[OPE-L:3532] Re: further replies to Gil

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Thu Jun 22 2000 - 18:39:33 EDT

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Continuing the effort to catch up with existing threads of the "Chapter
5/Marx's starting point" discussion:

Rakesh writes:

>I would say that the real error in Marx's chapter 5 and 6 is that he only
>rules out the explanation of the the persistence of a value surplus in
>terms of the process of Condillac's *synchronic* exchanges of goods by
>which overall *utility* is enhanced (p.261-2. Vintage where Marx argues
>this confuses use value and exchange value).
>But Marx's critique leaves open the possibility of interest being
>explained without any recourse to exploitation theory on the basis of of a
>*diachronic* exchange of equivalents; in this (agio) theory the future
>goods which are valued less than present ones are exactly the same, and
>thus fit for satisfying the wants of the same kind and same intensity. So
>there does not seem to be a confusion between use and exchange value, and
>Marx's critique of Condillac does not apply (though Marx's later critique
>of Senior's abstinence theory may do the job).

I don't really know what to make of this point, Rakesh. Marx is not
concerned in Ch. 5 with forms of profit or interest that are not based on
surplus value, and thus on the condition that *new value* is created
subsequent to the initiation of a given circuit of capital (this follows
from Marx's stipulation that surplus value be based on the "valorization"
of value, rather than merely the redistribution of existing value).
Consequently, loans to finance consumption are beside the point, as are any
other forms of interest or profit based solely on the redistribution of
value which pre-existed the initiation of given circuits of capital. My
critique solely focuses on Marx's treatment of circuits of capital that
*do* satisfy this restriction.

> We also have Schumpeter's argument that without innovation even the
>diachronic exchange of equivalents in a static world will not yield
>productive interest persistently (there may room for some consumptive
>interest however).

Same point as above. If that is really Schumpeter's argument, however, it
is wrong: productive interest could persistently arise even in the absence
of innovation, for the same reason that landlords can persistently charge
rents for apartments.

> So Marx has not logically proven the exploitation theory in chs 5 and 6.
>We have his theory but it will have to stand up to the Bohm Bawerkian
>agio/roundabout and Schumpterian dynamic explanations for persistent
>(productive) interest.

I don't see how this speaks to the point I'm criticizing. Marx doesn't
claim to "prove...exploitation theory" in chs 5 and 6 of volume I. He
claims to have shown that the account of surplus value "must be" based on
the condition that all commodities exchange at their respective values, and
uses this conclusion to justify his subsequent focus in ch. 6 on the
purchase and subsumption of labor power *as a commodity* as the basis for
capitalist exploitation. I show that Marx's Ch. 5 conclusion with respect
to price-value equivalence does not follow from the arguments he advances
in Ch. 5, and consequently that the basis for his subsequent focus on the
purchase and subsumption of labor power as a commodity is also invalid.
Perhaps there are other things Marx has gotten wrong in Chs. 5 and 6, but
these are not necessarily the point of my critique.

>And Gil I don't understand why you will not allow Marx to confine himself
>to industrial capital, narrowly defined--that is, allow him to exclude
>direct value producers and putter outters.

First: it's not a question of what I will or will not "allow Marx" to do,
it's a question of what Marx *says* he is doing in Chs 5 and 6, and the
logical grounds he gives for his claims. The grounds he gives for what he
explicitly says he is doing are invalid. If we can simply agree to that,
I'd be pretty happy. The problem is that Marx is not simply asserting that
capitalist production is *consistent* with the existence of surplus value;
he is saying that a particular connection between prices and values is
somehow central to understanding the phenomenon of surplus value, and *as a
consequence* that the purchase and subsumption of labor power *understood
as a commodity* is central to this understanding.

Second: suppose we impute to Marx's analysis in Chs 1-5, as Fred seems to
want to do, the *premise* that surplus value derives *solely* from the
circuit of industrial capital, i.e., that based on the purchase and
subsumption of labor power as a commodity. But then the stipulation of
price-value equivalence is *necessarily* irrelevant for justifying his
focus on the latter condition--it is already assumed--as is Marx's explicit
effort to *derive* this focus from value conditions, again since the
condition is already assumed. The labor theory of value, as Marx
represents this concept in Ch. 1 and the last footnote to Ch. 5, is utterly
extraneous, indeed essentially misleading as to the basis of surplus value.
 That's part of the point of my Ch. 5 critique.

Third: there's another loss from the interpretation you suggest. If the
universal dependence of surplus value on the circuit of industrial capital
is simply an assumption for Marx, then necessarily one loses any possible
basis for inferring a *necessary* or *substantive* connection between
capitalist production and capitalist exploitation. For example, given this
reading, capitalist production might be literally as incidental to the fact
of capitalist exploitation as is the average height or skin color of
capitalists. Putting aside that Marx clearly understands himself to be
asserting more than this, it stands as a fairly powerful indictment of a
theory of capitalist exploitation if it posits capitalist production as a
basis but cannot at all account for this basis. That's the other point of
my Ch. 5 critique.

 see p. 273 of the Vintage
>edition: "Why this free worker confronts him in the sphere of circulation
>is question which does not interest the owner of money, for finds the labor
>market in existence as a particular branch of the commodity market. As for
>the present it interests us just as little. We confine ourselves to the
>fact theoretically, as he does practically."

The problem is that Marx's explicit *justification* for "confin[ing]
ourselves to the fact theoretically" is invalidly derived.

>Even on Marx's assumptions, the exploitation theory is not exclusively
>established. There is a need for further critique of rival theories. Chs 5
>and 6 are incomplete.

At best this is a separate argument from mine. See above.


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