Sartesian continues to ignore the central points:The discussion of Heinrich's essay is "raging" (excuse the hyperbole) at Libcom and Loren Goldner's Meltdown list as well as Marxmail. I don't know if Angelus is involved in the discussion on Meltdown but he has withdrawn from the discussion at Libcom as well as his apparent disengagement on Marxmail.
1) Heinrich does not deny that the rate of profit (however one decides to calculate it) can decline in reality. It very well can. It can also rise. The point, however, is that one can in no way derive a "law" of the rate of profit to fall at the categorical level that Marx does, and this became clear to Marx himself. Sartesian seems to think that merely asserting that the fall in the rate of profit necessarily follows from Marx's categories is sufficient.
2) Since "the rate of profit" is not a category that actually exists in bourgeois statistics, one actually has to construct a method for calculating it. Not surprisingly, those who wish to argue that the rate of profit is in a state of terminal decline construct their calculations in such a way that "proves" exactly that. That's why I pointed to Doug Henwood's excellent article here as a counterweight: http://lbo-news.com/2012/06/26/profitability-high-and-maybe-past-its-peak/
I agree with Doug's statement about methodology in purporting to calculate the rate of profit:
"Everyone who plays this game does it by different rules. Many esteemed Marxist profit-watchers adjust the official stats in numerous ways, such as trying to eliminate “nonproductive” activity. While I understand the interest in jiggering the numbers, no known capitalist can see or feel the adjusted rate of profit. What they (and their shareholders) care about is the actual rate of profit, reported in cash money, relative to the amount of capital that had to be invested to gain the return."
In any case, this exchange is about as fruitful as arguing with Jehovah's Witnesses, and half as fun. The most that can be said for Sartesian's posts is that at least they're not as mindless as the one that appeared at the Kasama blog, which basically takes up the machine fragment of the Grundrisse to make its case, the very passage that Marx refuted with his concept of relative surplus-value!
Whatever. Spring has come and I'm going to go enjoy it. Anybody who wants to take the effort to construct a rigorous argument against Heinrich that takes into account the arguments that he actually makes should do so, and then maybe contact the editors at MR to see if they'll run it.
I'm done for now.
Word: nothing is more difficult than the orderly disengagement from persistent opponents. Just ask the historians of the US Military Assistance Command-Vietnam.
Regarding the "points" raised by Angelus: (1) Heinrich does not show that there is no way to derive a categorical law of the tendency of the rate of profit to decline. He presents the mathematical representation of Marx's exposition and argues that the mathematical representation does not establish a categorical law because the mathematical presentation assumes a constant rate of surplus value.
If the rate of surplus value increases sufficiently, that is at a rate greater than the rate of the value expansion of the constant capital engaged by the labor, then the rate of profit can rise.
Guess what? No one is arguing that cannot happen, not even, IMO, Marx. However, the law is not the law of the decline in the rate of profit; the law is the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to decline; that is as the mass of capital values, objectified labor, expands, and the mass of living labor so employed declines, the proportional increase in surplus value tends to, and trends toward insufficiency in its ability to counter even the incremental increases in the total accumulated capital.
And why is this a tendency, a trend? Because every increase in surplus value becomes an increase in the total objectified labor, capital, that has itself zero new value producing ability but can only transfer portions of its existing value. Thus to offset this trend, either the means of production must be cheapened, reduced in value, or the exploitation of labor power has to be "excessively" increased in both rate and mass.
If the mass of capital, if the mass of the means of production loses value, that is to say is devalued, then in fact the rate of profit can rise. Devaluing the means of production however involves a period of loss in the overall accumulation process. Improvement in the efficiency of the means of production, reducing costs of production, involves similar loss to the already accumulated capital. Hence, the conditions for the increase in the rate of profit are both preceded and accompanied by the very elements of crisis that are made manifest when the rate of profit declines.
Since we are talking about limits, trends, tendencies, since we are talking about the reproduction of a social relation of production, since we are talking about a process that is based in the conflict between labor and the conditions of labor, the truth is made manifest in the actual processes of the economy, where the expansion of capital becomes, calls forth, its own contraction.
As for (2), I suggest everyone take a look at Henwood's chart on the rate of profit linked by Angelus, and look at the trend. Henwood charts a rate of profit that peaks around 1968, staggers lower throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, stabilizes in the mid-1980s but does not exceed the previous peak, turns up sometime around 1992. reaches a high around 1996 which again does not exceed the 1968 mark, turns down again, recovers around 2002 but does not exceed the 1996 level before turning down again around 2007...etc. etc. etc.
Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I think Angelus is providing evidence of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall despite the offsetting efforts of capitalists everywhere.
Angelus leaves us with "I'm done for now." We leave him with the words "And still it falls."
April 13, 2013