[OPE-L:7387] Re: RE: interpreting Marx; a reply to Rakesh

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Fri Jun 14 2002 - 14:10:19 EDT

re Gary's 7383

>The magnitude of the surplus depends on the technical conditions of production
>and the real wages of workers.  True, the matrices don't determine these
>things, and no Sraffian ever claimed that they do.  On the contrary, the
>Sraffian position is quite explicitly that to understand capitalism we must
>investigate the processes by which production methods and distribution are
>regulated.  This of course must include an appreciation of the central role of
>class conflict.  But it is not clear to me that one need bring in labor values
>to understand these processes.

Gary,as I understand it, the Sraffian takes as given the magnitude of 
the surplus in use value terms. No you know taking this as given will 
be challenged. And even Ajit underlines the problem here. Marx after 
all criticized Ricardo for forgetting that though the technical means 
for surplus labor may exist, that does not make surplus labor exist 
in reality. "For this to occur, the labourer must be compelled to 
work in excess of [necessary] time, and this compulsion exerted by 
capital. This is missing in Ricardo's [and Sraffa's work!!!rb] and 
therefore the whole struggle over the regulation of the normal 
working day."
TSVII, p. 406 I think this quote has been unduly ignored.

The technical conditions (or a blueprint thereof) do not themselves 
yield a surplus--only the possibility thereof; for that  to occur 
there  must be unpaid alienated living labor time and labor values 
have to be brought in to understand the real process, as Shaikh puts 

>>By focusing on value as a process rather than technical conditions as
>>a given, one can keep focus on the objectification of alienated
>>living labor in the commodity output which the simultaneous method
>>simply takes as given.
>>The neo Ricardian theory tells us that it is fine to focus on the
>>alienation of labor in the production process and do studies thereof
>>but that in the determination of the profit rate and relative prices
>>there is nothing to be gained by understanding the surplus as nothing
>>other than the materialization of unpaid living labor.
>I would add a qualifier here: there is nothing SCIENTIFIC to be gained by
>understanding the surplus as nothing other than the materialization of unpaid
>living labor.  There are other kinds of insight besides scientific insight,
>and I am open to the possibility that other ways of conceiving the surplus can
>provide philosophical insight, in the sense of opening our eyes to important
>and often-overlooked matters of consciousness and subjective experience.

Of course my argument is that there are two scientific ways of 
understanding the surplus--one in physical quantity terms, the other 
in value terms. Both have economic significance--the former 
indirectly, the latter directly.

>  I
>don't want to get into a discussion of what I mean by scientific, but since
>it's the obvious next question, let me say I mean issues that can be discussed
>in some significant degree independently of one's ideological stance.
>>So proponents of the simultaneous method will argue that for the
>>purposes of determining the rate of profit and relative prices the
>>surplus value objectified by alienated labor in the commodity output
>>plays no role.
>I wouldn't make that argument.  I would say that "surplus value objectified by
>alienated labor in the commodity output" plays a role insofar as it manifests
>itself in the technical conditions of production and the living standard of

Again I don't think the technical conditions do anything or cause anything.

Comradely, Rakesh

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