Value: the 3 J's debate

Chris, London 100423.2040 at
Fri Nov 24 01:12:21 MST 1995

While I have not been able to follow all the details, I very much welcome
that John, Jim and Juan have been continuing to slog out the value
of the Marxist concept of the law of value.

My standpoint is that we need a non-reductionist, non-mechanistic
rediscovery of the relevance of the LOV  for commodity-based
exchange value, *within the wider global set of all socially valued human
(value in its widest sense).

As hopefully a reasonable intelligent non-economist I would like to
risk quadrangulating briefly in the debate.

I welcome John's willingness to concentrate on the issues,
and to ignore some of Juan's sharper remarks personally.
I also welcome as good practice his attempt to go Back to the
Beginning to redefine more accurately the problem over which the
argument is taking place. However I suspect there needs
to be more clarification of exactly what the problem is that
people are arguing over.

John starts his 9-point half-time summary as follows:

From: "John R. Ernst" <ernst at>
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 1995 20:35:32 -0500
Subject: Back to the Beginning

1. Ok, guys, Jim and Juan, let's not get lost.
   I'll assume full responsibility for taking us
   down the blind alley of index numbers and
   the like. What I propose is that we go
   back to where we started and determine
   our concerns.

2. What's basically at issue is the notion of a
    falling rate of profit in Marx's work.  What
    I am saying is that nearly everyone who reads
    Marx, using the common definitions of value,
    concludes that Marx is wrong.

Now I thought, John, that it was accepted in previous debates
on this list that what people were arguing about was Marx's
description not of the falling rate of profit but of the *tendency*
of the rate of profit to fall. Further that Marx and his followers
recognise countervailing tendencies. So that the net result
may be a fluctuating pattern of rate of profit resulting from
many different factors.

I think the problem should be defined differently at a higher
macro level to that at which you bravely attempt to pitch it:
That Marx's general and concrete description of the laws of
working of the capitalist economy describes with remarkable
relevance still today, a system that in his time appeared for
various reasons likely to become more and more
polarised, so that increasingly frequent crises would herald
a total qualitative change to another system.

The problem however for us is that on re-reading, Marx's
economics also describes a system that can accommodate to
social pressures for example over factory legislation and the
division of exchange value between workers and capitalist
accumulation.  Marx describes a complex dynamic
self-reproducing self-perpetuating system, in which
one but only one of the motions, is a *tendency* of the
rate of profit to fall, but there are many other tendencies too.

The problem is paradoxically that if we  understand more
fully, more dialectically and more materialistically, the workings
of the capitalist economic system and why it is so resilient, that
is the necessary theoretical condition tostart  bringing it politically,
under social control, and in the widest sense, social ownership.

Is that not the problem?

Chris, London.

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