[OPE-L] Marx and philosophy

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Tue Nov 06 2007 - 14:40:42 EST


I don't think I have ever argued that the totality of output prices exactly
equals, or must necessarily exactly equal, the totality of output values. My
own inquiries into the formation of prices and values suggest that this
cannot be so, and indeed Marx & Engels both explicitly recognised that
discrepancies between the two can and will occur in reality, whatever the
theoretical models. The labour involved in wholesale, transport and retail
activities can add value to products, as various Marxist authors also
acknowledge, insofar as they involve the work of the physical preservation,
transport or modification of use-values.

I am also well aware that operating the price system requires a very large
quantity of labour effort, and data I previously provided on the US
occupational division of labour also prove this. Alan Greenspan may think
that price equilibration happens "effortlessly" through a metaphysical
Smithian "hidden hand", but the working class and the peasantry knows jolly
well this is not so, because they actually have to make the work effort with
their hands, without which all the financial claims staked on it are usually
worth nothing.

I said deliberately that "it could be argued" that if values regulate
prices, there must be a proportional amount of goods sold below value for an
amount of goods sold above their value. I do not think myself that this is
in reality the case, and therefore, if values regulate prices, this
determinism should be construed in a different way.

The inverse transformation problem, as I have previously noted (like some
Japanese Marxists, like Morishima), is how you get from prices to values.

In national accounts, price data is aggregated according to a theory which
results in, for example, "total VALUE ADDED". A question is, what entitles
us to think that summing a whole lot of prices (real, imputed and estimated)
will result in a quantity which represents the total VALUE added? Once you
think more deeply about this inverse problem, you really get to the core of
the matter, I believe.

Somehow, in doing any price accounting, relating of different prices, and
price aggregation, a value theory is necessarily implicated, namely, one
necessarily needs concepts of:

a.. comparable value (value equivalence)
a.. value used up (or wasted)
a.. conserved value
a.. transferred value
a.. newly created value

One can of course cite plenty practical and legal "conventions" that will
operate this, but this does not solve the theoretical and scientific problem
of the origin/cause of these conventions and their assumptions. I could say,
value added is simply total sales less intermediate goods and services used
up, but I haven't PROVED thereby, that this price equals value added. I have
just called it that, i.e. I have stated "what I think it means", a

In his great little book "Man makes himself", the path-breaking Australian
archaeologist V. Gordon Childe discusses the issue of "human progress", and
notes, somewhat in jest:

"The essence of the scientific attitude is, indeed, the abandonment of
personal prejudices and the subordination of private likes and dislikes.
(....) "The results of measurement," professor Levy remarks, "will be
entirely independent of any religious, ethical, or social bias. Whether you
like or dislike the words on this page, you will agree that the number is
322." (1951 edition, p. 10).

Further inquiry however results in the insight that, whereas admittedly 322
=322, the way in which we arrive at this number, may not be free from "any
religious, ethical or social bias".


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