[OPE-L:2482] RE: accounting for value

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Sat Mar 04 2000 - 09:06:56 EST

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Re Julian's [2434]:

> On the main point of the foregoing, I am tempted to paraphrase
> Margaret Thatcher, to the effect that "There is no such thing as a
> branch of production, but only individual companies and their accounts."
> What all the empirical studies that I've seen do is take as given
> the standard industrial classification system underlying whatever data set
> they are using. This is fair enough in itself, but clearly a "branch of
> production" is a mental construct whose particular instantiation may be more
> or less appropriate to a given enquiry.

I agree, of course, that "branch of production" is a mental construct
which, as you say, may be more or less appropriate for different studies.
Indeed, I would say that "branch of production" has become less and less
useful as a descriptive term for markets under late capitalism as the
process of the internationalization, concentration, and diversification of
capital have accompanied the accumulation process. This process of
corporate diversification and concentration leads to the divorcing of
corporate identities from the production of a particular use-value to
the production of many disparate commodities (e.g. a steel company
formerly produced steel; nowadays a "steel company" and its subsidiaries
may [or may not] produce steel, along with tobacco, entertainment
services, soda, and perfume, etc.).

This creates an interesting dynamic in terms of the formation of a general
rate of profit. I.e. instead of capitalists dis-investing or investing in
a particular branch of production, corporations can dis-invest from one
subsidiary of the corporation and then invest in another subsidiary where
they anticipate a higher RRI. If this is the case, then the money capital
may not enter or leave the corporation but rather be shifted around
internally within the corporation.

(Digression: one of the challenges facing trade unions in recent decades
is, as part of the collective bargaining process, simply trying to
identify the corporation that they are supposedly bargaining with. I.e. it
is frequently not obvious whether a "company" is an independent company or
a subsidiary of a larger [perhaps transnational] corporation. It is also
not obvious even when unions know what corporation they are bargaining
with what are the rest of the subsidiaries, and subsidiaries of
subsidiaries, of that corporation. This has important implications for
both the gathering of information during the bargaining process and the
possibility of building solidarity among workers who are employed by the
same corporation. I've done some of this research [while an intern working
in the UAW Research Department in Detroit many years ago] and know that it
is not easy and is not generally revealed by government publications or
even trade journals.)

Another development to note regarding investment by large corporations is
that they frequently (and indeed, routinely) finance R&D and other
activities through internally generated funds rather than through
borrowing from financial institutions.

Do you know of any explicitly Marxian studies on these subjects?

In solidarity, Jerry

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