Re: [OPE-L] sraffa quote

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Wed Feb 22 2006 - 07:07:32 EST

That was a very interesting quote indeed, considering the extent to which
some followers of Sraffa have become 'tiresome objectors'.

Ian Wright wrote:

> Hi Andy,
> Another thought. Robert Vienneau at the end of  this article
> includes a quotation from Sraffa's notebooks. I include the quotation
> below. Would it be fair to say that your view regarding the lack of
> quantitative identity, that is "the deviations from the aggregate
> equalities are *random* through time because OCCs have no structural
> relation with relevant categories of goods" is very similar if not
> identical to Sraffa's point of view? -- If so, that would make me the
> "tiresome objector".
> "The propositions of M[arx] are based on the assumption that the
> comp[osition] of any large agg[regate] of commodities (wages, profits,
> const[ant] cap[ital]) consists of a random selection, so that the
> ratio between their aggr[egate] (rate of s[urplus] v[alue], rate of
> p[rofits]) is approx[imately] the same whether measured at 'values' or
> at the p[rices] of prod[uction] corresp[onding] to any rate of
> s[urplus] v[alue].
> This is obviously true, and one would leave it at that, if it were not
> for the tiresome objector, who relies on hypothetical deviations:
> suppose, he says, that the capitalists changed the comp[osition] of
> their consumption (of the same aggr[egate] price) to commod[itie]s of
> a higher org[anic] comp[osition], the rate of s[urplus] v[alue] would
> decrease if calc[ulated] at 'values', while it would remain unchanged
> at p[rices] of p[roduction], which is correct? - and many similar
> puzzles can be invented.
> (Better: the cap[italist]s switched part of their consumption from
> comm[oditie]s of lower to higher org[anic] comp[osition], while the
> workers switched to the same extent theirs from higher to lower, the
> aggr[egate] price of each remaining unchanged...)
> It is clear that M[arx]'s pro[position]s are not intended to deal with
> such deviations. They are based on the assumption (justified in
> general) that the aggregates are of some average composition. This is
> in general justified in fact, and since it is not intended to be
> applied to detailed minute differences it is all right.
> This should be good enough till the tiresome objector arises. If then
> one must define which is the average to which the comp[osite] should
> conform for the result to be exact and not only approximate, it is the
> St[andard] Comm[odity]...
> But what does this average 'approximate' to? i.e. what would it have
> to be composed of (what weights sh[oul]d the average have) to be
> exactly the St[andard] Com[modity]?
> i.e. Marx assumes that wages and profits consist approximately of
> quantities of [the] st[andard] com[modity]."

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

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