Testing Marx - an objection

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Sat Apr 29 07:34:46 MDT 1995

When I posted on this list a couple of weeks ago, the conclusion of the
article by Paul Cockshott and Allin Cottrell in the spring issue of
Capital and Class, I did not expect immediate comments unless a marxist
economist had actually read the article.

However I received by individual mail a post that suggested the lack of
response on this list was because Cockshott and Cottrell's approach was
in fact unscientific.

I am forwarding the essence of the argument to this list for comment.

> To measure labor time against prices is to measure concrete labor
> against prices. Does Marx claim any correspondence between concrete
> labor time and prices? If so where? No one bothers to even ponder the
> question save Ochoa who admits (albeit privately) that the comparison
> is absurd.
> .... In most sciences one does not say that one is even testing the
> theory if the data does not exist.

I replied, without the benefit of the article being to hand, that I had
seen nothing to object to in the introductory argument that within an
economy the total aggregate of prices of commodities might have a
relationship with the total aggregate of labour inputs, rather say than
with oil inputs, and that this would be an empirical test of the labour
theory of value.

I received a further reply, which I tried to upload lastnight in my
letter to Paul, but which got lost, asking

where in Marx is there a
statement that the total aggregate of prices of commodities corresponds
to the total labour input?

Ironically in view of Paul's scepticism about my interest in
non-linearity I certainly accept his and Allin's work showing a linear
relationship between labour content and prices *when aggregated over a
whole economy* ie we are talking about the range of the data for which a
linear approximation is not a wildly invalid approximation.

Therefore please could anyone, not just Paul or Allin, comment on the
objection that I am forwarding in this post?

Chris Burford

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