Some quick points:
(1) Although she finds some value in Marx, her condemnation of the labour theory of value is nevertheless fairly harsh: Robinson calls the labour theory of value a Marxist “incantation” and compares it to witchcraft (Robinson 1966: 22).In short, even one of the most influential founders of Post Keynesianism noted that contradiction between the theories of value in volume 1 and volume 3 of Capital, and the other problems and dogmas of Marxism.
(2) Robinson (1966: 10) notes the contradictions between volume 1 and volume 3 of Capital, just as Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk did in his much earlier critique of Marx (Böhm-Bawerk 1896 = Böhm-Bawerk 1949: 3–120). Of the two theories of value, Robinson preferred Marx’s exposition in volume 3 of Capital, which was a rather more intricate formulation than the “simple dogmatism” of volume 1 (Robinson 1966: 10).
(3) Robinson, like other commentators, noted that Marx needed to reduce all heterogeneous human labour to a meaningful homogenous unit (Robinson 1966: 12), but this actually “leaves open the problem of assessing labour of different degrees of skill in terms of a unit of ‘simple labour’” (Robinson 1966: 19). This is also exactly the point I have made too. There is a severe aggregation problem here that is never adequately explained by Marxists.
(4) If individual commodity prices were directly equal to labour value (and all labour were paid a wage rate commensurate to the socially-necessary labour time of each worker), then the aggregate output prices would equal the aggregate value of labour. But the problem is that there are different organic compositions of capital throughout the economy (Robinson 1966: 15). But, as Robinson notes, by volume 3 it is conceded by Marx that the rate of exploitation is different in different industries and relative prices do not correspond to values (Robinson 1966: 15). It follows, Robinson concludes, that Marx’s theory cannot provide any theory of price determination (Robinson 1966: 17).
(5) Robinson points out that, since machines can make labour more productive, Marx’s saying that only labour produces value is a silly verbal game (Robinson 1966: 18).
Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von. 1949. “Karl Marx and the Close of His System,” in Paul. M. Sweezy (ed.), Karl Marx and the Close of His System and Böhm-Bawerk’s Criticism of Marx. August M. Kelley, New York. 3–120.
Robinson, Joan. 1966. An Essay on Marxian Economics (2nd edn.). Macmillan, London.
But she also says that "no point of substance in Marx's argument depends upon the labor theory of value".ReplyDelete
And it was a peculiar remark by her.Delete
Given how much of Marx she rejected, the points "of substance in Marx's argument" appear to be rather limited to
(1) the use of a proto-effective demand theory by Marx;
(2) Marx's rejection of Say's law;
(3) the notion of a monetary production economy (also a theory of Keynes); and
(4) the need for a conflict theory of the distribution of income, and a few other things.
At no point did Robinson have anything but contempt for the LTV.
I think she was also referring to the theory of exploitation:Delete
"Marx's 'complicating detour' was indeed unnecessary; as Joan Robinson put it, half a century ago, 'none of the important ideas which he expresses in terms of the concept of value cannot be better expressed without it'. In particular, the labour theory of value is not necessary for a theory of exploitation, even in a qualitative sense. Profits arise, as Marx himself explained, because of the capitalist class monopoly over the means of production in an economy which produces a surplus. The class monopoly is the ability of capitalists to deny access to the means of production which they own. Since the majority of the population cannot survive without such access, capitalists can establish an effective claim on part of what is produced. Subject to the qualifications noted in the previous paragraph, profits can be expressed in quantities of surplus labour. But this is only one possible scale of measurement, and not essential to the theory of exploitation."
Or as she also put it:
“I don’t need the labor theory of value to explain why the chaps who’ve got the finance can push around the chaps who haven’t.”
Robinson is very sharp, and catches a number of nuances many interpreters miss. In particular, she's aware of the temporality of his system -- not surprising, given her own sensitivity to the question of historical time -- and thus makes a critical point right up front. Pp. 11-12: "All this differs from orthodox theory in only one respect, but that is an important one. There is no tendency to long-run equilibrium and the average rate of profit is not an equilibrium rate, or a supply price of capital. It is simply an average share in the total surplus which at any moment the capitalist system has succeeded in generating."ReplyDelete
That's a point even many Marxists have ignored at their own peril. Hence, e.g., the trouble they run into when they try to represent prices of production as static equilibrium magnitudes.
(Mind, I think she makes a few mistakes of her own, but that owes more to the physicalist lens she employs than to any lack of attention to detail.)
(2) is, at best, a stretch of a claim. The full quote is: "It seems, certainly, perplexing as we follow the uphill struggle of Marx's own mind from the simple dogmatism of the first volume of Capital to the intricate formulations of Volume III. But if we start from the vantage ground of Volume III the journey is much less arduous." There's no agreement with Böhm-Bawerk nor mention of contradiction. If anything, it's a complaint about finding the transition awkward and consequently difficult. (However, I suspect that ultimately owes to the aforementioned lens.)
Also, apart from using the word "dogma" a bunch of times, I don't recall any passage indicating that Robinson actually thought Volume I's assumptions to be tenets of the theory. (Which is to her credit, since we have ample evidence from both before and after its publication that he never actually held said assumptions to be realistic.)
(3) But this, as we've seen, has a simple and direct answer, so it's no problem. LK, you must be familiar with it by now, though if you'd like me to spell it out for any newcomers, just let me know.
(4) The law of value in and of itself does not suffice to describe all relative price formation; there are other factors to consider in addition. But it's never been clear how this amounts to a criticism. It's no critique of gravity that it doesn't suffice on its own to describe all motion.
(5) I have said for quite a long time that as long as we're using the same referent, I really don't care what terminology we use to name it. Still, though, I always found this point fascinating: If she admits her contention here is purely verbal, why even bother raising it? Again, I suspect this rhetorical angling is the result of her interpretive lens.
"There's no agreement with Böhm-Bawerk nor mention of contradiction.Delete
She does not need to cite or even mention Böhm-Bawerk in order to hold the same opinion as him.
And, in fact, you are wrong. Robinson was well aware of the contradiction in the theory of value between volumes 1 and 3 and mentioned it:
"As I see it, the conflict between Volume I and Volume III is a conflict between mysticism and common sense. In Volume III common sense triumphs but must still pay lip-service to mysticism in its verbal formulations." (Robinson 1966: 15, n. 2).
The theory in vol. 1 is clearly distinguished as "dogmatism" and "mysticism" from that in vol. 3 ("common sense", which refers to individual commodity prices not equalling alleged labour values).
Yes, I saw that quote. Based on the one I fleshed out above, I took it to be about presentation. But even if I'm wrong about that (I may well be!), let's follow this all the way to its logical conclusion, because I am curious about your endgame.Delete
If Vol I contradicts Vol III on theoretical grounds, but literally all available evidence (and I mean ALL -- drafts of both Vol I and III, earlier manuscripts, earlier published work, later published work, numerous points in the published text of Vol I itself, etc.) indicates that Marx did not believe that price tended to equal or gravitate toward value, then what is your explanation for your reading of Volume I, in the context of the broader work of Capital?
For example: Did he change his mind for a week or so, then change it back? (And again for subsequent editions?)
Or: Was Engels somehow strongarming him into publishing something he knew to be untrue, but he "snuck" a few contrary barbs in out of spite? Years and years worth of correspondence between the two has been published; do you have evidence of this? Did the two argue about it before or after publication? (Also, why would Engels have argued for this point? As a capitalist himself, he'd surely have known better -- in fact, he's the one who first introduced Marx to real firms' accounts to study as he formulated the theory. Also, HOW was Engels bullying Marx? Physical threats? By influencing the publisher somehow?)
Or: Was Volume I -- carefully excluding all the bits that frame this point as an assumption ("the conversion of money into capital has to be explained on the basis of the laws that regulate the exchange of commodities, in such a way that the starting-point is the exchange of equivalents," the several footnotes, etc.) -- just a big prank? But then, what about if we don't exclude those references?
Help me to see this from your perspective. I know you think there's an inconsistency, but I'd like to know what you think it signifies, in light of all we know about Marx and his work.
(1) but literally all available evidence ... indicates that Marx did not believe that price tended to equal or gravitate toward valueDelete
This is nonsense and requires ignoring all the statements in vol. 1.
(2) Marx wrote a book (1) he thought would be an economic theory to defend communism and present capitalism in the worst possible light and (2) to please Engels.
Marx was deeply financially dependent on Engels in these years, and wished to please him and keep the money coming.
Knowing that the theory of value in his draft of volume 3 of Capital was quite different from that in vol. 1 it is not at all surprising that there is only a few hints at this in the footnotes of vol. 1 and then not in any detail at all.
And that is very probably why Marx never bothered to publish volumes 2 and 3 of Capital in his lifetime: he knew if they were published the theory of value in vol. 1 would be exploded.
This is nonsense and requires ignoring all the statements in vol. 1.Delete
The irony here is that you're the one expressly ignoring statements in vol. 1 ("obscure footnotes" and other passages). I haven't ignored a single line, though I've shown that a number of the ones you cite as evidence are being taken out of context -- generally *because* of the parts you've chosen to ignore.
(2) Marx wrote a book (1) he thought would be an economic theory to defend communism and present capitalism in the worst possible light and (2) to please Engels.
Your answers only spur further questions.
From this, can I conclude that you believe Volume III paints capitalism in a better light than Volume I? How can you justify this view when Volume III lays out Marx's crisis theory and Volume I does not?
Further: Engels read the manuscript, and the published volume. If he were behind some deliberate inconsistency, wouldn't he have taken issue with the various bits where the correct theory "intrudes," to use your phrase? I assume we'd find a provocative letter at the very least.
In fact, even generally speaking, can you show any evidence at all that they disagreed on the point of prices tending towards values? (And how would a theory with prices tending towards values portray capitalism in a worse light than one with prices that do not?)
Of course, if Engels didn't want the more realistic account of Volume III published for whatever reason, then he had ample opportunity to edit out the offensive bits or even withdraw the documents entirely. So why did he publish it in the form he did, that "contradicts" the version you claim was written to mollify him?
Basically, your account appears riddled with contradictions.
(1) "can I conclude that you believe Volume III paints capitalism in a better light than Volume I?"Delete
Vol. 1 has a much more negative version of the capitalism and there is plenty of evidence for this.
(2) "If he were behind some deliberate inconsistency, "
Engels was not "behind" the dogmatic form of the LT. He was just pressing Marx for a work on political economy to defend communism, and Marx thought the best one he could do was one with an extreme LTV.
Engels was enough of a hero worshipper of Marx that he published the drafts of vol.2 and vol. 3 even though they contradicted vol. 1, especially when so many people were pressing him to do this.
(3) in point of fact, by the last years of his life -- in his desperate attempts to "harmonise" Marx's sacred writings and the theory of value -- Engels decided that the theory in vol. 1 was relevant only to earlier forms of capitalism. This can be seen in:
(1) Engels's 'Supplement and addendum to Volume 3 of Capital' drafted as two articles for Neue Zeit in May 189, and
(2) Engels' letter to Werner Sombart
The only reason you think it is "riddled with contradictions" is that you throw up straw man versions of it.
(1) I asked how you can justify the view. What are some examples of this evidence?Delete
(2) So, because Engels -- and not Marx apparently -- wanted a stronger defense of communism (how does price=value achieve this?) good old short-sighted, shoot-from-the-hip-in-publishing Marx (decades of drafts aside) published a false document knowing full well that his subsequent publications would contradict it and harm the cause of communism? So your theory is... Marx is a false-flag agent of capitalism? This gets wilder as we go.
Fortunately, you've already conceded all relevant points in this discussion. Let's review:
First, you've conceded that the various passages I point out regarding the realism of price=value do say exactly what I claim they say. You claim them "hints" or "intrusions" in an attempt to rhetorically cordon them off from the text they appear in, but this does not alter your fundamental concession.
Second, you've conceded that these passages reflect Marx & Engels's actual thinking on value theory, and thus their theory of value and of capitalism. You go to the length of claiming Volume I a misdirection rather than even entertaining the idea of taking the work at face value, but your concession remains unaltered. Accordingly, your criticism is once again shifted from theory to presentation.
This is good. We're making progress.
In light of these points, your decision to read Volume I as "sacred writings" is a fanciful exercise, but of little practical import — basically postmodern lit crit.
(2) "So, because Engels -- and not Marx apparently -- wanted a stronger defense of communism (how does price=value achieve this?) good old short-sighted, shoot-from-the-hip-in-publishing Marx (decades of drafts aside) published a false document knowing full well that his subsequent publications would contradict it and harm the cause of communism?"Delete
He NEVER published vol. 2 or 3 of Capital, Hedlund, you idiot, so it never did happen that "subsequent publications would contradict it and harm the cause of communism" in Marx's lifetime. It was Engels' decision to publish vol. 2 and 3.
Also, I don't think Marx thought of the process of writing vol. 1 as fraud or vol. 1 as being false. I imagine he thought of it as the best defence of communism he could make in the time he took to write it, and perhaps thought he could solve the problems raised in the draft of vol. 3 about prices of production, but was never able to.
(3) "First, you've conceded that the various passages I point out regarding the realism of price=value do say exactly what I claim they say. "
I did no such thing. You are either lying or so stupid, it's laughable.
(4) "Second, you've conceded that these passages reflect Marx & Engels's actual thinking on value theory, and thus their theory of value and of capitalism."
What are you even talking about?
(1) Still waiting on this.Delete
(2) It was Engels's decision to publish the work that Marx, by your account, knew to contradict what he had published. My point stands: You're saying Marx shot himself in the foot. Perhaps you're looking for company, having not a one to stand on, yourself.
(3) Can it, you liar. You did, and it's there for all to see in this and your previous post. Just soak it in; you can't backpedal.
(4) What don't you get? You've claimed that Marx deviated from his own theory to provide a better defense of communism (STILL waiting on how this makes any sense at all, btw). So, to your mind, he believed X and published Y, which presupposes X exists independently of Y. When you attack Volume I for the price=value assumption, you're not attacking the theory, but an allegedly faulty presentation of it.
You always back yourself into the most fascinating corners.
(2) "It was Engels's decision to publish the work that Marx, by your account, knew to contradict what he had published. My point stands: You're saying Marx shot himself in the foot."Delete
Correct. Engels went to great lengths to try and vindicate the different theory of value in vol. 1:
(4) What you refer to as "Marx's theory" was just his rough notes for vol. 3 of Capital: there is no proof he was absolutely committed to it at this point. In fact, he abandoned the manuscripts for vols. 2 and 3 and never wanted them published. All he published was vol. 1: THAT is what he wanted the public to see.
"When you attack Volume I for the price=value assumption, you're not attacking the theory, but an allegedly faulty presentation of it."
It isn't a "faulty presentation". We can see from what Engels and Marx later thought, they really did think that at least in early commodity production or earlier capitalism commodities tended to exchange at pure labour values:
there is no proof he was absolutely committed to it at this pointDelete
"On July 31, 1865, he wrote to Frederick Engels that
"[t]here are 3 more chapters to be written to complete the theoretical part (the first 3 books). Then there is still the 4th book, the historical-literary one, to be written, which will, comparatively speaking, be the easiest part for me, since all the problems have been resolved in the first 3 books, so that this last one is more by way of repetition in historical form. But I cannot bring myself to send anything off until I have the whole thing in front of me. Whatever shortcomings they may have, the advantage of my writings is that they are an artistic whole, and this can only be achieved through my practice of never having things printed until I have them in front of me in their entirety." [emphasis marx's]
"This letter indicates that Marx had resolved, to his satisfaction, all of the theoretical problems he had confronted (note the phrase “have been resolved”). It further indicates that he would not allow volume 1 of Capital to be published until the whole of Capital was complete in a theoretical sense. Thus, the publication of volume 1 a couple of years later is further evidence that Marx regarded the whole of Capital as complete and satisfactory in a theoretical sense.
"On February 13, 1866, he wrote to Engels that
"[a]s far as this “damned” book is concerned, the position now is: it was ready at the end of December. The treatise on ground rent alone, the penultimate chapter, is in its present form almost long enough to be a book in itself. …
"Although ready, the manuscript, which in its present form is gigantic, is not fit for publishing for anyone but myself, not even for you.
"… I began the business of copying out and polishing the style on the dot of January first... [Marx 1987, p. 227, emphases in original]
"The book that Marx says was ready at the end of 1865 is not volume 1 of Capital (or not it alone), since the “treatise on ground rent” is part of what became volume 3. ... The whole of Capital is said by the author to have been ready, or finished, as of the end of 1865. Note also that the distinction between being ready in a theoretical sense and ready in the sense of stylistically polished and “fit for publishing” is not ours, but Marx’s. The letter indicates that he regarded it as ready in the former sense even though it was not ready in the latter." (Kliman, et al. 2013)
This was, incidentally, that essay from some months ago you falsely claimed to have read.
Irony: As cruel as ever a mistress.
You just cite the other Marxist ideologues Andrew Kliman, Alan Freeman, Nick Potts, Alexey Gusev, and Brendan Cooney, "The Unmaking of Marx’s Capital Heinrich’s Attempt to Eliminate Marx’s Crisis Theory" (without citation) and you expect that resolves the issue?? lol.Delete
If Marx had really resolved everything already before vol.1 of Capital was even published then why did he never publish vols. 2 and 3?
Yes, an ad hominem fallacy truly IS "idiocy." Please, demonstrate for us AGAIN that when you can't respond to an argument, you instead smear the person making it.Delete
Different scholars have a variety of reasons for the lack of publication. Of course, one of the marks of a scholar is recognizing where certainty ends. In Marx's own words, it was a combination of a number of factors: illness, continued research, indolence/procrastination, waiting to see how the Long Depression played out before continuing, etc.
Or, you know. He could have just thrown his hands up and said "this is all bollocks, I have no idea what I'm doing," like in your version of history. I'm sure you've already made your pick.
The only fallacy here is your appeal to (invalid) authority. And it's not the first time you've done it either. You think just citing some Marxist scholar settles issues.Delete
"In Marx's own words, it was a combination of a number of factors: illness, continued research, indolence/procrastination, waiting to see how the Long Depression played out before continuing, etc."
And of course the highly plausible reason that he knew vol. 3 would discredit vol. 1 is ruled out for cultists like you. Presumably you think Marx was completely honest and never dissembled.
Here you again dealing with a hard task for you.ReplyDelete
“I understand Marx far and away better than you do. (…)
When I say I understand Marx better than you, I don’t mean to say that I know the text better than you do. If you start throwing quotations at me you will have me baffled in no time. In fact, I refuse to play before you begin.
What I mean is that I have Marx in my bones and you have him in your mouth.
To take an example — the idea that constant capital is an embodiment of labour power expended in the past. To you this is something that has to be proved with a lot of Hegelian stuff and nonsense. Whereas I say (though I do not use such pompous terminology): ‘Naturally — what else did you think it could be?”
Neither Joan Robinson is even in your mouth.
“And that is very probably why Marx never bothered to publish volumes 2 and 3 of Capital in his lifetime: he knew if they were published the theory of value in vol. 1 would be exploded.”
This is your unfounded allegation: Marx explained the difference from an esoteric and exoteric point of view. Nothing would explode except a overheating brain.
“Robinson points out that, since machines can make labour more productive, Marx’s saying that only labour produces value is a silly verbal game .”
Actually what Joan Robinson would say is (obviously) just the opposite: only human labor can make a bigger value and create a profit. It doesn’t matter what and how many machines are involved. And Joan Robinson would state a specific usage and meaning of technological progress to remind constantly that and elude the ambiguity and illogicality of (neoclassical) capital notion.
“In short, even one of the most influential founders of Post Keynesianism noted that contradiction between the theories of value in volume 1 and volume 3 of Capital, and the other problems and dogmas of Marxism.”
Absolutely nonsense, that was the least of Joan Robinson’s worries, since she fully agreed with Marx recognizing he gave a fundament to the profit and explained how prices follow from the net product and the given rate of profit.
Sorry for bothering, maybe you should spend your time on other topics or activities.
Point (3) is deeper than you think. I think it leads directly to Robinson's later critiques of, well, economic theory generally.ReplyDelete
In statistical terms it is easy to get rid of this problem. Keynes dealt with it in 'The Choice of Units'. You take the base-level wage -- the minimum wage -- and then assess skill by dividing every other wage by this base wage. So, you have the minimum wage of 100 and I have a wage of 150; I possess 1.5x the labour power of you.
Robinson refers to this in her 'Open Letter From a Keynesian to a Marxist' and even late on seems to have thought it was the best statistical approach. I tend to agree.
But... and this is an enormous BUT... it assumes that people are paid according to their contribution. That is, it assumes that the marginal productivity argument with regards to labour holds. Now, it doesn't quite assume the full marginal productivity as it says nothing about how distribution between capital and labour is determined. And it says nothing about how the interest rate affects the rate of investment. So, Keynes is not making what would become the neoclassical argument. But he is assuming that the market basically prices labour 'correctly' vis-a-vis other labour.
Is this a good approximation? My suspicion is no. Robinson raises that in this essay. But it might be the best assumption we have when looking at a lot of problems. And I don't mean overly abstract problems. I mean real statistical problems about, for example, trying to determine the competitiveness of one economy vis-a-vis its trading partners. That has enormous implications for, say, wage policy.