[OPE-L:7347] Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts

From: Diego (diego.guerrero@cps.ucm.es)
Date: Thu Jun 06 2002 - 10:31:52 EDT

This is a responde to Fred's 7328

> Rakesh (or Diego or others), would you please explain further what is
> meant by "real determination", as opposed to "conceptual
> determination"?  Thanks.
> Comradely,
> Fred
      PRECIOS A  s  p  e  c  t  o     c  u  a  l  i  t  a  t  i  v  o















      cantidades físicas de trabajo (medidas en tiempo de reloj)

      (precios monetarios, precios-oro, precios relativos): cantidades físicas de otras cosas (medidas en dinero o en mercancías)







The theory of value is a theory about the behavior of prices. The Labor theory of value (LTV), as I understand it and defend it is a theory of prices which asserts:


A)    In social, capitalist reality there are real prices of two kinds: prices of the commodities in social human time consumed in their reproduction (1-prices) and their evident manifestation in business: 2-prices (specially, monetary prices). There are 2-prices because there are 1-prices, ie, because the process of labor in a certain kind of society adopts a certain, fragmentary, etc. form. But 2-prices are as real as 1-prices are.


B)     social reality determines social conscience. The existence of real, effective, actual prices, requires that we theoreticians understand their behavior. In order to this we need to construct theoretical model-prices which allow us to capture and explain the real movement of real prices.


Assertion A is unique for the LTV. Assertion B is not. Theoreticians who do not support the LTV should say what are absolute prices made of. If they think that just relative prices exist, they must be aware that their theoretical behavior differs very much from the behavior of scientists in all other disciplines (there is no relative weight or volume without previously being an absolute weight or volume, etc.).


In my opinion, the supporters of the LTV are those who assert that absolute prices are made of quantities of labor.


Another question refers to the quantitative relationship between theoretical and effective prices (either absolute or relative). I take effective prices in a double sense: the price of every single transaction, and also average prices in a pure, statistical sense (e.g., in a month, a year, etc.). One important point is that defenders of the LTV may disagree in grasping this quantitative relationship. Of course, Marx gave a crucial importance to this quantitative relationship, and made his best at this regard. But I think he can and should be improved. However this is a point to discuss later. Let's focus on another point now.


Fred thinks that we should do as Marx did: to begin with effective prices of the inputs and add to them the actual quantity of direct labor in order to figure out "volume I-values", and then to redistribute surplus-values in order to calculate "volume III-values". Well, both values are theoretical prices in the sense of my table above, and it does not matter if they are taken as absolute or relative prices.


In my opinion, this procedure -which I think was the one Marx had in mind-is a theoretically correct approach. It is the best approach when one does not have access to more accurate methods. It is my contention that were Marx known matrix algebra -which can be used for dynamic purposes, of course--, he would not have had any problems with using the same theoretical prices of the inputs that the theoretical prices of the outputs he was looking for. He did not know how to do this. Now we know how to do it. We can use eigenequations in order to obtain the two most popular theoretical prices used in our literature: direct prices and production prices (both of which can be understood as  either quantities of labor or money). The only difference consists of using either the rate of surplus-value or the rate of profit as the crucial element in the relevant eigenvalues.


Both kinds of theoretical prices are not interchangeable. If we are just considering the "vertical" relationship capital-workers, ie, exploitation, we should start from direct prices. If we are considering vertical and horizontal relationships altogether, we can start from production prices (which are, in my opinion, the same kind of values as direct values are) and we may as well be interested in comparing the latter with the so-called (by Marx) "individual" values, etc.


The health of the LTV does not hinge on whether we begin with direct prices or production prices, but on being aware that: 1) relative prices exist because absolute prices exist (ie a certain type of real labor processes exist); 2) theoretical prices are a tool for understanding the behavior of effective prices.


In this approach, Bródy, Shaikh or Martínez Marzoa are not "Matrix algebra Marxists" but modern supporters of the LTV who make use of the mathematical tools available to all. Would someone say that if a Marxist takes a derivative he belongs to the "Marginalist Marxism" school?


What is primarily important in Marx is not his methods, but his results. His methods matter too, but insofar as they help explaining and understanding his results.





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