From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Thu Feb 09 2006 - 13:08:33 EST
Hi Fred > But this is not the end of the story. The given cost price is also > eventually explained by Marx's theory, in a somewhat complicated manner, > that involves two stages. In the first stage, it is assumed that the > given cost price is equal to the values of the means of production and > means of subsistence. OK, first stage, prices are proportional to labour-value. > However, the important point is that this provisional assumption about the > actual magnitudes of constant capital and variable capital does not > determine the magnitudes of constant capital and variable capital in > Marx's theory of value and surplus-value in Volume 1. Did you mean Volume 3 here? > Instead, the > magnitudes of constant capital and variable capital are taken as given, as > the actual quantities of money-capital consumed in production. OK, second stage, cost-price is money-capital advanced. This nominal representation may not be proportional to labour-value. > These > initial actual given quantities of constant capital and variable capital > then become determining factors in the value and surplus-value and price > of production of commodities. I'm not sure I understand you correctly ... If that part of money-capital advanced for workers subsistence is not proportional to value then it cannot determine the surplus-value produced. In Ch.9, Vol 3, Marx's sectoral rates of surplus-value are assumed uniform and calculated on the price of variable capital, which is initially assumed to be proportional to the number of actual hours worked. The rate of surplus-value describes labour-time transfers, not price transfers. Hence, if the price of variable capital diverges from its value then Marx's initial assumption of a uniform rate of surplus-value in each sector doesn't make much sense, for it could mean that those rates refer to very different amounts of surplus-labour produced. > In the second stage, after prices of production have been explained in > Volume 3, Marx provides a more complete explanation of the given actual > magnitudes of constant capital and variable capital - that these actual > magnitudes are equal to the prices of production of the means of > production and means of subsistence, not equal to their values. But the > important point is that this more complete explanation of the given actual > magnitudes of constant capital and variable capital does not change the > magnitudes of constant capital and variable capital themselves. The > magnitudes of constant capital and variable capital remain the same - the > actual quantities of money capital costs consumed in the production of > commodities, which are taken as given. What changes is the explanation > of these given actual magnitudes - from a partial explanation to a more > complete one. I find this hard to understand. Is your MELT constant across the transformation ? > I think this is what Marx meant by the "modification of the determination > of a commodity's cost price", on p. 264 of Vol. 3 (Vintage edition), which > is perhaps the best known of Marx's alleged "admissions of error". The > magnitude of the given cost price does not change, but the explanation of > this given magnitude is modified. I have to say that the traditional interpretation of those passages seems simpler: Marx is saying that the cost-price must also diverge from value, and hence his derived prices of production aren't quite right. > I think this logical procedure - of first taking the actual cost price as > given and then later in the theory explaining this initial presupposition > - is an example of what Hegel and Marx called the method "posit the > presuppositions". Ch. 9 has the structure of a proof by contradiction. Marx assumes (i) price-value proportionality, (ii) uniform rates of sectoral surplus-values. He deduces non-uniform rates of profit (this contradicts reality, according to Marx). Hence, he concludes, both this assumptions (i) and (ii) must be modified, and constructs a theory of PoP in which PoP diverge from labour-value and sectoral rates of surplus-value ("realised" by individual capitals) are non-uniform. Then he notes that his transformation procedure is incomplete. That's the way I see it. I am happy to be corrected, however, because interpreting these passages is difficult. They do have ambiguity and a number of different readings are possible. -Ian.
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