Madrid 1999: Paolo Giussani on joint production

At the 1999 Madrid conference, Paolo Giussani presented two papers, the first on Joint Production and the second on TSS and the rate of profit. This is the paper on joint production, of special interest since the obscure technical question of ‘joint production’ formed one of the lesser-known centrepieces of Ian Steedman’s original ‘surplus school’ assault on Marx. The argument was that, as well as the more familiar charges of logical inconsistency in the transformation of values into prices and the falling profit rate, Marx’s system (in reality, Steedman’s misrepresentation of that system) broke the claimed connection between profit and surplus; it was possible, for economies containing branches that produced more than one product, to have an economy with a positive surplus but negative profits.

In the temporal interpretation this is a minor matter and causes no difficulties. However I and Andrew Kliman responded by pointing out that the ‘surplus school’ showing that, once the unrealistic assumption of a positive net product is dropped (under capitalism, the net product is never fully positive, because as a result of technical change, the net product of goods which are passing out of use is always negative – they are used up, but not produced), the simultaneist (aka surplus school, Linear Production System, equilibrium) approach yields results that contradict reality – positive profits with negative surplus value or as Kliman puts it ‘workers can exploit capitalists’.

Paolo was always, and in addition, concerned to demonstrate that the temporal framework yields a fully consistent treatment of joint production and wrote a number of papers to this effect. I am hoping to include them, eventually, on this site. This particular paper, presented to the Madrid conference, is just one of them.

In this paper Paolo also expressed his reservations about the notion of TSS as an ‘interpretation’ of Marx, a reservation he had expressed to us privately before. He argues that this arises from what he terms an ‘ideological preoccupation’ with proving Marx right.