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

From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@WFU.EDU)
Date: Sat Apr 07 2007 - 22:24:27 EDT

On Sat, 7 Apr 2007, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> Moreover, when, how often and as a result of what do you think
> prices of production change?
> Importantly, RIcardo himself thought that unit values were
> changing very regularly...

You're replying to Fred here, but I think that in the relevant
respect my view are close to Fred's so I'll dive in.

Of course, in the real economy "everything is changing all the
time" (more or less).  Marx and Ricardo knew that; everyone knows
that (even including the neoclassicals!).

But that's not the point.  Marx was interested in (among other
things) "modeling" the quantitative relationships between certain
key magnitudes in the capitalist economy.

This is a difficult task at the best of times, and all the more
difficult if you try to incorporate continuous change.
Therefore, Marx _assumed_ "no change" in certain variables, for
analytical purposes, even though he was well aware that this
assumption was in a sense artificial.  Specifically, when
conducting his quantitative investigation of the relationship
between values and prices of production Marx assumed that values
were constant (and therefore, also, prices of production).  One
step at a time: if you can get that right, then maybe you can move
on to the case of continuous change, but that is an order of
magnitude more complicated.

You emphasize the philosophical aspect of Marx's discourse.  Fair
enough, that it is an important aspect.  But you're not giving
another aspect its due: Marx's attempt at a quantitative
understanding.  That is a valid intellectual discipline in its own
right, and you can't short-circuit it by trying to understand
"everything at once", including continuous change in all the
terms.  Not if you want to produce meaningful results.


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