Re: [OPE-L] price of production/supply price/value

From: Andrew Brown (A.Brown@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Fri Feb 10 2006 - 14:27:22 EST

Hi Ian,

We are definitely not going in circles, from my point of view. Whether
or not we have a 'deep' disagreement remains to be seen. 

I wrote:

> Now, we know what is and what is not necessarily related to feasible
> reproduction proportions by scrutinising them. (To comprehend an
> requires comprehension of its necessary relations). And on
> them, there is only one scalar to which they are necessarily related,
> viz. SNLT.

Now, I would like to stress that I have not mentioned prices in the
above. In fact the above is a trans-historical statement. It can and
must be debated at such a high level of abstraction and when doing so,
of course, the question of prices (a historical, not a trans-historical
phenomenon) is quite irrelevant. This is important because you have not
yet explicitly attacked this statement at such a level of abstraction.
Just to illustrate: it is a trans-historical fact that we need to eat to
live. This is a truth in all societies. So it is true in capitalism. Now
if the neo-R critique 'proved' that we do not need to eat to live in
capitalism, obviously we would not abandon eating. My argument that in
all societies there is one and only one relevant scalar, SNLT, that is
necessarily related to feasible reproduction proportions is at exactly
the same level of abstraction as the argument that in all societies we
need to eat to live. Your reply apparently to the effect that the neo-R
critique 'proves' that there is no such scalar is exactly equivalent to
the reply that the neo-R critique proves we do not need to eat in order
to live.

I am not saying this clinches my argument but I am pointing out that
your reply has not fully addressed my argument. On the other hand you
are right that it must be shown *how* trans-historical truths are
actualised (and so *developed*) in specific cases. Thus it must be shown
how trans-historical truths of any society are compatible with the
specifics of process of production. Your actual reply was

'No. That's the N-R transformation problem: it denies that prices are
"necessarily related" to SNLT. Why? Because the dual-accounting
systems are mismatched. According to this critique, you cannot explain
prices in terms of labour-values ("no way" of going from the value
prong to the price prong, even in the aggregate). So you're begging
the question here -- or implicitly assuming a response to the TP.'

*If* you accepted the trans-historical truth that SNLT is the only
scalar necessarily related to feasible reproduction proportions, *then*
you couldn't reply in quite the above manner. Instead you would know
that prices *must* be tethered by SNLT. But you are of course right that
there would still be the key task of showing, despite the neo-R
critique, *how* prices are tethered by SNLT. Moreover, *if* I couldn't
show this, *then* I would have a fundamental problem is theorising
capitalism! In other words you are right that I must have some response
to the TP (implicit or otherwise). 

So far as I know the TP shows, and can only show, that the two aggregate
equalities do not hold precisely together, under certain assumptions. It
does *not* show that prices are not dynamically tethered by SNLT. It
does *not* show that under reasonable assumptions the two aggregate
equalities are a million miles from holding simultaneously. It provides
no basis for determining these latter questions because it provides no
dynamics, in fact it provides absolutely no basis whatsoever for
deciding upon the 'given' technological conditions! I mentioned before
some basic dynamics of bubble and burst that seem to me to mean that
prices and SNLT will not part company completely, and for long, without

Now, you have another, and totally different, line of argument regarding
the TP. This is that Marx himself thought that the two aggregate
equalities hold precisely - thus theory should reproduce this aspect of
Marx. I do, in fact think my theory (derived form Fine at al) does.
Under the assumption that the inputs are not transformed (level of the
OCC) then he was precisely correct. What about after the inputs are
transformed (level of VCC)? Plainly, he did not think this a vital
question, and never pursued it at any length (though I agree that he
thought they was a level where they would still hold after the
transformation of the inputs 'as a never attained average'). I would
suggest that this is because there are some rather more fundamental
issues: (1) the value of money; but far more importantly (2) dynamics,
viz. the TRPF. Marx accordingly goes straight on to discuss dynamics and
the TRPF. 

You write "Price is related to "feasible reproduction proportions".
That's not in question. What is contested by his N-R critics is Marx's
claim that
those prices *represent* SNLT, even in the aggregate."

But surely it *is* in question. Here you seem to me to get levels of
abstraction in the wrong order. First we need to scrutinise feasible
production relations, even at the very abstract trans-historical level.
This tells what can and cannot be related to feasible production
relations. Then we must examine price. In other words, prices cannot
magically be related to feasible production relations by fiat. We have
to show *how* they are.

I hope there is some apparent progress, from your point of view, above.

Many thanks,


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