The Pragmatic Deconstruction of the Temporal Single System Interpretation

(A Refutation of the TSSI Myth of Consistency in Marx’s Capital)


There are internal inconsistencies; i.e., contradictions, with the Temporal-Single-System-Interpretation (TSSI), pertaining to its claims of having rectified the logical contradictions within Marx’s Capital, concerning the law of value. This paper will not be going extensively into what the Temporal-Single-System-Interpretation is reacting against, namely, the charge against Marx of internal inconsistencies, which, for over one-hundred years, have hung over Marx’s work like a dark foreboding cloud. Instead, this paper will be presenting the internal consistencies of the Temporal-Single-System-Interpretation, itself, in relation to Marx’s work, which by association also presents the internal consistencies within Marx’s own analysis. In sum, TSSI’s demonstrations have not succeeded in refuting the century old proof of Marx’s logical inconsistencies because TSSI passes over in silence many of the contradictory claims Marx made about the characteristics of the law of value. Dmitriev, Okishio, Bohm-Bawerk and Bortkiewicz may have faltered in fully outlining the inconsistencies in Marx’s Capital; nevertheless, they were correct that Marx’s analysis; i.e., law of value, is riddled with irreparable, internal-logical inconsistencies.

Foremost, the TSSI imposes unto Marx’s analysis a framework that is just not there in Marx’s work. In actuality, TSSI has simply side-stepped certain Marxist premises over others; i.e., picked certain premises over others, which are contradictory, so as to arbitrarily construct a truncated Marxist interpretation, which can enable TSSI to dubiously claim that it is the only interpretation able to rescue Marx’s labor theory of value from its century old prison term, the damning sentence of internal-logical-inconsistency. In fact, to believe TSSI one would have to live in a perpetual state of suspension of disbelief, to pass over in silence the many internal contradictions emanating from Marx’s own statements, concerning the law of value. Specifically, having an interpretation that forgoes some of Marx’s premises for others does not remove the claim of internal inconsistency. One can find the Bible internally consistent as well if one chooses to pass over certain contradictory passages and premises. The bible, or any other text, will as well make sense, and seem logically plausible if one refuses to acknowledge, or deal with, the conflictual premises and statements within a text. Contrary to Kliman, when one interpretation makes a text make sense does not make it more plausible, or more correct when the particular interpretation abandons core premises and statements the text makes in favor of more sympathetic premises and statements. When this sort of thing happens, we have left the solid ground of reason and are in the mystical clouds of ideology and theoretical fetishism.

Part I

First and foremost, TSSI is a reductive and distorted interpretation of Marx’s analysis in the sense that TSSI has abandoned many of the premises Marx outlined pertaining to the law of value. Thus, TSSI’s claim to have returned Marx’s analysis to wholeness and an analytical totality, casting-off all charges of internal inconsistency against Marx, is blatantly incorrect and screams of ideological bias from the get-go. For example, according to Andrew Kliman, “TSSI deduces Marx’s conclusion that surplus labor is the exclusive source of profit—in every case, without exception”. ((Andrew Kliman, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, (United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2007) p. 185.)) This is one of the many fundamental premises of TSSI. However, Marx stated, within the logical confines of Capital (Volume 1) that:

Capitalist production… in capitalist agriculture is a progress in art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil. Capitalist production… only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process production by simultaneously sapping the original sources of  all wealth, the soil and the worker. ((Karl Marx, Capital (Volume One), Trans. Ben Fowkes (London, Eng.: Penguin, 1990) p. 520.))

Essentially, according to Marx, wealth; i.e., surplus value, is generated through sapping the soil and workers of value. The soil and the worker are, for Marx, the sole founts of surplus value, that is, for any value, not just the exploitation of labor-time. Consequently, this flies directly in the face of TSSI, but more importantly, this flies directly in the face of Marx, himself, who continually repeats throughout Das Capital that “labor is the source of all wealth”; ((Karl Marx, Capital (Volume Two), Trans. David Fernbach (London: Penguin Books, 1992) p. 563.)) value. The same applies for TSSI, wherefore, repeatedly Andrew Kliman reminds us that “value is [solely] determined by labor-time”. ((Andrew Kliman, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, (United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2007) p.13.))  This is an internal-logical-inconsistency in Marx’s analysis, which invariably skews the numbers and his holy trinity of economic equalities, pertaining to the law of value. As a result, once again we have an internal-logical contradiction; i.e., a logical inconsistency, within Marx’s analysis, which rattles the Marxist law of value to the core.

This internal inconsistency rattles Marx’s labor theory of value because when values; i.e., wealth, escape the strict confines of labor-time calculations, the Marxist trinity of economic equalities can go awry. It is for this reason that Kliman has reduced Marx’s law of value to the strict confines of labor-time in the sense that all sorts of unquantifiable values, derived from the land and soil, devoid of labor-time, can magically augment values and prices, by seeping into the capitalist-system unannounced and unquantified. Contrary to Kliman, and in line with Marx, it is more appropriate to conceive that capital makes labor and the earth produce, and labor and the earth produce surplus value, due to the fact, contrary to TSSI, the source of surplus value, by Marx’s own statements, is both the earth and labor-power, not strictly labor-power, itself. This explains why total values and total prices do not equate, or could ever equate, unless huge TSSI arbitrary readjustments are applied to Marx’s analysis and premises, beginning with his fundamental premise that the soil; i.e., the natural environment, does produce value, value which in some instances is devoid of any labor-time.

For example, in Capital (Volume 2), when Marx was looking for the original source of surplus value found in the market; i.e., the circulation sphere, which could account for the paradox that capitalists receive more value in return to what they inject into the market on a yearly basis, discovered that the extra surplus value in the market, which is devoid of labor-time, originates from Gold. Namely, that the mineral itself, gold, like labor-power, was throwing more value into circulation; i.e., the market, than the value it was being assigned in return by capitalists through the calculation of labor-time within gold production. Meaning, that gold production was both supplying the market with surplus labor derived from workers plus an extra amount of surplus value, atop of surplus labor-time calculations, which was providing the extra unaccounted surplus value in the market by which capitalists were able to realize their annual surplus product.

For Marx, in Capital (Volume 2) a certain amount of value, conceivably surplus value, was not being accounted for in gold production. As a result, gold’s unaccounted value was supplying the initial surplus value that the market needed in order to facilitate capitalist transactions; i.e., enabling capitalists to realize their over-extended surplus at the end of each year. That is, gold’s unaccounted value was permitting capitalists to extract more from circulation; i.e., the market, than he or she initially was putting into circulation, meaning a segment of free value, initially injected in the market, gratis, was operating in the market, free of labor-time, providing unaccounted surplus value and profit so all capitalists could extract more than they were throwing into the market. As Marx states:

Only in gold production—in so far as the gold product contains or is bearer of surplus value is new wealth created, and it is only to the extent that the whole new gold product steps into circulation that it increases the money material for potential new…capitals. …The surplus-value of the gold producer, produced in gold, would then be the only fund from which all the other capitalists drew material with which to realize their annual surplus product. ((Karl Marx, Capital (Volume Two), Trans. David Fernbach (London: Penguin Books, 1992) p. 567.))

Therefore, exactly, like labor-power, according to Marx, gold production is cheated out of a certain excess amount of value, which goes unpaid, unrewarded and unaccounted for in order to provide the excess surplus value; i.e., profit, the markets need, which enables capitalists to realize their annual surplus product in and across the circulation sphere. Contrary to TSSI, gold, like labor-power, the soil, like the worker, provide the founts for any capitalist profit and surplus value. Thus, once again, the internal-logical-inconsistencies have manifested within Marx’s Capital, between the plethora of Marx’s statements professing that the only fount of surplus value is labor-time and those other statements, correctly articulating that the soil and the worker, together, are, in fact. the wellsprings of capitalist profit, value and wealth.

In many instances, labor-time has nothing do with an augmentation of value; i.e., surplus value. An excellent example of this is when Marx describes the autonomous, value-producing power of waterfalls, which graciously augment value, free of labor-time, when their energy is harnessed, appropriately, according to the dictates of capitalism. According to Marx:

A natural force…does not belong to the general conditions of the sphere of production…Capital cannot create a waterfall from its own resources. The surplus profit that arises from [the] use of the waterfall…arises not from the capital [invested] but from the use by capital of a monopolizable and monopolized natural force. Under these conditions,…surplus profit…accrues to the owner of the waterfall. ((Karl Marx, Capital (Volume Three), Trans. David Fernbach (London: Penguin Books, 1991) pp. 784-785.))

Therefore, here we have a textbook example of the internal-logical-inconsistencies found throughout Marx’s Capital. If socially necessary labor-time is the only source of value, then a waterfall should not be autonomously providing surplus value, devoid of labor-time, which it is, and Marx concedes this fact. Consequently, contrary to TSSI, value is not solely a product of socially necessary labor-time, meaning value can be created outside the production sphere and Marx inadvertently acknowledges this fact, when he states a natural force, like a waterfall, does not belong to the sphere of production. Inadvertently, this also opens the door to the damning conclusion that value can be produced outside of production, such as we see with gold and the waterfall, assuming these two examples are not anomalies.

Moreover, this means that TSSI is implausible and a bastardization of what Marx said and meant in Capital. If the point of any interpretation is to make a text make sense, as Kliman states, then the point is also to acknowledge the discrepancies within a text, with honesty. The point is not to pick and choose premises, here and there, in order to arrive at a dubious interpretation which somehow makes sense and retains a sense of fuzzy totality, a suspicious totality, which comes at the insurmountable cost of textual verity, honest scholarship and the basic fact that Marx’s Capital is riddled with internal-inconsistencies. There is no side-stepping this fact. TSSI has skewed Marx’s statements and premises in a feeble attempt to refute the fact of internal inconsistency within Marx’s Capital. To quote, Kliman, “Marx’s value theory would be necessarily wrong if it were internally inconsistent…An internally inconsistent theory simply cannot be right” ((Andrew Kliman, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, (United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2007) pp. 3-4.)) and this is exactly the case with Marx’s analysis. It is internally inconsistent and thus is not completely right, hence, the reason why the charge of internal inconsistency has lasted so long and the reason why so many attempts have been made to refashion Marx’s analysis into something new yet inspired by Marx’s analysis. The point is not to beat a dead horse over and over again. The point is to accept the facts. The point is not to retreat into ideology and Marxist fetishism, as the TSSI has clearly done, but to move on.

Part II

Another one of the many fundamental premises of TSSI is its fundamental claim that “valuation is temporal, so input and output prices can differ”, ((Ibid, 2.)) meaning that output prices/values of commodities can be lower than the input prices/values of the means of production initially going into the production process at the beginning. However, this leads to an internal inconsistency within Marx’s analysis in the sense that Marxist holy trinity of equalities becomes out of whack if inputs and output prices differ, substantially. First, according to Marx and the TSSI, the three aggregate value-price equalities are:

* Total profit equals total surplus value.

* Total price equals total value.

* The aggregate “price” rate of profit equals the aggregate “value” rate of profit…

[And,] in Marx’s view, these aggregate equalities were immensely significant [as]…they confirmed both the law of value and his theory that all profit has its origin in the exploitation of workers. ((Ibid. 144.))

However, as shown previously, it is evident that profits do not have their sole origin in the exploitation of workers, but also have their origin in the free exploitation of the soil, which augments profit devoid of any labor-time. And, this is enough to skew Marx’s holy economic equalities, which Marx argues must in the last instance always equalize. As Engels states, in the preface of Capital (Volume 3), “the total sum of prices equals the total sum of values…in the last instance, [meaning any] incongruence disappears”  ((Karl Marx, Capital (Volume Three), Trans. David Fernbach (London Penguin Books, 1991) p. 104.)) in the end. However, if amounts of profit; i.e., value, enter calculations, devoid of labor-time, which they do, then total values and total prices can never equate, in the last instance, due to the fact there will be segments of total price and total value, which will be devoid of labor-time and unable to be accounted for by socially necessary labor-time.

Notwithstanding, for argument sake, let us take one of Kliman’s simple economic models, when inputs and outputs prices differ, and take this economic model as an economic totality. That is, an economy as a whole, which falls into recession and/or depression wherefore outputs do not equal inputs at the level of totality. First, in this instance, total price and total value will differ due to discrepancies in output and inputs. Second, like a chain reaction, this will also mean that total profit and total surplus value will differ, due to discrepancies in output and inputs. And third, the aggregate “price” rate of profit and the aggregate “value” rate of profit will differ, thus, annulling Marx’s and the TSSI’s holy trinity of economic equalities. Taking a look at Kliman’s, TABLE 2.2., pertaining prices of production and average profits, where Marx’s holy economic equalities are maintained, we can see that everything Marx and TSSI indicated is in order: ((Andrew Kliman, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, (United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2007) pp. 26-28.))

In effect, this reproduction of Kliman’s economic model, reproduces Marx’s holy economic equalities. As determined by Kliman, “total profit and total surplus value both equal 48,… total price of production and total value both equal 118” ((Ibid, p. 28.)) and, of course, the aggregate price and value rates of profit also both equalize at 16%. Therefore, according to TSSI, Marx appears vindicated of internal inconsistency when inputs and outputs are valued temporally. When inputs and outputs are temporal; i.e., valued temporally, Marx’s holy economic equalities remain intact.

Now, let us assume that Kliman’s economic model is a totality, comprising the only two economic branches in the economy. Indeed, this simplification is valid in the sense that Kliman does this sort of thing; i.e., simplification, throughout his book, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital. That is, he simplifies, reducing complex economies to two or three economic branches for the sake of clarity and edification. Consequently, let us say, the chemical sector remains as is, in the new economic model, while the restaurants sector, due to various socio-economic conditions, is in trouble, troubles of various kinds which seriously curtail the surplus value produced and lower profits into the negative.

At the end of the year, this totally new, independent, and separate economic model, different from Kliman’s example, has a surplus value measured at 16, with a value rate of profit calibrated at 5.3%. Total value is 86 while total price is 92, which is unequal. However, profit, due to catastrophic socio-economic conditions, is only registered at 22, while, in turn, the price of production rate of profit is 7.3%, thus manifesting divergence in all of Marx’s holy economic equalities in the final analysis.

In this newly constructed economic model, the eateries sector is producing at a loss, despite the value rate of profit being extracted from the workforce at a positive 8%. The extra surplus value of 8 is either deteriorating via rotting food-commodities, or is simply wasted labor-power. The fact is that, because people are not eating out, or whatever, profit is registered in the negative at -10 and the price rate of profit is -10%., ultimately skewing Marx’s and TSSI’s holy economic equalities at the level of totality in the final analysis. As a result, according to this totally new, independent economic model, because there is significant losses in the restaurant/eateries sector while the chemical sector is in the black, all three of Marx’s holy economic equalities no longer equate, at the abstract level of economic totality, even if inputs and outputs are calibrated in a temporal fashion.

In addition, even if both sectors of this totalizing economic model registered positive numbers for surplus value, as long as there are significant profit losses, due to catastrophic pricing conditions, Marx’s economic equalities will not equate, despite the fact that, according to Marx, they should equate in the last instance. Of course, in response, Marx argues that “surplus value by no means coincides in the majority of cases with profit”, ((Karl Marx, Capital (Volume Three), Trans. David Fernbach (London: Penguin Books, 1991) p. 141.)) which Marx admits occurs at the level of everyday economic occurrences, but he certainly holds onto the verity that at the general level of economic totality total value and total price will, without a doubt, equate. The internal inconsistencies arise because Marx refuses to acknowledge the logical fact and consistency that deviating prices and values at the level of everyday economic transactions inevitably leads to deviations in total values and total prices at the abstract level of economic totality. You cannot have one without the other in the sense that deviations between price and value do not magically disappear at the level of economic totality. This is a contradiction in logic and rationality, which exacerbates the fact that Marx’s Capital is riddled with internal consistencies, if one honestly takes all of what Marx said into consideration.

In a classic Marxian statement, screaming of internal logical-inconsistency, Marx states “the sum of prices of production for the commodities produced in society as a whole—taking the totality of all branches of production—is [bound to] equal to the sum of their values” ((Ibid, p. 259.)) in the final analysis. Basically, regardless of rampant deviations at the level of everyday economic transactions, prices and values mystically equalize at the abstract level of economic totality. It might be argued that the three holy economic equalities eventually will equate, but this is not “proof” of logical-consistency, if it contradicts the dictates logic, itself, namely, that logical consistency pervades reality, from alpha to omega, not just the ephemeral plain of economic totality. Secondly, it might be argued that these results disproving Marx’s holy trinity of economic equalities, are not the final analysis; however, this depends on where one chooses to draws the finishing line.

All in all, it is internally and logically inconsistent to articulate that prices and values can differentiate, in everyday economic occurrences, while at the same time arguing that at the abstract level of economic totality, both the sum of prices and the sum of values magically equate, contrary to any logical reasoning. Consequently, this is logically inconsistent and contradictory, unless an arbitrary and artificial adjustment is perpetrated between the different sums of values and prices, an adjustment which can only be dishonest and simultaneous.  For instance, as Marx states, “whatever may be the ways in which the prices of different commodities are first established or fixed in relation to one another, the law of value governs their movement”; ((Ibid, p. 277.)) what Marx argues is that prices can be determined in a variety of ways, prices cannot be reduced to strict quantities of labor-time, despite somehow being governed by labor-time, nonetheless. Following Marx’s inherent logical-contradiction here, contrary to TSSI, we are dealing with two measurement systems, which Marx is trying to commensurate under one umbrella due to the fact that, at the absolute  level of economic totality, he wishes to claim that “surplus value and profit are, in fact, the same and even numerically identical”, ((Ibid, p. 139.)) which has just been proven is not the case in the final analysis.

In effect, contrary to Marx and TSSI, prices continually escape the strict confines of value measured in labor-time, namely, value strictly determined by the fundamental Marxist premise of labor-time, both in everyday economic occurrences and, following the dictates of logic, at the abstract level of economic totality. For Marx and TSSI, values and prices differ at the microscopic level of everyday economic occurrences, and then magically unify and equate at the abstract level of economic totality. This is an internal logical-contradiction; i.e., an internal logical-inconsistency in Capital, brought about by faulty premises. In fact, contrary to Marx and TSSI, differentiations between value and price occur both at the microscopic level of everyday economic occurrences and at the abstract level of economic totality, ALWAYS! Because both the soil and labor-power are sources of surplus value and because price-value differentiations at the micro-level of everyday economic transactions also means, following the dictates of logic, there are price-value differentiations at the macro-level of economic totality.

Marx’s holy economic trinity in actuality never equate, without serious readjustments and conscious machinations. Meaning TSSI, like Marx, cannot validate Marx’s holy trinity of economic equalities either. As a result, both Marx and TSSI are the subject of internal logical-inconsistencies, derived from their unfounded beliefs that price and value differentiations at the micro-level of everyday economic occurrences can magically unify and equate at the abstract level of economic totality despite having incommensurable foundations. Consequently, it is inconsequential whether inputs and outputs are determined in a temporal fashion and/or in a simultaneous fashion in the sense that, in the final analysis, contrary to TSSI and Marx, nothing equates because value and price cannot be distorted and reduced to labor-time. Nothing equates between value and price because value and price are not solely subject to the strict confines of socially necessary labor-time, meaning, value and price are two separate manners of allocating numerical sums onto commodities. Both value and price have two different incommensurable foundations for analyzing, assessing and determining worth. In effect,  they constantly clash.

Part III

Finally, another one of the many fundamental premises of TSSI is its fundamental claim that Marx was a single-system theorist, namely, that he conceived the price-system and the value-system as strictly founded on socially necessary labor-time, and being synonymous at the abstract level of economic totality, all the while both being interdependently constituted with each other. For TSSI, this interdependence ultimately validates Marx’s holy trinity of economic equalities. As states, for TSSI, Marx believed that at the level of totality, price and value equate, profit and surplus value equate and the value and price rates of profit equate, meaning, there can only be one system of economic measurement for determining worth; i.e., the price-value system.

Notwithstanding, there is ample evidence throughout Marx’s Capital that Marx conceived of value and price as two separate systems, that is, two independent appraisal systems for assigning numerical coefficients onto commodities. Both of which are different and in many instances, dissimilar, due to the fact that, contrary to TSSI, socially necessary labor-time is not the foundation of both. Of course, Kliman slyly slips into his narrative in Reclaiming Marx’s Capital that both value and price are determined by labor-time, but this is a machination. It is an attempt to disavow and pass over in silence what Marx, in fact, said. Namely, it is an attempt on Kliman’s part to square the circle, that is, to forcefully smash a square peg into a round hole, claiming Marx intended it to make sense that way.  As Kliman states, “values and prices…are measured in the same units”, ((Andrew Kliman, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, (United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2007), p. 32.)) meaning, they are both measured in labor-time due to the fact that, according to TSSI, value is always measured in labor-time, and likewise, price must also be measured in labor-time, if values and prices are to correlate interdependently and equate at an abstract level. The fact is that, according to Marx’s own words, there are two systems for assigning values and prices, both of which are founded on different, incommensurable premises.

Foremost, taking Kliman’s premise for granted, and assuming Marx wanted value reduced to the strict confines of socially necessary labor-time, we shall assume that the Marxist value-system is based strictly on socially necessary labor-time. However, contrary to TSSI, there are ample examples throughout Marx’s Capital that the price-system exceeds the strict confines of socially necessary labor-time and by logical extension the Marxist value-system as well, therefore, demonstrating that price and value are two different systems for assigning and determining worth founded on two different, incommensurable premises. For example, Marx argues in Capital (Volume One), the price-system can operate, and does operate, independently of labor-time calculations and the value-system. The pricing-system can only do this if it is a completely independent system from any value-determinations founded on labor-time.

As Marx states,  “the possibility that the price may diverge from…value, is inherent in the price-form itself” ((Karl Marx, Capital (Volume One), Trans. Ben Fowkes (London, Eng.: Penguin, 1990), p. 196.)) and the reason for these inherent divergences is the fact that price is not strictly, or if at all, based on labor-time, “the price-form…[for Marx]…harbors a qualitative contradiction, with the result that price ceases altogether to express value”. ((Ibid, p. 197.)) The reason price ceases altogether to express value is because price is inherently incommensurable with value; it is a system completely independent of value, due to the fact that it has a different foundation than the value-system. Marx is correct to argue that the problem of commensurability between price and value is inherent in the price-form as we are dealing with two different systems with two different foundations. And Marx readily acknowledges this when he states:

Things which in and for themselves are not commodities, things such as, conscience, honor, [vacant unused land] etc., can be offered for sale by their holders, and thus acquire the form of commodities through their price. Hence, a thing can, formally speaking, have a price without having a value. The expression of price is…imaginary. ((Ibid, p. 197.))

It may be correct, as TSSI stipulates, that the Marxist value-system is strictly founded upon labor-time, but the price-system certainly is not. In fact, the price-system, according to Marx, is founded on the imagination. As Marx states, “to establish…price it is sufficient for [a commodity] to be equated…in the imagination”. ((Ibid, p. 197.)) This means that value and price have incommensurable foundations. Marxist value is founded on labor-time and price is founded on the imagination. In essence, these are two different systems for assigning numerical sums onto commodities, stemming from two different foundations; i.e., incommensurable premises. Price can be accommodated to value, but this is a distortion and a reduction of the pricing-system to the Marxist value-system in the sense that the price-system, being founded on the imagination, exceeds the strict parameters of the Marxist value-system, that is, socially necessary labor-time. As Marx states:

Although invisible…value…is signified through [its] equality with [price], even though this relation with [price] exists in [the] head, so to speak….the expression of the value of commodities in [price] is a purely ideal act, we may use purely imaginary or ideal gold to perform this operation. ((Ibid, pp. 189-190.))

Of course, TSSI acknowledges that “the distinction between value and price exists in real life”, ((Andrew Kliman, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, (United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2007) p. 140.)) but at the abstract level of economic totality, this distinction disappears; however, this is a logical contradiction within TSSI and Marx’s Capital, which invariably always reverberates across Marx’s holy trinity of economic equalities, forever destabilizing them, unless some form of gross numerical manipulations is enacted. Moreover, TSSI acknowledged that “Marx himself affirmed that value is a mental construct”, ((Ibid. 141.)) yet simultaneously TSSI argues that Marx’s “value is [strictly] determined by labor-time”. ((Ibid. 93.)). This is a logical contradiction in the sense that TSSI fails to notice that mental constructs, despite “being part of the real world” ((Ibid, p. 141.)) do not have to abide by the strict standards of the real world. There is much leeway and approximations as to the verity of mental constructs because being mental constructs, they are subjective, arbitrary and artificial fabrications, more or less privy to the imaginary whims of conceptual-perception.

Subsequently, contrary to TSSI, labor-time is not always the sole determining factor of value since it is a mental construct. As Marx states, price and “the life of the worker [also] depends on the whim of the rich and the capitalists”, ((Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Ed. Martin Milligan (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications Inc., 2007) p. 21.)) meaning, “in its function as measure of value, [price]…serves only in an imaginary or ideal capacity”, ((Karl Marx, Capital (Volume One), Trans. Ben Fowkes (London, Eng.: Penguin, 1990), p.190.)) it is an arbitrary, or ideal, connection subject to debate and discrepancy because price does not follow the parameters of scientific measurement, namely, those of socially necessary labor-time. The price-system is something imposed upon things, regardless of labor-time, due to the fact that the price-system is a system independent of the Marxist value-system. The price-system is its own independent system just as the Marxist value-system is its own independent system. The price-system has a different foundation than the Marxist value-system, which obeys the strict dictates of socially necessary labor-time while the Marxist value-system has a different foundation than the price-system, which obeys, more or less, the vagaries of the imagination; hence, how apples and oranges can be arbitrarily and artificially compared.

As Marx describes at the end of Capital (Volume One), in the United-States in order for the capitalist mode of production to take root in America, it was argued that “the government set an artificial price on the virgin soil, a price independent of the law of [value]…a price that compels the immigrant to work a long-time for wages before he can earn enough money to buy land”. ((Ibid, p. 938.)) This artificial price was a matter of power and imagination; and thus is the product of a different appraisal system than the Marxist value-system, which is based on labor-time. Consequently, there are two appraisal systems at work in Marx’s Capital, two evaluation systems running independently of each other, founded on different, incommensurable premises. One obeys the strict dictates of socially necessary labor-time, while the other does not, and is more or less based on the whims of capitalists; i.e., the power of the imagination. Ultimately, TSSI does not exonerate Marx of internal-logical-inconsistencies because there are two incommensurable, appraisal systems in Marx’s Capital, each functioning according to different incommensurable premises in assigning numerical coefficients onto commodities.


All in all, TSSI is unable to banish the claims that Marx’s analysis and law of value is riddled with internal-logical-inconsistencies. In fact, TSSI only exacerbates the internal-logical-inconsistencies of Marx’s Capital in the sense that to ascribe to the TSSI version of Marxism, requires one to overlook huge discrepancies in Marx’s Capital, namely, all the contradictory statements and premises, which skew the results and prevent any holistic understanding of Marx’s analysis and law of value. And maybe Marx wanted it this way due to the fact that capital, itself, is not a homogenized, internally, consistent system, but a system, itself, riddled with internal-logical-inconsistencies; i.e., contradictions. At best, if one is honest, scholarly and true to what Marx stated in Capital, without regressing into ideology, as Kliman has done, the law of value is a loose manner of conceiving how and why the capitalist mode of production functions and operates.

In actuality, Marx’s analysis is an approximation, which is not ironclad, but subject to loose parameters wherefore things are never exact and ultimately precise because Marx’s holy trinity of economic equalities, in effect, never do equate, both at the micro-level of everyday economic transactions and at the macro-level of economic totality. We must remember that Marx’s Capital is an ideal conception of the capitalist mode of production, not an exact replica of the capitalist-system, itself. The fact that some economists, like Kliman, can make Marx’s three holy economic equalities equate on paper can only be the result of gross numerical manipulations and readjustments, which forgo some of Marx’s premises in favor of other more sympathetic premises.  Essentially, the result of Marx’s economic equalities equating on paper can only be the outcome of ramming square pegs into round circular holes which were never meant to fit and/or equate.

Of course, according to Andrew Kliman: “TSSI demonstrates [that] it is possible to make Marx’s texts cohere [and] in cases such as this, the criterion of coherence clearly implies that interpretations that fail to make the text cohere are inadequate”, ((Andrew Kliman, Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, (United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2007) p. 62.)) while those that make the text cohere are valid and of higher value. However, this is false if the interpretation that somehow makes a text cohere passes over in silence many of the contradictory premises this text states and bases itself upon. The point is not to make a text cohere; the point is to get an accurate sense of a text, even if it is riddled with irreparable internal contradictions as Marx’s Capital clearly is. There is no side-stepping this damning fact by retreating into the narrow-mindedness of ideology, and keeping a blind-eye to the internal-inconsistencies within Marx’s Capital. That is acting, talking, writing and teaching as if there are no internal-logical-inconsistencies within Marx’s analysis and law of value. This is just bad scholarship. Kliman’s Reclaiming Marx’s Capital is just bad scholarship in the sense that it is an intellectually dishonest output, which has side-stepped many of the blatant contradictions throughout Marx’s analysis and law of value, skewing the results by simply not addressing any contradictory statements and/or premises. To turn Kliman’s argument on its head, the very fact that Marx’s arguments can be interpreted by picking and choosing, accepting and forgoing certain Marxist premises for others so as to arrive at some form of distorted internal consistency concerning Marx’s analysis and law of value, demonstrates that internal consistency cannot be proven pertaining to Marx’s analysis and law of value since this internal consistency requires serious ideological blinders in order to be accurate, and more importantly, to be anywhere to being right.

No matter how much Kliman screams implausibility, invalidity, falsehood, and error, throughout his text at his detractors and those who disagree with TSSI, it does not make his interpretation right in the least, because to believe that TSSI has removed the verdict of internal-logical-inconsistency from Marx, one would have to lobotomize one’s mind. So the fact that Kliman, in the conclusion to Reclaiming Marx’s Capital, smugly bemoans the grounding fact that the myth of inconsistency holds and persists, even after-all of TSSI’s dubious conclusions, only proves that TSSI’s extremely reductive economic analysis and perspective has not eliminated the internal-logical-inconsistencies in Marx. TSSI has not removed the internal-inconsistencies within Marx’s Capital, because anyone with a working brain, regardless of education, can logically infer the internal contradictions within Marx’s analysis and/or law of value. Ultimately, Kliman is correct that “it is up to the present generation to set the record straight”, ((Ibid, p. 212.)) pertaining to TSSI, but he will not like the verdict since TSSI is certainly on the losing end of this debate. Indeed, history is proving most cruel in her verdict concerning Marxism and TSSI, a complete and total silence. So why are proponents of TSSI, like Kliman, fanatically “devoted to the pursuit of a theory with nothing but failure to show for it?” ((Ibid, p. 209.)) — in a word, ideology. And, with any homogenizing fanatic-ideology, as Max Planck put it, “truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather [triumphs] because its opponents eventually die”. ((Ibid, p. 209.))

Michel Luc Bellemare's latest book, Techno-Capitalist-Feudalism, was published in September 2020. He is also the author of The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism). Michel Luc is a member of the Metis Algonquin Nation of Ontario, Canada. Read other articles by Michel Luc.