From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Apr 18 2007 - 15:20:39 EDT
I am happy that I can play the very important function of bringing antagonists together on this list. Someone has to do it. Yet on the question of whether Marx thought technology was stable enough such that (modified) unit values are sufficiently stationary to serve as centres of gravity, Marx certainly thought no such thing. Do note that Fred has only cited one ambiguous sentence from chapter 50 which he thinks suggests Marx belief in the existence of stationary modified unit values. And against this.... First in the ninth chapter Marx is clearly interested in why prices of production change in less than what Fred is calling the long term. Second, the section on the FROP makes many references to constant improvements in technique. Third, Marx writes in the sixth chapter of Capital 3 in a passage long important to Michael Perelman (Nathan Rosenberg makes much of it too): "The continual improvements which lower the use-value, and therefore the value, of existing machinery, factory buildings, etc. This process has a particularly dire effect during the first period of newly introduced machinery, before it attains a certain stage of maturity, when it continually becomes antiquated before it has time to reproduce its own value. This is one of the reasons for the flagrant prolongation of the working-time usual in such periods, for alternating day and night-shifts, so that the value of the machinery may be reproduced in a shorter time without having to place the figures for wear and tear too high. If, on the other hand, the short period in which the machinery is effective (its short life vis-à-vis the anticipated improvements) is not compensated in this manner, it gives up so much of its value to the product through moral depreciation that it cannot compete even with hand-labour." After machinery, equipment of buildings, and fixed capital in general, attain a certain maturity, so that they remain unaltered for some length of time at least in their basic construction, there arises a similar depreciation due to improvements in the methods of reproducing this fixed capital. The value of the machinery, etc., falls in this case not so much because the machinery is rapidly crowded out and depreciated to a certain degree by new and more productive machinery, etc., but because it can be reproduced more cheaply. This is one of the reasons why large enterprises frequently do not flourish until they pass into other hands, i. e., after their first proprietors have been bankrupted, and their successors, who buy them cheaply, therefore begin from the outset with a smaller outlay of capital." So clearly this passage is much stronger evidence for non equilibrium Marxism than a half sentence in the fiftieth chapter (which can easily be read in another eay). There does not seem to be sufficient evidence to put Marx in the straightjacket of (neoclassical) equilibrium continues, on the contrary!
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