Re: [OPE-L] questions on the interpretation of labour values

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Mar 26 2007 - 21:01:33 EDT

> On Mon, 26 Mar 2007, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:
>> Allin wrote:
>>> I'm talking about the status of the input prices Marx used when
>>> setting up his examples.  These are not "given" is any real sense,
>>> Marx has made them up.
>>>  He gets to decide what they're supposed to
>>> represent.
>>>  He may be tempted to choose (b), but if he does so
>>> this would seem to undermine his argument: he's lost contact with
>>> the value basis.  He's trying to demonstrate the relationship
>>> between values and prices (of production), not the relationship
>>> between prices and prices.
>> That the explanandum is indeed the relationship between prices and
>> prices or rather intertemporal changes in profits and prices is as
>> clear as day if one only reads the whole chapter.
> Rakesh, what chapter are you talking about?
> From context, I assumed we were talking about chapter 9 of Capital
> III.

Yes chapter nine and all that follows the paragraph you quoted.

In that case, the problem to be solved has been set at the
> end of the previous chapter, as follows:
> "We have thus demonstrated that different lines of industry have
> different rates of profit, which correspond to differences in the
> organic composition of their capitals ... on the assumption which
> has been the basis of all our analyses so far, namely that the
> commodities are sold at their values. There is no doubt, on the
> other hand, that ... differences in the average rate of profit in
> the various branches of industry do not exist in reality.... It
> would seem, therefore, that here the theory of value is
> incompatible with the actual process, incompatible with the real
> phenomena of production, and that for this reason any attempt to
> understand these phenomena should be given up."
> The problem is unequivocally the relationship between the prices
> that correspond to an equalized rate of profit ("reality",
> according to Marx, though we now know better) and prices that
> correspond to "commodities being sold at their values", as assumed
> in Capital up to this point.  "Intertemporal changes in profits
> and prices" are of tangential relevance at best, and at worst a
> smokescreen, a mess of intellectual squid-ink.

General commodity capitalist production as self constraining producton
requires that prices are function of value but commodity capitalist
production also implies capitalist attempts to maxiimize profit through
the production of commodities by means of wage labor, which in turn gives
rise to an average rate of profit that contradicts the law of value.

This does not mean that the law of value is not a real tendency or that it
is a historical artifact from the age of village exchanges; it is a real
living tendency in actual contradiction to another tendency inherent to
the object of capitalist commodity production--the equalization of the
profit rate. That each tendency negates the other does not mean that they
do not exist or that Marx has contradicted himself.

The real contradiction (see Evald Ileynkov)  is resolved  (Marx thought)
through the formation of the price of production which however conceals
that it is a form of value. The formation of prices of production then
raises the class struggle to a social level (Pilling). Contradictions
inherent to the object are resolved only to sharpen other contradictions.

That  price of production is indeed a form of value, regulated by the law
of value is shown in the pattern of changes in exchange ratios over time
and in the movement of the average rate of profit itself.

But it is not immediately obvious in a snapshot view.

Intertemporal changes are hardly a smokescreen but the essence of the
matter, the very thing that the law of value explains.

This is obvious from a reading of chapter 9, in particular the very
paragraphs that follow the one you quoted.

Are we getting anywhere? Or just repeating things that have been said
many, many times before?


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Mar 31 2007 - 01:00:12 EDT