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Re-reading Marx - New Perspectives after the Critical Edition

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Geert Reuten, University of Amsterdam, Department of Economics - Marx's rate of profit transformation: problem within a false setting

Marx's rate of profit transformation: problem within a false setting
a methodological appraisal of Marx's procedure, based on the texts of
Das Kapital III and manuscripts of 1864-65, 1875 and 1878

Geert Reuten
(University of Amsterdam, Department of Economics)
reuten@uva.nl



paper for the 16th International Symposium of Marxian Theory
Bergamo, 9-13 July 2006

Abstract


Marx's "transformation problem" has mostly been considered as a joint theoretical and mathematical problem. This paper argues that it is a joint theoretical and, primarily, methodologicall problem. In Part Two of Das Kapital III Marx confuses levels of abstraction. Within this confusion the error of the famous two macro identities is only a minor problem.

Engels edited Das Kapital III (1894) from Marx's manuscript of 1864-65 (first published in 1992, MEGA II/4.2). A study of the latter shows its provisional character - which Engels polished away. That text, as well as recently first published manuscripts of 1875 and 1878 that Engels did not use (MEGA II/14, 2003) show that Marx was in fact not happy with what he had reached in Part Two.

It is shown that the main theoretical problem lies in Marx's assumption of equalised rates of surplus-value - one that he puts in doubt in a 1878 manuscript. The final section of the paper undertakes a reconstruction of the transformation dropping that assumption.