[OPE-L:5480] Marx on post-production catastrophes

Michael Williams (Michael@mwilliam.u-net.com)
Wed, 17 Sep 1997 07:42:06 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

The ongoing debate between Paul and Andrew may be illuminated by what
Marx had to say about an exactly similar thought experiement:
following a grain crop failure:

"the rise in grain prices, as far as value enters into the question,
seems to leave everything as it was. Except for the fact that the
lesser quantity of grain multiplied by the increased price, in real
crop failures, never = the normal quantity multiplied by the esser

I'm not clear what grounds this assertion - casual empircism?

A little later he mentions
"the fact that it [the English economy] lacks the means to reproduce
either life or wheat", and goes on: "the productive force of its
capital would have diminished by millions and the sum of all values
in the land would have diminished, since every working day would have
depreciated by a factor of 30 million [the normal wheat crop of 30M
qtrs having been reduced to 1 qtr in his example]. Every unit of
capital would then represent only 1/30M of its earlier value, of its
equivalent in production costs, even though ... the decrease in the
value all other products would have been exactly compensated by the
increase in value of the 1 qtr of wheat."

Marx is deploying all this in a dispute with the Proudhonist,
Darimon, about the implications for balance of payments and
international specie flow, but that does, I think, not make it less
relevant. A couple of pages later he says:
"The crisis reduces itself simply to the law of supply and demand,
which, as is known, acts far more energetically within the sphere of
primary needs - seen on a national scale - than in all other

Marx, K. 1973[written 1857-8] *Grundrisse* Harmondsworth: Penguin;
128, 130
"Books are Weapons"

Dr Michael Williams
Department of Economics Home:
School of Social Sciences 26 Glenwood Avenue
De Montfort University Southampton
Hammerwood Gate SO16 3QA
Kents Hill
Milton Keynes
tel:+1908 834876 tel/fax: +1703 768641
fax:+1908 834979
additional email address: