Value (to John Ernst 3/4)

Juan Inigo jinigo at inscri.org.ar
Wed Nov 15 23:53:39 MST 1995


I will complete here my reply to John Ernst's post. John writes:

>3.  I urge you to read more of CAPITAL.  We are not talking
>     about a commodity producing society allocating quantities of
>     abstract labor.  We are talking about capitalist society
>     which allocates abstract labor on the basis of prices and
>     profits. Again, you can simply assert that prices change
>     because the LTV tells you they will.  You have to show
>     the how's and why's of those price changes based upon
>     prices and profits. (Hint: try working with the accumulation
>     process itself and cut the "philosophical" jargon.  It does
>     not impress.)

Is the reproduction in thought of the simplest forms of our general social
relation, capital, some sort of "philosophical jargon" or an abstract
representation as the "LTV"? Are prices and profits not two concrete forms
that the socially necessary abstract labor materialized in commodities
takes? Can the determinations of prices be explained by prices and profits
themselves?

" ... vulgar economy feels particularly at home in the estranged outward
appearances of economic relation in which these prima facie absurd and
perfect contradictions appear and that these relations seem the more
self-evident, the more their internal relationships are concealed from it
... But here the vulgar economist is all the more satisfied, ... since
precisely the contradiction between the formula and the conception of value
relieves him from the obligation to understand the latter." Marx, Capital
III, Chapter 48.

But this question belongs in another specific post, so I will come back
later on it.

Were I suffering from the same pedantic urgencies as John, I could close
this point now by saying: (Hint: Chapter 1, Capital I, is about capitalist
production. It only happens that John has abstracted chapter 1 from its
first paragraph).

>4.  If you do assume a price change in the example, note that
>     the capitalists  would take a rather severe hit. Why would
>     they do it?   Here try looking in Chapter 13 of Book I of
>     CAPITAL and note how Marx uses the ideas of individual
>     value and social value  ---  concepts that seem absent
>     from your "discourse."

John's worries about the severe hits that capitalists as a class infringe
to themselves, go far beyond what capitalists do worry about in reality.
Really moving. It happens that capitalists personify the necessity of
individual capitals to pursue their self-valorization today whatever will
happen to them tomorrow, since otherwise, there would be no tomorrow at all
for them. On the contrary, vulgar economists personify the necessity of
capital to ideologically mud the consciousness about its necessity to
annihilate itself in its own historical development. So vulgar economists
find themselves constantly urged to "ideally" rule contradictions out of
capital, ... for the sake of their models.

Furthermore, John's question "Why would they do it?" sounds really funny
coming from someone who claims he had "to read all three books of CAPITAL.
It's not hard, try it." In Chapter 12 (in the English edition, 10 in the
rest), Capital I, "The concept of relative surplus-value," Marx develops
this "why" by distinguishing individual value and social value, after
making clear that:

"In order to effect a fall in the value of labour-power, the increase in
the productiveness must seize upon those branches of industry whose
products determine the value of labor-power ... the total decrease being
the sum of all the different curtailments of labour-time in those various
and distinct industries. This general result is treated, here, as if they
were the immediate result directly aimed at in each individual case. ...The
general and necessary tendencies of capital must be distinguished from
their forms of manifestation. It is not our intention to consider, here,
the way in which the laws, immanent in capitalist production, manifest
themselves in the movements of individual masses of capital, where they
assert themselves as coercive laws of competition, and are brought home to
the mind and consciousness of the individual capitalist, as the direct
motives of his operations... Nevertheless, for the better comprehension of
the production of relative surplus-value, we may add the following remarks,
in which we assume nothing more than the results we have already obtained."

The mediation of individual value in the process of social value asserting
itself through the increase in productivity and moral depreciation does not
change the developments I have presented here and in my previous post even
in an inch. The true problem for John is not that the concepts of
individual and social value are "absent from your (my) "discourse"." The
true problem he finds here is that I do not mistake them, as vulgar
economists enjoy doing to claim that the rate of profit cannot fall since
individual capitalists always seek its increase.

>5.  Unlike Steve Keen, I am not trying to develop any ideas
>     in our conversations that are not in Marx's CAPITAL I
>     actually think he is right, although at times unclear.
>     Clearly his work was unfinished.  The jargon from the
>     first few chapters of CAPITAL won't work with me as
>     I am not questioning Marx; I am simply one of many trying
>     to work a bit or two that he never did.  To do so, I have
>     to read all three books of CAPITAL.  It's not hard, try it.

It is completely clear at this stage that this point is a collection of
John's abstractions.

>6.  You should also be aware that as you argued for your
>     position, you stand with many other who argue against
>     Marx's falling rate of profit since if I were to agree with
>     your notion of value in the post below, the rate of profit
>     would not fall, but rise with technical change.  Perhaps,
>     this accounts for a portion of my anger with you,
>     for, unlike most neo-Ricardians,  who attack Marx,
>     you attack him in the guise of defending him.  I do
>     think you do so not out of dishonesty and will let others
>     come to their own conclusions about the value of your
>     defenses of value.

What I am aware of is that any scientific method says that, if John found
that my "notion of value" did not agree with Marx's discoveries, he should
have demonstrated exactly where and how such thing happens. And, of course,
he should have presented a demonstration about how from my "notion of
value" such a funny thing as a rising rate of profit must result, not just
a bold assertion abstractly stating it. But John's "ideal" method is hardly
a scientific one. And, so far, the only thing John has demonstrated here is
that he has no idea of what value is about and that he deeply disagrees
with Marx, since John believes that the increase in productivity lacks a
necessary inverse relation with the unitary value of the use values that
are produced. Of course, this is the guy that talks about Marx being
unclear!

Now, is John's necessity to assert his points of view by resorting to
mental farts increasing faster, slower or at the same pace as the increase
in the evidence that his points of view can't be rationally defended?
Maybe, as it happens concerning technical composition and productivity, we
can't actually establish an unequivocal quantitative relation in that
sense. Still, according to the level reached by John's pedantry and the
airs of "perdona vidas" with which he talks here about his "anger" and his
thoughts concerning my "honesty," it is clear that such qualitative
relation does exist. By the way, in what personaly concerns me, John's
petulant anger and thoughts about my honesty will not provoke any vent in
me, since I directly me cago en ellos.

Juan Inigo
jinigo at inscri.org.ar



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