Re: [OPE-L] Ajit's Paper on Sraffa and Late Wittgenstein

From: ajit sinha (sinha_a99@YAHOO.COM)
Date: Sat May 27 2006 - 12:11:23 EDT

--- Ian Wright <wrighti@ACM.ORG> wrote:

> Hi Ajit
> Thanks for forwarding this paper. It's another
> excellent paper from
> you that draws out the implications for value theory
> of the work of
> Sraffa. I have learnt a lot from reading your work
> on this issue, and
> I admire the way you very carefully and logically
> deduce the
> anti-essentialist conclusions.
> Of course, these conclusions regarding value theory
> are conditional on
> Sraffa's PCMC being free from error.
> I believe there is an important error in Sraffa's
> work. In essence,
> Sraffa's reduction to dated labour representation
> commits a real-cost
> accounting error. Sraffa fails to count the
> labour-cost of capitalist
> consumption, and therefore fails to properly
> distinguish between
> production with and without a capitalist class.
Hi, Ian! Thanks for reading and commenting on the
paper. I find your above statement about Sraffa's
mistake quite perplexing, since the question of
capitalists' consumption or non-consumption does not
come up anywhere in Sraffa's scheme including the
dated labor approach. The dated labor approach only
shows you how the price can be resolved into wages and
profits only. The power to (1+r) according to "dates"
does not imply any historical dates--it represents the
unending chane of production at a given point in time
only. Sraffa's system does not allow movement of time,
so the question of what happens to the commodities
produced at a given point of time has no implications
for his results. I think you are clearly making a
mistake in interpreting Sraffa here.
> The reasons why Sraffa's commits the accounting
> error are complex, but
> I believe it is fundamentally due to a shift in
> Sraffa's problematic
> away from an analysis of the necessary relations
> that obtain in a
> state of self-replacing equilibrium to the
> contingent relations that
> obtain under conditions of a change in the
> distribution of income.
> This shift occured in the 20's as partially
> documented by Kurz and
> Salvadori. Contrary to what you say in your paper, I
> believe that
> Sraffa's surplus equations fail to adhere to a
> strict objectivism, and
> hence this shift in Sraffa's problematic is not
> progressive. For
> example, the rate of profit becomes conditional on
> the subjective
> classification of worker consumption goods as either
> subsistence or a
> share of the surplus.
Not really! All you have to do to get over this
confusion is to think of Sraffa's system with a given
rate of profits, as Sraffa does, and not given wages.
Your confusion will simply melt away. Cheers, ajit
> Once Sraffa's real-cost accounting error is fixed
> then very different
> conclusions may be drawn from his work regarding the
> theory of value.
> Sraffa remarks that his results "cannot be
> reconciled with *any*
> notion of capital as a measurable quantity
> independent of distribution
> of prices" (his emphasis). But this statement is not
> an accurate
> description of his own theoretical framework. In a
> state of
> self-replacement, there are *many* measures of
> capital independent of
> prices, of which labour-value is one example. But
> such real-cost
> measures *are* dependent on the distribution of real
> income (i.e. the
> composition of worker and capitalist consumption).
> Sraffa deduces
> prices by the exogenous distribution of nominal
> income, but somehow
> thinks that labour-costs can be deduced without a
> similar exogenous
> distribution of real income.
> Once the distribution of real-income is specified
> then the
> simultaneous satisfaction of all Marx's aggregrate
> conservation claims
> is a theorem in Sraffa's theoretical system, i.e.
> the neo-Ricardian
> critique of Marx's value theory falls. If the
> distribution of
> real-income is not specified, then, contra Sraffa,
> labour-values are
> undetermined.
> I have a tentative working paper on all this, which
> may be of interest:
> In post-script
> In PDF
> I'd be happy to debate these issues, either online
> or offline, with a
> view to mutual understanding. My current thinking is
> that the
> nihilistic conclusions regarding value theory are
> not justified by
> Sraffa's work, once the above criticisms are
> applied.
> In sum, I agree that your conclusions follow from
> Sraffa's work. But
> the conclusions are based on a faulty starting
> point, which is the
> failure to properly account for real-costs.
> Best wishes,
> -Ian.
> P.S. This paper by Jorgen Sandemose tackles the very
> same issues of
> the relationship between Sraffa, Wittgenstein and
> value theory, but
> draws very different conclusions:
> "The World as a Game in Sraffa and Wittgenstein: A
> Case Study in
> Modern Bourgeois Ideology", Research in Political
> Economy, 19.

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