Re: [OPE-L] Karl Marx on unequal exchange in the "Grundrisse"

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sun Feb 05 2006 - 13:50:24 EST

> Jerry asked:
> "Besides the "time factor and such things as credit money and capital
> gains", what from your perspective can lead to an inequality between
> the sum of s and the sum of profits in the world economy as a whole?">
> I assume you mean generic gross profit income (interest, rent, profit,
> tax, royalties and fees) from production?

 Hi Jurriaan,

I was just trying to comprehend better what your understanding was,
that's all.

> (as I have noted in the past, social
> accounts of gross product will always understate real profit income,
> since they include only those profits thought to be directly associated
> with value-adding production).
> S-P inequalities could result e.g. from:
> - forms of structural unequal exchange

For example?

> - "imperfect" competition of various kinds

How exactly from your perspective would this _in the aggregate_ lead
to S-P inequalities?  (NB: this is a question, not a rejection of the

> - wasted labour or destroyed outputs

Well, if there is wasted labour or destroyed output this could
affect the magnitude of S.  Is there reason to think that the
magnitude of profits would change to a greater or lesser degree than the
change in S?

> - accounting "tricks", forms of transfer pricing, and tax rules
> - profits generated by the transfer of resources without production
> occurring.

Accounting tricks can't change the _actual_ amount of profit; they
can only change the accounting for profit.  Ditto tax rules -- and
the accounting that firms do to minimize their tax liability.

> Sure, Marx sometimes suggests a  metaphor
> that there exists a "pool" of surplus value from which different
> capitalist claim their share. But in reality no "redistribution"
> occurs here, it is only that more or less surplus-value is realised by
> different enterprises in exchange.

The concept of a redistribution of surplus value is key to Marx's
understanding of the relation between landowners and capitalists and the
theory of rent, isn't that so?

> Redistribution ideas lead to the idea of value magnitudes being
> "conserved" in price magnitudes.

Right. I'm not sure where conservation "laws" entered Marxian
political economy (Sraffa?), but Marx didn't really have a theory
of the conservation of value.  Instead, he highlighted (especially in
_TSV_) the destruction of capital values.

> What does it MEAN to say that total prices and total values are
> "equal"?

But Marx didn't claim that in reality total value equals total prices.
He assumed it in VI but he claimed in V3 that total value equals total
*prices of production*.  There is a huge difference since there are entire
sectors (e.g. where there are natural monopolies) that are excluded
from the transformation.  Indeed, one could claim that if total value
= total PoP then total value can _not_ = total prices!

> The only substantive claim that Marx explicitly makes is that
> total generic profit from production cannot be more than total
> surplus value produced, although that total profit could be less
> than total surplus value produced. This seems to be an idea
> of "no more can be shared out than there is". But even this
> idea could be challenged, since product values are "shared
> out" not just among capitalists. Generic total profit can exceed
> surplus value produced insofar as the whole capitalist class
> can fleece the whole working class, i.e. unequal
> exchange can occur between social classes.

Yes, I agree that this is a possibility.  Also, 'generic profit'
(i.e. gains in wealth) can occur through the appropriation of the
wealth produced in past non-capitalist societies (e.g. the trade
in antiquities).

In solidarity, Jerry

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