Piero Sraffa developed the device of a ‘standard commodity’ subsequent to the formulation of the basic propositions presented in his Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. The device is not used to prove that the relationship between prices and distribution may be determined from the classical data of size and composition of output, conditions of reproduction and an exogeneously given distributive variable (the real wage or the rate of profit), but rather to illustrate and clarify the form of that relationship. It is therefore an ancilliary device, a hilfskonstruktion, designed to ‘reveal what otherwise might be hidden’.
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