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

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Tue Apr 10 2007 - 12:41:23 EDT

You write:

>   I think these
>occasional events of significant technological change are what Marx had
>in mind in his discussion of changes of prices of production at the end
>of Chapter 9.
>There is one passage from Chapter 50 of Volume 3, in which Marx
>comments on the fluctuations of market prices around prices of
>production as long-run center-of-gravity prices, and this passage seems
>to suggest that Marx thought that changes in values certainly do not
>happen continuously, and probably do not happen frequently.
>"Market prices rise above these governing production prices or fall
>below them, but these fluctuations balance each other out.  If one
>compares price lists over a prolonged period, and ignores those cases
>in which the actual value of a commodity alters as a result of a change
>in labor productivity, as well as cases in which the production process
>is disturbed by natural or social disasters, it is surprising both how
>narrow the limits of these divergences are and how regularly they are
>balanced out."   (pp. 999-1000).
>Therefore, in order to conduct this kind of empirical analysis of the
>fluctuations of market prices, there must be some industries in which
>the actual value of a commodity DOES NOT ALTER "over a prolonged
>period".  Futhermore, the implication seems to be that such alterations
>of value would happen in only a few industries over this "prolonged

Interesting quote. Will respond tonight.

A question till then.

Why must one ignore cases in the value of a commodity changes (as
well as cases disturbed by natural and social disasters) to see in
the comparison of price lists over a prolonged period that market
price fluctuations around the prices of production balance themselves

  Marx is saying that one must ignore exceptional cases to see how
prices of production govern market prices. In other words, one must
ignore natural and social disasters which may create an artificial
scarcity and thus higher than average profits over a prolonged period
as periods of high market prices are not compensated by periods of
low market prices.

And one must ignore cases in which the the decline in unit value is
so much sharper than the average rate of decline in unit value that
**relative and absolute*** price in this case is falling so sharply
that its regulation by price of production is difficult to see. In
other words, in this case of exceptional productivity advance (say
personal computers) one would not see market prices strong and then
weak allowing for higher then lower than average profit rates (or
vice versa) but only a constant fall in the absolute and relative the
price of the commodity.

So why would a change in labor productivity mask regulation by price
of production? Hence my question above.

Again I don't see how it's consistent with Marx's theory or dynamic
accumulation that unit values remain fixed in general over the long
term. The big change we see in the long term are often the result of
many incremental changes along the way (thinking here of Nathan
Rosenberg's distinction between incremental and epochal technical
change). But more later tonight.


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