Re: [OPE-L] New article at artefact

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Feb 22 2006 - 11:28:01 EST

Jurriann wrote:

>What commodities "have in common", could be simply e.g. that:
>- they have prices
>- they are offered for exchange
>- they possess utility
>- they are needed
>- they are scarce.
>In analysing and defining the nature of the commodity (tradeable product),
>it is not logically required to assume, as Marx does, a "common substance",
>only its practical exchangeability.

Marx can't be wrong for both having deduced a wrong common substance
and having chosen the wrong one. Which sword do you chose?

To put it awkwardly (just don't have the time), it seems to me that the
  condition of possibility of general commodity exchange by
which each is measured, as an aliquot, in terms of an identical measure
must be the existence of an at least conceptually
homogeneous substance in terms of which commodities
can be such abstract, only quantitatively differentiated, parts.
  (Of course I agree with Marx that with the development
of capitalism social labor becomes more practically homogeneous.)

Otherwise, what is money measuring? Marx's logic  seems hardly
unreasonable, and
it seems that his critics say many manifestly logically contradictory
things in very
tortured prose.

   Moreover, the other common substances simply cannot underpin
socially objective measurements. I don't think it's an accident that
bourgeois economics does not criticize Marx in terms of any form of subjective
theory of value but in terms of Sraffa's theory which allows for commodities
to serve as a determinate abstract part of what it holds to be an inherently
heterogeneous gross product. But this is logically absurd, this holding to
commensurability while denying that there is a substantial basis of
commensurability at least as a condition of possibility of that

I don't have Alfredo's book with me, but doesn't the use of abstract labor
power in the neo Ricardian formalism already imply the commensuration of labor?
If Alfredo is reading, it would be great if he could elaborate.

Commodities absorb and potentially lay claim to an abstract quantity
of homogeneous
social labor. No palaver is needed to establish that. However the
actual labor time
which they are  assigned is determined via a very complex social
process. Demand
plays at best an indirect and, even then, small role in this process;
the level of labor productivity and intra capitalist competition are the
overwhelmingly important factors. At any rate,
it is the task of value theory to lay bare that complexity.

>As regards the TP, the Dutch student W. van Drimmelen argued
>in his 1976 Phd thesis on the topic (following Seton) that the TP is
>solvable if one introduces an assumption about the price level
>(choice of numeraire, or invariance postulate). The problem was that
>as he quotes, "there does not seem to be any objective basis
>for choosing any particular invariance postulate in preference
>to all the others" (Seton 1957, p. 153).

I don't think Marx ever admitted that he failed to transform the inputs
from value prices or simple prices to prices of production. This is
not the error
to which Marx was calling attention. One hundred years of Marx criticism has
read Marx ass backwards. And I think many of Marx's defenders, even
on this list, have not understood the nature of the error
to which Marx was calling attention. At least Fred has understood
my point. But if one accepts the traditional transformation
problem, Winternitz obviously chose the correct invariance condition.

>Additionally, production
>prices can obviously be obtained without any reference to


Yours, Rakesh

>  Neither Marx nor Engels in truth believed that
>there would be an exact identity between production prices
>and values (or total surplus values and total profits) in a moving
>reality, and they said so, explicitly. But Marx did think, there was
>a relatively close correspondence between them. The deviations
>between production values and production prices would not
>be so great. And to some extent, you can model or test that.
>In that sense, Ian has got to be correct.
>What mathematics forces us to do is to make our economic
>concepts more exact, but mathematics itself
>cannot supply the concepts, it can only operate on them
>quantitatively, to reveal their implications, i.e. if you mean
>this, it has this quantitative or logical implication, and if
>you mean that, it has another implication and so on. That's
>useful if it encourages more rigorous thought, i.e. a better
>framing of problems or categorisation (you cannot mean
>this and also mean that, if you are consistent etc.).
>But I doubt whether a timeless, self-replicating three-sector
>model of the economy is very informative; I could of
>course be wrong (Leontief's input-output tables are
>another story).
>I do not think talk of "dialectics" will solve very much,
>what is required is a better understanding of how
>the micro and the macro levels reciprocally affect each other.
>This takes us into a discussion of what markets are,
>and how they function, what prices are, and so on.
>Marx was only trying to trace out how the law of value would
>operate under specifically capitalist conditions, in its "ideal
>average", but his sketch by no means exhausts the problem.
>Extra surplus value might be the fulcrum of capitalist
>competition, but it is not the only dimension of
>Ilyenkov talking about dialectics is a bit like the
>pope talking about christianity. A "general rate of profit" and
>an "average rate of profit" are not the same thing; a "general"
>rate implies that a rate of e.g. 10% becomes the ruling
>norm (i.e. a certain rate becomes "generalised"),
>and an average rate means that different rates
>"average out" to e.g. 10% on capital invested. You can
>investigate the implications if 10% becomes the ruling
>norm, but in reality of course there is usually only a
>statistical average. Marx talks about the "formation"
>of a general rate, i.e. a tendency of different rates
>to level out to one uniform rate, and then you can
>investigate what the outcome would be, if that rate
>existed. But this is only examing the problem in its
>"pure form". I don't have the time to develop all this
>in detail just now.

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