Re: [OPE-L] monetary macro interpretation

From: Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Fri Jun 02 2006 - 09:31:12 EDT

Hi Jurrian, thanks for these passages and your comments.  A few comments

On Wed, 31 May 2006, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:

> Fred Moseley wrote:
> "These two aggregate equalities are not conditional
> equalities, that may or may not be true, depending on the compositions of
> capital of individual industries (as in the standard interpretation of
> Marx's theory), but are instead identities, that are always true, by
> assumption, or by the nature of Marx's logical method - the determination
> of the total surplus-value prior to its distribution."
> Fred's description has got to be correct basically, but I would say that the
> two aggregate equalities are true "by assumption", specifically a modelling
> assumption made to understand a complex reality. Lateron both Marx and
> Engels qualified that assumption:
> K. Marx:
> " The sum of average profit plus ground-rent can never be greater than
> magnitude of which they are components and which exists before this
> division. It is therefore immaterial for our discussion whether the entire
> surplus-value of the commodities, i.e., all the surplus-labour contained in
> the commodities, is realised in their price or not. The surplus-labour is
> not entirely realised if only for the reason that due to a continual change
> in the amount of labour socially necessary to produce a certain commodity,
> resulting from the constant change in the productiveness of labour, some
> commodities are always produced under abnormal conditions and must,
> therefore, be sold below their individual value. At any rate, profit plus
> rent equal the total realised surplus-value (surplus-labour), and for
> purposes of this discussion the realised surplus-value may be equated to all
> surplus-value; for profit and rent are realised surplus-value, or, generally
> speaking, the surplus-value which passes into the prices of commodities,
> thus in practice all the surplus-value forming a constituent part of this
> price."

Yes, Marx's theory of the distribution of surplus-value in Vol. 3 assumes
that all the total surplus-value is realized.  This is still an abstract
theory, which explains how the total surplus-value is divided up into its
individual component parts.  In the passage quoted, the total
surplus-value is divided into average profit and rent.  The subject of
unrealized surplus-value, due to lack of demand, is a subject for a lower
level of abstraction, beyond the three volumes of Capital.

An important point for me from this passage that the total surplus-value
is assumed to exist prior to its division into individual parts, and thus
the total surplus-value is assumed to be theoretically determined prior to
its division into individual parts.  Marx made similar statements on the
previous page and on the following page, and throughout Volume 3 and all
the various drafts of Capital.  This is why the total surplus-value must
by assumption be equal to the total profit.

> I tend to think the "transformation problem" difficulty partly results from
> the fact that:
> (1) Marx doesn't really discuss all the different forms prices can take
> (real prices, ideal prices, future prices etc.), and

I think you are right about this.  Prices of production in vol. 3
are long-run equilibrium prices, which assume that S = D.

> (2) he doesn't clearly demonstrate why the concept of (aggregate) "price"
> logically presupposes the concept of "value". In the tradition of the
> political economists, he simply defines price as the monetary expression of
> exchange-value.

I think Marx does demonstrate this, in Chapter 1 of Vol. 1,
which is a long way from the transformation problem.


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