John Ernst

John R. Ernst ernst at
Mon Nov 27 20:20:09 MST 1995

Dear Jim,

Let's go over this a bit.  The only thing I think my example
does is follow in Marx's steps as seen in Bk I, Ch 12.
The movement from social value to individual value is
covered there.  This has been the subject of much discussion
between Juan and me.  Our difference is not over whether or
not there is a movement from social value to individual value
is the timing of that fall.   We also differ on whether or not
there is an initial drop in price, so that the social value would
be a bit less than that in the "3000" output example in an
example contructed by Juan.

At any rate, do check out the chapter on relative surplus value,
cited above.  There you will have the same question -- Where
did the extra value come from and/or what is the source of the
additional surplus value?


On Mon, 27 Nov 1995 James Miller <jamiller at> said:

>   In his Nov. 26 post, John Ernst set up a numerical
>example dealing with a change in constant capital.
>   Starting with:
>   10 c(fixed) + 90 c(raw mat.) + 100 v + 100 s = 300
>he then changes the makeup of the constant capital to
>reflect new, more productive machinery, giving:
>   80 c(fixed) + 900 c(raw mat.) + 100 v + 1920 s = 3000
>   Anyone familiar with Marx sees this as remarkably
>bizarre. John has not added any workers to the labor
>force, yet suddenly they are producing nearly 20 times
>the surplus value.
>   So in my last post, I asked John: "Where did the extra
>surplus value come from?" I thought he would see his
>mistake. But no.
>   In his post of Nov. 27, John defends his schema, saying
>"at any rate, the 1920 is the social value created if there
>is no price reduction." Recognizing that people are not
>going to believe this, he continues a bit further, "in the
>next line of numbers [80 c(f) + 900 c(rm) + 100 v + 920 s
>= 1180], I drop the surplus value to 920, indicating the
>usual Marxian assumption [regarding relative surplus value]."
>   As much as John has read of Marx, he's never seen anything
>like this, although he may have seen something like it in
>the writings of the neo-Ricardians. It flies in the face of
>the law of value, which John has said he is trying hard to
>defend. IMO he's not really trying.
>   How can a group of workers produce 200 new value per day,
>then suddenly be producing 2020 new value as soon as the
>new equipment is installed? Apparently, John is thinking that
>the new value is coming from the machine. That's Steve Keen's
>view, and I thought that John had understood something about
>the difference between Marx and Keen. Maybe not.
>   His reference to the change in relative surplus value is
>a subterfuge. There isn't any change in relative surplus value,
>either plus or minus, that can cause workers who are producing
>200 value per day to suddenly be producing 2020 value per day.
>The value that labor produces is a function of the time of
>labor. In all the examples Marx gives, the value produced in
>a day remains the same as long as the number of workers and
>the number of hours worked remains the same. This is but the
>ABC of the law of value. Value is a function of labor time.
>   It becomes clear now what a vast theoretical gulf exists
>between John and Marx. Juan Inigo saw that a little more
>clearly than I did, although Juan sometimes got a little
>carried away with his feelings (and I've been there myself).
>   I regard this as a breakthrough in the discussion. The
>reason that John has been so evasive is that he has felt
>himself attracted to the analysis of the Ricardians, but
>didn't know how to reconcile it with what he knew about
>Marx. And he felt that he wanted to remain within the Marxist
>theoretical framework.
>   Here we can see that John is going the same way as Keen,
>except that Steve has made his differences with Marx more
>explicit. John claims to uphold the labor theory of value,
>while Steve repudiates it openly. John is still unwilling to
>overtly cast off the labor theory of value, but can no
>longer allow it to affect his thinking. (Actually, I don't
>know how well John defended the law of value in the past,
>but I'm assuming he did it better and is now losing his
>   This also explains why he earlier complained that he
>felt that his belief in the law of value was like a religious
>commitment. He couldn't rationally justify the law of value
>in his own mind. Nonetheless, he doggedly continued to sign
>his posts "in orthodoxy," reflecting his determination to
>remain on the turf that he had previously staked out.
>   Referring to the tendency of the rate of profit to fall,
>John indicates some of the factors that are pulling him
>away from Marx, and he calls them by name: "the works of
>John Roemer, an analytical Marxist, Ian Steedman, a neo-
>Ricardian as well as professed Marxists like David Laibman
>and Maurice Dobb."
>   There is a polarization going on. Those within the academic
>community who have successfully come through the great
>hoop-jumping contest by writing their theses on Marxistic
>themes, and this includes both self-dubbed Marxists as well
>as neo-Ricardians and others, are now distancing themselves
>from Marx, first in substance, and then in form. John, though
>not an academic, follows this trend, and says so openly. All
>that remains is for him to make his break formally.
>   At any rate, I really don't want to continue the kind of
>discussion John wants to have. This confusion and evasion
>goes nowhere. But I would like to try to debate with him
>if he could make an effort to change his pattern and open
>up a serious and thoroughgoing exchange on the fundamental
>question of value. What is value? What is its source? How
>can we know that labor is the source of value? How is the
>division of labor regulated by the law of value, etc.? These
>are the issues we ought to discuss. But such a discussion
>would only be possible if John were able to break out of
>the framework he's in now, and open himself up to the
>process of going to the root.
>   By the way, Louis Proyect recently posted a passage from
>Ellen Meiksins (?). I think that's her name. She was talking
>about the lure of academia, its conservatizing effect, etc.
>But we shouldn't overgeneralize here. I think it's possible
>for professors to be revolutionists, or at least to come
>close to it. Granted, we don't see much of that today. But
>we should take each person at their word in these discussions,
>and judge them by what they say, and not resort to ad hominem
>   I only called attention to John's holding up Roemer and
>Steedman as exemplars as an indication of where he thinks
>he's going. So I'm not accusing him of something he hasn't
>already admitted. And I think many people on this list
>understand a bit about the significance of those names.
>Jim Miller
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