[OPE-L:3607] Re: constant capital

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Mon Aug 07 2000 - 09:58:37 EDT

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This is a further, more direct, response to Ajit's (3592), which I think
illustrates the more general point I made in my last post: that Marx's
theory in Volume 1 is about the determination of money magnitudes by
labor-time magnitudes; it is not about the determination of labor-time
magnitudes, unrelated to money magnitudes. It also relates to points
raised by Ajit and Rakesh and Paul Z. in subsequent posts. I will respond
to these later posts as time permits. I have only limited access to email
these days. I thank Andy B. for stimulating questions that helped generate
this post.

1. Ajit cites the following passage from the beginning of Chapter 8 of
Volume 1 to support his interpretation that constant capital is defined in
terms of labor-time:

"The worker adds fresh VALUE to the material of his labor by expending on
it a given amount of additional labor, no matter what the specific content,
purpose and technical character of that labor might be. The VALUES of the
means of production used up in the process are preserved, and present
themselves afresh as constituent parts of the VALUE of the product; the
VALUE of the cotton and thek spindle, for instance re-appear again in the
VALUE of the yarn. The VALUE of the means of production is therefore
preserved by being transferred to the product." (C.I: 307)

Notice that Marx does not explicitly state in this passage what he means by
VALUE, whether labor-time (the substance of value) or money (the form of
appearance of value). He says that fresh value is added by labor, but this
is consistent with my interpretation, to be elaborated below, that value
here means the form of appearance of value, or money. Additional labor
produces additional money-value. Marx also says in this passage that the
value of the means of production is transferred to the value of the
product, again without clearly specifying which of the two aspects of value
he is talking about.

Ajit suggests that Marx's meaning of value in this passage from Chapter 8
is given by a passage from Section 1 of Chapter 1, which states that the
magnitude of value is measured in terms of hours of LABOR-TIME.

2. However, in Section 1 of Chapter 1, Marx is talking about the SUBSTANCE
and the MAGNITUDE of value, independent of the form of appearance of value,
exchange-value or money (please take another look at the title of Section
1). It is of course true that the SUBSTANCE of value is abstract labor and
the MAGNITUDE of value is measured in units of hours of labor-time.

However, Marx gave readers advance notice in Section 1 that he would soon
explain the FORM OF APPEARANCE of value, exchange-value or money:

"The progress of the investigation will lead us back [in Section 3 of
Chapter 1] to EXCHANGE-VALUE, as the necessary form of appearance, of
value. For the present, however, we must consider the nature of value
independently of its form of appearance."
(p. 128)

Section 3 of Chapter 1 of course derives money, or the form of appearance
of value, from abstract labor, the substance of value.

Thereafter, Marx's theory is about about how the forms of appearance of
value (in terms of money) are determined by the subtance of value (abstract
labor). Marx's theory is no longer about the substance of value alone,
unrelated to the forms of appearance of value.

Furthermore, whenever Marx used the term "the VALUE of commodities" after
Section 3 of Chapter 1, without further qualification, he generally meant
the FORM OF APPEARANCE of value, or money (or prices). Capital is filled
with sentences in which Marx said in effect:

        "the VALUE of the commodity IS x SHILLINGS."

NOT: "the VALUE of the commodity IS y LABOR-HOURS"

If "value" in all these sentences is interpreted to mean LABOR-HOURS, then
all these sentences become nonsense. Marx did not say "the value of
commodities is y labor-hours, which can be illustrated by x shillings."
Rather Marx said that the value of commidities IS x shillings (or pounds or
whatever). So he was talking about the form of appearance of value.

3. To take a few key examples from Chapters 4 and 7 of Volume 1:

CHAPTER 4 is of course in Part 4 which is about "the transformation of
MONEY into capital." It defines the general formula for capital as M - C -
M', i.e. MONEY that becomes MORE MONEY. This process is illustrated by the
numerical example of £100 invested in the purchase of cotton and £110 later
recovered. In the key definition of surplus-VALUE, surplus-value is
defined in terms of MONEY, and VALUE in this passage clearly means MONEY,
the form of appearance of value.

"More money is finally withdrawn from circulation that was thrown into it
at the beginning. The cotton originally bought for £100 is for example
re-sold at £100 + £10, i.e. £110. The complete form of the process is
therefore M-C-M', where M' = M + ?M, i.e. the original sum [of MONEY]
advanced plus an increment [of MONEY]. This increment of excess over the
original VALUE I call 'surplus-VALUE. The VALUE originally advanced,
therefore, not only remains intact while in circulation, but increases its
magnitude, adds to itself a surplus-VALUE, or is valorized. And this
movement converts it [MONEY or the form of appearance of VALUE] into
capital. (C.I: 251-52)."

4. There are other similar passages in Chapter 4, but I will move on to
CHAPTER 7, the key chapter in which Marx presented his theory of
surplus-value. Throughout this chapter, the MEANING OF "VALUE" IS MONEY,
the form of appearance of value. The form of appearance of the value of
the yarn is DETERMINED BY the substance of value (labor-time), but the word
value in this chapter refers to the money form of appearance of value. A
few examples:

"We have no need at present to investigate the VALUE of this cotton, for
our capitalist, we will assume, bought it at its full VALUE, say 10
SHILLINGS." (p. 293)

"We now know what part of the VALUE of the yarn is formed by the means of
production … It is 12 SHILLINGS …" (p. 295)

"A VALUE of 3 SHILLINGS, therefore, is added to the cotton by the labor of
spinning." (p. 297)

"Let us now consider the total VALUE of the product, the 10 lb. of yarn.
Two and a half days of labor have been objectified in it… This two and a
half days of labor is represented by a piece of gold of the VALUE of 15
SHILLINGS." (p. 297)

 "Our capitalist stares in astonishment. The VALUE of the product is equal
to the value of the CAPITAL advanced. The value advanced has not been
valorized, no surplus-value has been created, and MONEY has not been
transformed into capital." (p. 297-98)

"The VALUE of the yarn is 30 SHILLINGS… The trick has at last worked:
MONEY has been transformed into capital." (p. 301)

5. Therefore, within this context, it seems reasonable to conclue that the
meaning of VALUE in the passage at the beginning of Chapter 8 quoted by
Ajit is MONEY, the form of appearance of value.

This interpretation is also supported by the definitions of the key
concepts of constant capital and variable capital which are presented at
the end of Chapter 8. Constant capital is defined (p. 317) as "that part
of CAPITAL" that is exchanged for means of production. Since capital is
defined in terms of money, so is constant capital. Constant capital is one
component of the original money capital, M, that initiates the circulation
of capital. Similarly, variable capital is defined as the other component
of the original money capital, M, that is exchanged for labor-power.

Ajit (and others), would you please present passages after Section 2 of
Chapter 1, and especially up through Chapter 8, in which Marx states that
value IS y hours of LABOR-TIME?

Thanks very much for the stimulating discussion. I look forward to its


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