreducibly dynamic analysis. However, I believe that getting the right conservation laws is a precondition for getting the right causal theory. Certainly in many other fields of science this has turned out to be the case. And often the simplest and most illuminating models assume strict conservation, at least to begin with, even if in practice we know that all systems lose energy due to imperfect transformation of the energy substance into the specific forms that reproduce the dynamics (e.g., some kinetic energy into heat rather than potential energy, hence impossibilty of perpetual motion machines etc.). The "static case" represented by neo-Ricardian models is not static in the sense that production and circulation is not taking place; it is static in the sense that production and circulation are taking place in exactly the same way, all the time. It is like a mass travelling at constant velocity in a vacuum, rather than a scale with weights in balance. Why shouldn't we expect Marx's conservation claims to hold in such a special case? If they do not, why would we expect Marx's conservation claims to hold in more general cases? etc. Best, -Ian.
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