Inicio > Economía marxista > “The logic of prices as values”: Guglielmo Carchedi

“The logic of prices as values”: Guglielmo Carchedi


There are two major lines of criticism moved at Marx’s approach to the transformation of values into prices. The circularity critique holds that constant and variable capital appear in Marx’s numerical examples as inputs at their individual values and as outputs at their social, transformed value (or price of production). This critique is rejected as being foreign to Marx’s methodology. Rather, the problem, when correctly formulated, is why and how the value incorporated in the constant and variable capital at the moment of their realization as outputs can differ from the value appropriated by them at the moment of their realization as inputs (and vice versa). The infinite regression critique submits that Marx’s approach implies following the formation of value step by step backward ad infinitum. This critique too is rejected on logical grounds and it is submitted that the problem, rather, is that of bringing up to the present the value which has been formed in the past. After the transformation problem has been thus reformulated, a solution is provided. Seen from this angle, which I argue is Marx’s own, there is no inconsistency in Marx’s numerical examples.


Marx´s transformation of values into prices has been the object of hotly debated controversies since Böhm-Bawerk´s attack (1973) on the third volume of Capital. In short, to compute the price of production the average rate of profit (Marx, 1967c, p. 164). Two types of critique have emerged as the most influential. The first is the circularity critique. On the one hand, c is sad to be an individual, i. e. a value not yet transformed into a price of production. On the other hand, the same c is itself a product of other production processes and, when sold, must be sold at its price of production. There is, so runs the argument, a logical mistake, a circular reasoning wich is why the conditions of equilibrium cannot be respected any longer (Sweezy, 1968). The second type of critique is complementary to the one just mentioned. This is the infinite regression argument, according to wich to compute the value of a commodity we must know the value of c, but to know the value of c we must know the value of c which went into its production in the previous period, and so on in an infinite series of steps backwards in time. In what follows, I intend to analyze Marx’s approach and both the circularity and the infinite regression critiques. In the process of answering these two types of critique, I shall put forward my own interpretation and solution of the transformation problem.

The logic of prices as values

Economy and Society Volume 13 Number 4 November 1984

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