Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sraffa and Marxism or the Labor Theory of Value, what is it good for?

An old, but not completely closed, debate revolves around whether Sraffa was a Marxist or instead he should be seen as Ricardian, hence the term Neo-Ricardian used derisively by Bob Rowthorn (subscription required) and other Marxists authors (and also by Frank Hahn, again subscription required). From a personal point of view there is little doubt that Sraffa identified with Marxism, and close friends like Antonio Gramsci and Maurice Dobb would agree. But the important question is whether his contributions in Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities (PCMC) should be seen as a development or a criticism of Marx's theoretical tradition.

For the most part the question revolves around the relation between Sraffa's prices and the labor theory of value. Several authors tend to believe that the latter theory is central for Marx's theory of exploitation. Recent interpretations such as the so-called New Interpretation (NI) and the Temporal Single System (TSS) would agree on that point.

For example, Foley and Duménil (2008; subscription required) argue that:
"Central to Marx's framework of analysis in Capital is the labour theory of value (LTV), which defines the value of a commodity as the ‘socially necessary’ labour time required by its production, that is, the labour time required by average available techniques of production for workers of average skill. 
The LTV is central to Marx's theory of exploitation, a term he uses to describe a situation in which one individual or group lives on the product of the labour of others."
On the similar claims by the TSS Marxism see Mongiovi (2002; subscription required). [Vienneau provides a list of readings on the TSS topic here.]

The question then is what was the role of the labor theory of value in Marx and the classical authors, i.e. for the surplus approach. The initial problem that Smith was trying to deal with the LTV was to determine the rate of profits independently of prices, since profits were considered essential for capital accumulation. Note that one needs the prices to determine profits, in particular the price of the means of production advanced for production, but one needs the rate of profit (the normal uniform rate of profit) to determine long term normal (or production) prices.

Smith (1776, book I, chapter 6) makes the value of commodities depend on the quantity of labor required to produce them is where there has been no accumulation of capital or land. In his words:
"In that early and rude state of society which precedes both the accumulation of stock and the appropriation of land, the proportion between the quantities of labour necessary for acquiring different objects seems to be the only circumstance which can afford any rule for exchanging them for one another."
But when profit and rent make their appearance alongside the worker's income, the rule is no longer applicable. The price of a commodity is then obtained by 'adding up' its component parts, namely: wage, profit and rent. The adding up theory implied that profits and wages had an independent determination. Hence, if profits went up, and prices too, real wages might not decrease. As a result, one cannot determine profits independently of prices.

Ricardo saw the limitations of the adding up theory. In his early writings he solved the problem by presuming that the economy produced corn (grain) with corn and labor, and the surplus was a physical amount of corn, so the rate of profit could be measured as ratio of corn (the surplus) to corn (the means of production advanced for production). He, then used, the labor theory of value as an approximation to the solution in his Principles, knowing that prices were not exactly proportional to the amounts of labor directly and indirectly used in production.

That was, also, essentially the role of the LTV in Marx's volume I of his masterpiece Capital. That is, the LTV allows Marx to determine the rate of profit independently of prices. Note that Marx was also aware that relative prices determined by the amounts of labor directly and indirectly incorporated are incorrect once you have produced means of production. However, Marx thought that embodied labor redistributed by the process of competition meant that in the aggregate total surplus value  corresponded to total profits, even if prices of production deviated from embodied labor. As a result, on the basis of the LTV it was still possible to obtain the correct rate of profit. As it turns out, there is no reason for positive and negative deviations of prices of production from the labor values to cancel out. You cannot argue with the algebra.

Marx had no way of knowing this. Only with Bortkiewicz, Dimitriev and Tugan-Baranovsky's work, early in the 20th century, this was clearly understood. If in general commodities do not exchange at labor values, then there is no reason why that should be correct for two composite commodities that make the total physical surplus and the physical advanced means of production.

Sraffa's solution, based on the standard commodity (to be discussed in another post), shares with Ricardo's corn model the idea that one can measure the rate of profit as a share of a particular commodity (Sraffa's being a composite commodity, that is, composed of several goods). It also shares with Ricardo the fact that only basics (commodities that enter the production of all goods including their own production), which for simplicity can be related to subsistence goods, affect the rate of profit, while non-basics, or luxury goods, are not relevant. Further, as noted by Sraffa too, his solution resembles Smith's since the standard commodity can be seen as akin to the former's idea of labor commanded, that is relative prices are proportional to the amount of labor that they can command (buy). In that sense, Sraffa's prices are firmly based on a certain notion of the labor theory of value.

Mind you, in the central issues Marx's theory was correct. Once you determined exogenously the real wage, and the technical coefficients of production are given, one can determine the rate of profit, and it is inversely related, everything else constant, with the real wage. Hence, the theory of distribution based on class conflict which is the central element of the surplus approach, including Marx, is logically consistent [which is more that can be said about marginalism, as showed by the capital debates].

But does the Sraffian system mean that exploitation as interpreted by Marx is not valid anymore, since, as noted above, some Marxist authors think that the LTV (narrowly interpreted as prices of production proportional to embodied labor) is essential for that part of the Marxian project? Petri (2012)* has published an excellent review of the limitations of the NI and TSS. He clearly states (p. 3) that:
"The proof that labour is exploited, in particular, does not lie in the validity of a quantitative correspondence of surplus exchange value with surplus labour time; this is a misconception that derives from a mistaken acceptance of the argument that the inability to prove such a correspondence might mean that the capitalists contribute to production, that profits reflect their contribution, and that this is the reason why commodities do not exchange in proportion to labours embodied – the argument of the ‘vulgar’ economists and then of the marginalist critics of Marx" (emphasis added).
Why is that the case that there is no correspondence between the LTV and whether labor is exploited or not? Note that for Marxists this is a necessary condition because workers work more time than what is needed for their reproduction, and that is the supposed basis for exploitation. It is worth quoting Petri at length here:
"Imagine an isolated market economy where production is carried out by self-employed artisans and cooperatives, and the rate of profit is zero: prices of production are proportional to labours embodied. One day Gengis Khan’s army invades this community, but instead of killing everybody Gengis Khan announces that he will be content with collecting a yearly monetary tax at a rate r=20% on the value of the capital employed in each productive activity, a tax he will then use to buy goods on the market. The community is obliged to accept, and prices of production come to include a 20% tax on the value of capital which has the same effect on relative prices, and on real wages, as a 20% rate of profit. Relative prices are no longer proportional to labours embodied, Marx’s r=S/(C+V) does not work, but production is still performed by the same labourers, and the goods appropriated each year by Gengis Khan with the income deriving from the tax do not reflect any productive contribution of the oppressors. One would have little hesitation, it would seem, to say that Gengis Khan is exploiting this community. But if Gengis Khan had imposed the tax as a given percentage of wages, with the rate of profit remaining zero, then relative prices would have remained proportional to labours embodied, but exploitation would be still there. On the other hand, imagine that the 20% tax rate on the value of capital is imposed not by Gengis Khan but by unanimous popular vote because it is decided to use it to help for some years another community struck by an earthquake: in this case the surplus product would again be associated with an impossibility to explain prices with the labour theory of value, but few would call the surplus product the fruit of labour exploitation. All this shows that the proportionality or non-proportionality between exchange values and labours embodied reflects, not the absence or presence of other productive contributions besides that of labour, but only the specific way the mode of appropriation of the surplus product affects relative prices; the origin of the surplus remains to be ascertained" (emphasis added).
Hence, as the simple example shows one might have exploitation without the LTV, and no exploitation with the LTV, which should be a black swan for those that think that Marxism stands or falls with the narrow definition of the LTV. For our purposes what matters is that the correct solution of the problem of the determination of the rate of profit independently of prices, provided by Sraffa, actually strengthens and is a development of the theories of Marx and the other authors of the surplus approach. Sraffa is the author that makes Marx's conclusions possible.**


* Petri provides a critique of NI and TSS solutions of the transformation problem too. A different solution, that is more Ricardian in assuming that embodied labor provides a good empirical approximation to production prices, is provided by Shaikh (1977).
** Interestingly Petri quotes several passages in which Foley tends to suggest that Marxism and marginalism are not necessarily incompatible.


Foley, Duncan and Gérard Duménil (2008). "Marxian transformation problem." The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Second Edition. Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume. (eds.), The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Palgrave Macmillan.

Mongiovi, Gary (2002). "Vulgar Economy in Marxian Garb: A Critique of Temporal Single-System Marxism," Review of Radical Political Economics, 34(4), pp. 393-416.

Petri, Fabio (2012). "On Recent Reformulations of the Labour Theory of Value," Quaderni del Dipartamento di Economia Politica e Statistica, Università degli Studi di Siena, No. 643.

Shaikh, Anwar (1977). "Marx's Theory of Value and the Transformation Problem,"in Jesse Schwartz (ed.), The Subtle Anatomy of Capitalism. Goodyear Publ. Co.


  1. "Note that for Marxists this is a necessary condition because workers work more time than what is needed for their reproduction, and that is the supposed basis for exploitation."

    Yes, this is the metaphysical judgement on which Marxism as a whole falls. However, a different view of exploitation as a technical term can be fashioned.

    See: Joan Robinson and John Eatwell "An Introduction to Modern Economics":

    "The labour theory of value, as a theory of relative prices of commodities, operates on two levels. On one level, it links up with labour value in the metaphysical sense. Many Marxists to this day maintain that it is impossible to make use of the concept of exploitation or to support the cause of revolution without believing that, in some sense, the prices of commodities are determined by their labour values. On the other level, it is merely a tool for analysis." (P. 29)

    Then, after laying out the incoherence of the argument in Volume III:

    "The spirit of [Marx's] analysis, however, suggests that the rate of exploitation is the outcome of the struggles of the "class war". This view certainly seems to be cogent. The share of wages in the value of output varies, from country to country and one period to another, with the strength and militancy of trade unions and the help which they get from social arrangements such as unemployment insurance. It is noticeable that the share of wages is very low (and the rate of profits very high) where branches of modern capitalist firms set up in countries where massive non-employment deprives workers of bargaining power; while among the developed economies, the share of wages is highest in countries, such as Australia and Sweden, where legislation and public opinion are favourable to labour." (P. 189)

    Also see "Open Letter From a Keynesian to a Marxist":


    As for labour values -- or even wages -- determining prices as such, I think the existence of advertising debunks this idea. It is quite obviously the case that prices can be raised by engaging in cultural activities. For example, by paying Michael Jordan to endorse Nike runners and then stitching a tick on the side of a shoe whose total inputs are identical to another shoe. Value and prices are both social constructions at the end of the day -- although one should not neglect the study of inputs, whether labour or otherwise.

  2. "By the time of his critique of Proudhon, Marx had arrived at many of the essential
    elements of his account of exploitation. He recognized that workers can be exploited
    because they have been alienated from the means of production through a historical
    process of expropriation and technological transformation. This insight, and the method
    of analysis by which he arrived at it, are impressive scientific achievements. But they
    have nothing to do with the labor value analysis of Capital..."


    1. Thanks to Nathaniel for linking to that quite interesting paper. Based on the brief bits quoted from Sraffa -- and the author's comments -- I am eager for his notes on the intellectual history of economics to be published.

      I need to read more on the subject, and need to acquaint myself more thoroughly with Petty and other pre-Smithian political economists. But my sense is that the LTV originates from a set of concerns rarely acknowledged in popular treatments. Desire to calculate the rate of profit was new with Ricardo: there were other practical motivations, going much earlier.

  3. @ NC

    That's a very good paper. I especially like how the author lays out the case that for Marx value is a far more fundamental aspect of the theory than price. I think this does a lot more damage to Marx's actual oeuvre than the author does though. Once the LTV is removed Marxism as a set of doctrines (dialectical and historical materialism; Marxist politics etc.) falls apart.

    I take issue with this though:

    "Ricardo and Marx, however, confronted the problem long before economic science
    became a mathematical discipline; they had to look elsewhere for a solution."

    The reason that Ricardo and Marx could not see behind the LVT had nothing to do with mathematics. We can easily postulate in plain English that costs and profits are determined simultaneously. The real reason was because the sciences -- both the physical and social sciences -- of the time rested on substance-based theories of explanation.

  4. Not sure I follow. The point in fact is that nothing relevant in Marxism (other than some metaphysics) falls apart with the narrow definition of the LTV. And by the way, Sraffa's system is a different version of the LTV, since you still can say that prices are proportional to the standard commodity, which is similar to the labor commanded argument. And yes Ricardo and Marx didn't have a mathematical solution. And both Ricardo and Marx saw clearly the problems with LTV. Ricardo died trying to solve the problem, and Marx thought he had solved it, but alas the algebra was incorrect.

  5. @ MV

    What I mean is that Marxism is about far more than economics. It is a Weltanschauung; a worldview; a self-contained theory of history, politics and economics. The author of the paper recognises that here:

    "Labor plays somewhat different roles in their theories of the profit rate; but for both the role was largely technical.
    I do not mean that this was the only use to which he put the labor-value analysis. Marx was a sophisticated thinker whose training in philosophy exerted a powerful influence on the way he analyzed social phenomena. We know from his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts that he saw the organization of work as the basis of oppression,
    and its reorganization as the key to human liberation. His humanistic philosophical views are interwoven throughout his scientific discussion of how capitalism functions. This
    aspect of Marx’s rhetorical style complicates the job of interpreting his economic writings. In particular, it throws difficulties in the way of disentangling the role of labor in his philosophical thinking from the role of labor-values in his analysis of the profit rate. But to acknowledge that these two dimensions of Marx’s thought are connected does not mean that labor-values were essential to what he was trying to expose in his analysis of the profit rate."

    The author is absolutely correct. The LTV penetrates to the very depths of the Marxist worldview. It ties his philosophical (dialectical materialistic) ideas about alienation, for example, to his economics. It ties his economic and historical analysis to his belief in Communism as the ultimate social system that would completely free mankind from this alienation. And so on, and so on.

    Without the LTV Marxism as an edifice falls apart. This is why diehard Marxists are so intractable about getting rid of it. They know that it would spoil their belief system and their political program -- to which many have, quite literally, devoted their lives. This is the "emotional" level that LTV appeals on that the author of the paper alludes to. And it is this that will prevent any and all Marxists from ever giving up the LTV, no matter how logical the arguments against it are. They will deny reality; deny logic; deny algebra; and engage in sophistry and word games to keep it intact. Because they know -- and quite rightly -- that without it, Marxism unwinds.


    Agreed that Sraffa's is a different version. It is far more flexible. It is not metaphysical in the way that Marx's is. And that is why true Marxists will deny it.

    Also, I don't think Sraffa's is perfect -- although it is ten steps in the right direction -- simply because it doesn't take into account the fact that there is a strongly subjective element in price formation that is manipulable on the supply-side (advertising and marketing etc.) and that this becomes ever more important in modern service-based economies as they evolve. As more of our needs are met by advancing technology and cheap goods, more and more needs are "created" through psychological techniques. Whatever one thinks of this, it becomes more important by the day -- even, unfortunately, in the face of vast poverty and unemployment. To ignore it would be more than silly.

  6. "That was, also, essentially the role of the LTV in Marx's volume I of his masterpiece Capital. That is, the LTV allows Marx to determine the rate of profit independently of prices. Note that Marx was also aware that relative prices determined by the amounts of labor directly and indirectly incorporated are incorrect once you have produced means of production. However, Marx thought that embodied labor redistributed by the process of competition meant that in the aggregate total surplus value corresponded to total profits, even if prices of production deviated from embodied labor. As a result, on the basis of the LTV it was still possible to obtain the correct rate of profit. As it turns out, there is no reason for positive and negative deviations of prices of production from the labor values to cancel out. You cannot argue with the algebra."

    I'm going to challenge this paragraph. while it's true you can't argue with algebra, you can argue with the assumptions behind it. I agree with Moseley's work (see below) that the Neo-Ricardian (perhaps in opposition to Sraffa's own interpretation) models that supposedly "show" the aggregate equalities don't hold are based on a model that is inconsistent with the one Marx developed in Capital.

    Briefly there is only one cost of production that values and prices are based on. In the first three volumes variable capital and constant capital are amounts of MONEY rather then real means of production or subsistence that are taken as given. the amounts of constant and variable capital stay the same in the numerical examples between volume one and three, they are just disaggregated in volume three to analyze the profit equalization process.

    the Neo-Ricardian model of joint products using a given technique is one that is substantively DIFFERENT and therefore all that is really shown is the Neo-Ricardian theory is different then Marx's theory in Capital. This isn't to say Marx is right or that there aren't other reasons why capital deserves criticism, only that this isn't one of them.




  7. @Matías,

    Interesting post. I'll be commenting on this later on.


    Hi there, Phillip.

  8. Hi Matías.

    Rightly or wrongly, as the thread above shows, lots of people do believe that Marxism stands or falls on the labour theory of value. And you'll have noticed that, rightly or wrongly, this is by no means limited to "orthodox" Marxists. (I am including Sraffians among the heterodox Marxists).

    This is baffling to me for several reasons. Maybe I am exceedingly dim, but I find Marx a difficult read (even by those, like me, who actually try reading him). The paper Nathaniel Cline linked to, among other things, says as much.

    I can mention some of the difficulties off the top of my head: the man wrote a lot, often without a definite plan (think, for instance, of contemporary bloggers: imagine trying to reconstruct their original thought from blog posts), about different subjects, under difficult circumstances, over a long period of time, often in languages other than his mother tongue.

    Interpreting Marx of necessity involves a lot of guesswork, even from those who read Marx. Imagine those who never read it, like our friend TheIllusionist.

    Each and every attempt at interpreting Marx, by this sole fact, becomes suspicious. And this goes to Sraffa, too.

    And, as you said, Marx did not use mathematics.

    Perhaps you had in mind some of the difficulties above when you wrote this:

    "As it turns out, there is no reason for positive and negative deviations of prices of production from the labor values to cancel out. You cannot argue with the algebra. Marx had no way of knowing this."

    That is a good observation, which I obviously share. But I believe Nathan Tankus, too, is onto something when he objected that "while it's true you can't argue with algebra, you can argue with the assumptions behind it". And I believe this is so, because the "assumptions behind it" come from one's interpretation of Marx.

    This is where I'll bring Andrew Kliman's "Value in Process. On the Temporality and Internal Consistency of Marx's Capital" (2001), where he treats the subject of interpretation.

    His is an interpretation and as such is also suspicious. But he claims with his interpretation he can reproduce Marx's main results better than his previous interpreters. And all he asks, at least in this paper, is a first-person, open-minded appraisal. (In all honesty, I'll admit that at this moment I can't evaluate this claim myself: last time I had in my hands an open maths book was some 20 years ago).

    Further, as Kliman himself admits, this doesn't prove that Marx's is a useful and fair representation of a capitalist economy, but, if confirmed, it would show that there is at least one reading of Marx which is not afflicted by contradictions.

    So, my question is: why chose interpretations of Marx afflicted by contradictions and, on top, also in need of empirical validation?

  9. "Interpreting Marx of necessity involves a lot of guesswork, even from those who read Marx. Imagine those who never read it, like our friend TheIllusionist."

    H/T Beware of peoples' opinions who make such unsubstantiated and slyly ad hominem claims. Joan Robinson wrote about these absurdities a number of times. With Marxists saying that she hadn't read Marx. And then when she replied to point out where her interpretation had gone wrong they would shut up. She concluded that what "she hasn't read him" REALLY meant was a coded signal meaning "watch her, she isn't part of the club".

    This all goes back to me debating a bunch of Marxists on the LTV -- some of whom have now changed their line and say that the LTV is unnecessary... so perhaps something was accomplished. Although I maintain that Marxism as a Weltanschauung does indeed fall apart without LTV. And anyone that doesn't think so has not read Marx sufficiently well ;-) They might also try some of the secondary literature like Gyorgy Lukacs and even Louis Althusser, who engaged in some very sophisticated word games to prop up the LTV -- not to mention tacking on a paranoiac construction of an all-encompassing State that essentially controls our minds.

    As for "all interpretations being suspect", then what on earth isn't suspect. I suppose that Marx must be dug up in Highgate Cemetary and resurrected for us to understand what he "really meant". Well, since that's impossible all we have are interpretations and these must be a varying quality. But this, of course, is not about thought or even economics. This is about defending Marx as an omnipotent Prophet (in Schumpeter's words). This is about pretending that he was "pure" and that the interpretations of mere mortals will merely sully him. Well, I for one, will have no part in that!

  10. Whether Marx's theory of value was necessary for his conclusions on exploitation and other aspects of his system has been under discussion since, at least, the 1970s. And some Marxists (e.g., Garegnani) have long since rejected his theory of value without modification. So, obviously, any debate TheIllusionist may have engaged in recently could not have driven these conclusions. Nevertheless, I would be amused to know where such a debate took place. Can we have a link? Thanks.

  11. @ Robert

    It was on your site! (I'm Phil Pilkington, who else would be trolling Marxists over their LTV!?).


    There was also a few debate on the Facebook heterodox page. I usually ended up getting ticked off because people start playing word games, engaging in hermeneutic readings of Marx and generally not arguing with the points raised.

    As to people changing their minds, I'm not so megalomaniacal as that. But I recall that Magpie once held that LTV was crucial and above he seems to have "recanted" as it were.

    Still though, without LTV Marxism as a Weltanschauung falls apart. As I said above, it is the thread connecting many strands of his philosophical, economic and historical work. When it snaps, the whole thing unwinds.

    Actually, since I'm here I might as well respond to your Grundisse quote from the other thread.

    "Production thus produces not only the object but also the manner of consumption, not only objectively but also subjectively. Production thus creates the consumer."

    This shows that Marx was, despite his and Engels' assertions, a rather poor dialectician. For him causation is only running in one direction -- from production to consumption. However, a true dialectician would not highlight a unidirectional manner of causation, but a dialectical one.

    Thus, "production produces the manner of consumption", but consumption likewise produces the manner of production. The object (of consumption/production) is the result of both production AND the consumption -- not merely production alone, as Marx claims in mechanistic terms.

    To bring this back down to earth: there is both a subjective/consumption-based valuation of the object and an objective/production-based valuation. The value arises out of both. So, the Air Jordan's receive their value out of the input costs AND the amount of subjective value the consumer imbues them with due to cultural preference/advertising etc.

    Marx was blind to this because his dialectics weren't actually dialectics. At a certain level there was a mechanistic or unidirectional cause running through his work. This was the LTV, which asserts that value arises from production alone and that the end determinate of production is labour. Thus consumption is "caused" by production on a Marxist reading. On a truly dialectical reading, the two are mutually dependent and you cannot have one without the other.

    Terrible pity that Marx never managed to grasp Hegel. I recall that Bruno Bauer tried to get Marx to properly grasp the dialectical method, but his attempts only resulted in a tawdry footnote referring to Hegel's Logic in Volume I. But then what do I know, according to Magpie I've never even read Das KApital...

  12. I see that now we've got a series of assertions from Phillip, we can now all know the truth. thanks for your valuable public service.

    seriously it was really amazing watching you spin a two sentence quote out into a whole essay about how Marx completely misunderstood Hegel.

    "Thus consumption is "caused" by production on a Marxist reading. On a truly dialectical reading, the two are mutually dependent and you cannot have one without the other."

    this is completely baseless. You keep on claiming that you've read Capital but anyone who read the first 2 or 3 chapters of Capital volume one would know that that is a completely erroneous reading of Marx. The whole point of the dialectic between exchange value and use value

    but let's not go as far as Capital. Let's go to the Grundrisse. Not even that far. let's go to A COUPLE PARAGRAPHS AFTER THAT QUOTE APPEARS.

    "[In the sense] that one appears as a means for the other, is mediated by the other: this is expressed as their mutual dependence; a movement which relates them to one another, makes them appear indispensable to one another, but still leaves them external to each other. Production creates the material, as external object, for consumption; consumption creates the need, as internal object, as aim, for production. Without production no consumption; without consumption no production. [This identity] figures in economics in many different forms."

    how about a quote a paragraph before?

    "Without production, no consumption; but also, without consumption, no production; since production would then be purposeless. Consumption produces production in a double way, (1) because a product becomes a real product only by being consumed. For example, a garment becomes a real garment only in the act of being worn; a house where no one lives is in fact not a real house; thus the product, unlike a mere natural object, proves itself to be, becomes, a product only through consumption. Only by decomposing the product does consumption give the product the finishing touch; for the product is production not as [14] objectified activity, but rather only as object for the active subject; (2) because consumption creates the need for new production, that is it creates the ideal, internally impelling cause for production, which is its presupposition. Consumption creates the motive for production; it also creates the object which is active in production as its determinant aim. If it is clear that production offers consumption its external object, it is therefore equally clear that consumption ideally posits the object of production as an internal image, as a need, as drive and as purpose. It creates the objects of production in a still subjective form. No production without a need. But consumption reproduces the need."

    Also remember that the Grundrisse was an unpublished draft of the first volume that Marx worked through and then abandoned for a much cleaner draft. come on Phillip. You're capable of much more intellectual honesty

  13. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm

  14. Everybody and our dear Philip Pilkington/TheIllusionist/Facebook-LTV troll.

    Frankly, Pilkington, I am growing weary of your thirst for self-humiliation, but I will indulge one last time.

    You mentioned Viennau’s brief post (in Robert’s words: “I see nothing odd about expecting people interested in Marx to, at least, recognize the following vocabulary”). That’s a good start. (Link: http://robertvienneau.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/vocabulary-for-marxism.html)


    So, readers, listen up. This is the short and charitable version of the “debate” in the very own words of the debaters:

    “A” (i.e. presumably a Marxist) said on July 10, 2012 5:49 PM, to Philip Pilkington:

    "Those two shoes in your example are actually distinct use-values; both cover the feet just as well, but one may signal social status or convey group inclusion while the other may well carry a stigma. In that case, these are really two distinct commodities, despite the similarities in the way they are produced".

    Blah blah blah blah

    Philip Pilkington (TheIllusionist/Facebook Troll) said on July 11, 2012 11:37 AM, to “A”:

    "Also, in purely supply/demand terms it is by no means clear that advertising is simply an artificial demand simulation technique. I would argue that it creates a new product. Think of it this way: if Apple create a new iPod are they just stimulating more demand for the old iPod or are they bringing a new product to market? The latter, of course."

    Notice the time and date of the messages. After one day of “debate” Pilkington, self-proclaimed scourge of Marx, delivers his coup de grace… by inadvertently repeating the same explanation “A” had provided the previous day, which Pilkington had rejected out of hand.

    How do readers explain this? I can see two possible answers: (1) Pilkington didn’t read “A”, before proceeding to contradict him/her (I would have thought this unlikely, as it seems extremely irrational; but given Pilkington’s present display, I’m not so sure); (2) he didn’t understand it, when “A” explained it using Marxian concepts, which Pilkington ignores.

    Or, even better, skim the whole thread: it’s not too long (42 comments and many are short or can be safely ignored).


    If the previous demonstration of Pilkington’s ignorance of a basic Marxist vocabulary wasn’t enough to show his “thirst”, you will get another clue about the “self-humiliation” remark at the very beginning of the thread.

    So, a man who doesn’t know the ABC of Marxism wants us to believe he is able to “debunk” it.


    Notice as well that I am leaving out his “neoclassical demand” remark. For the reaction “A” had to it, see his/her own comment (July 11, 2012 8:31 PM)

  15. Of course, guys. How awful of me to say it... How silly I am... Exclude me from the debate... Note the ad hominems...

    I'll make it simple for anyone not following the debate. Phil = NOT ONE OF US.

    Barring the actual debate. I take extreme pleasure in messing with your cult. One which I was once, ashamedly, a part of. But it is a cult. That's obvious. To me and anyone who is remotely sensible.

    I'll put this to actual economists, rather than Marxist culists: weigh the arguments up. Don't buy into "us" against "them" nonsense. See what adds up and what doesn't. That's all I ask. If my argument falls, then so be it -- and please tell me, because I'm interested. But if these people come across as fools don't believe for a moment that they should be accommodated due to their being "heterodox". That's criminal.

  16. Your response is extremely telling Phillip. Instead of acknowledging your mistake and continuing to argue your position, you decided that calling us cultists and not sensible was a better idea.

    As I've said many times, I'm not a Marxist. I'm simply against straw man criticisms which is what you have been engaging in. Rejecting Marxian arguments does not require blatant misreadings (assuming you've read what you say you've read) of Marx's writings.

    I'm not in your club Phillip. The club of popularizing blatant falsehoods and misreadings. That overlaps with the club of Marxists and non-Marxists alike.

  17. Wow, we have a lot of misreadings of Marxs law of value, he never used the term LTV, that term is created by opponents to Marx.

    There is nothing wrong with Marxs law of value. The best analysis of capitalism are by those marxists who stuck with Marxs law of value, this does not include any of the marxist-academics. I think the "Wertkritik" school from Nurnberg is the best example of this. They wrote about this current crisis as early as 1995 when Robert Kurz wrote "The apotheosis of money: the structural limits of capital valorization, casino capitalism and the global financial crisis". His essay shows how fucking clueless all the marxists who rejected Marxs law of value really is. Not one single marxist in the academia predicted this crisis, if they had stuck with Marxs law of value they would have. Stupid fucks is all I have to say. It is not Marxs theories that have failed, it is the marxist academia.

    1. No you are actually absolutely wrong, and did not even get the post. Sraffa was an academic economist and did solve the question of how to determine the rate of profit independently from prices, which is the point of the LTV, for Marx and all the other authors of the surplus approach. I'm not a big fan of mixing the Wittgenstein stuff together with Sraffa (since most of their points are orthogonal), but for you there is a quote that would be relevant, hejejejjeh. Actually from his pre-Sraffian Tractatus: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."


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