[OPE-L:3762] Re: Re: definition of constant capital

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Wed Sep 06 2000 - 00:14:25 EDT

[ show plain text ]

This is a response to Paul Z.'s (3742).
> Fred,
> I guess you didn't understand the significance by my [OPE-L:3738] reply to
> Andrew's question, "Relative values reflected in relative prices, an
> assumption of Volume I". The signifcance is that quotations to Marx,
> Volume 1 or VPP where he uses Pounds sterling (or shillings and pence)
> don't cut ice: value can be measured [sic] in hours or money.

Paul, I assume you mean that Volume 1 is really about labor-times, but
that these labor-times can be "measured" (or illustrated?) by money
because "relative values are reflected by relative prices."

But, Paul, why do you think Marx measured labor-times in money, in the
first place? What purpose does this indirect measure of labor-time as
money serve? Why not measure labor-times directly in terms of
labor-hours? Indeed, Marx's numerical examples often do include direct
measures of labor-hours, including in the key Chapter 7 of Volume 1
(e.g. the labor-time required to produce 20 lbs. of yarn is 60
labor-hours, 48 hours transferred from the constant capital and 12 hours
of current labor. This direct measure of labor-time makes the indirect
measure in terms of money even harder to understand. Why does Marx
present a second, indirect measure of labor-time when he already gives the
direct measure in terms of labor-hours? And we are not talking about a
few isolated cases in which labor-times are indirectly measured as
money. The entire theory is presented, from start to finish, in terms of

My answer to this question: because the theory attempts to explain HOW
LABOR-TIME. Therefore, the numerical examples HAVE to include both
quantities of labor-time and quantities of money, the former as cause and
the latter as effect.

At bottom, the question is: what is Volume 1 mainly about? If
labor-times, then what particular question(s) about labor-times do you
think Volume 1 is intended to explain? And where in Volume 1 does Marx
pose and analyze these key questions? What are the labor-times determined
by? Ajit refuses to answer these questions. Paul, how would you answer
these fundamental questions?

By the way, Paul, why do you say "[sic]" after "measured"?

> Your favorite C-M-C (or is it M-C-M'?) circuit is not even mentioned in
> VPP.

I am disappointed that you don't remember which, since this is my main
point, that Volume 1 is about dM.

On *Wages, Prices, and Profit", I quote from my reply to Ajit in (3731),
slightly modified:

*Wages, Prices, and Profit* does not explicitly discuss the circulation of
capital because this is a lecture and not a formal presentation of his
theory. But the lecture is all about PRICES - as indicated by the
title! It is about the effect of an increase of wages on prices. Most of
the lecture is a brief summary of Volume 1 of Capital. The summary of
the basic theory of surplus-value is presented in the same way uses the
same numerical example as Chapter 7 (surplus-value = 3 shillings; i.e. in
terms of MONEY). If Marx's theory in Volume 1 is not about money and
prices, then why does he use the Volume 1 theory to explain the monetary
phenomena of wages and prices?

Paul (and Ajit), how do you explain the monetary nature of this entire
lecture and its relation to Volume 1 of Capital? What do you think the
lecture is mainly about?

> Definition: Constant capital is the socially-necessary labor time required
> to produce the means of production. Labor produces value in production,
> the value is realized in money capital (usually, although not always; e.g.
> see "The Direct Transformation of a Part of Surplus-Value into Constant
> Capital -- a Characteristic Peculiar to Accumulation in Agriculture and
> the Machine-building Industry", Theories of Surplus Value, Part II), and
> that money is used in turn to purchase constant capital and variable
> capital (or spent as revenue).

Here is the key issue under discussion between us: the definition of
constant capital. You define constant capital as the "socially-necessary
labor time required to produce the means of production."

However, we have seen that Marx defined constant capital as the capital
"turned into" means of production, and many times discussed constant
capital as the capital "laid out on" or "advanced to purchase" or
"exchanged for" the means of production. In other words, Marx is talking
here about an EXCHANGE, a PURCHASE of the means of production by something
he called constant capital. The exchange Marx is analyzing is a TWO-SIDED

1. On one side of the exchange is the COMMODITY purchased (in this case,
the means of production).

2. On the other side of the exchange is the MEANS OF PURCHASE, whatever
is used to purchase the means of production.

I think it is clear that Marx defined CONSTANT CAPITAL as being on the
second side of this exchange transaction, on the MEANS OF PURCHASE side,
as that which is used to purchase the means of production. This means of
purchase of course can only be MONEY. Therefore, I conclude that Marx
defined constant capital in terms of money, as the money used to purchase
the means of production in the first phase of the circulation of
capital. I don't see how any other conclusion is possible.

Marx didn't call capitalists "money-bags" for nothing. He called them
"money-bags" because they own money and they use this money to purchase
means of production (and labor-power). And they do all this in order to
"make more money" and to "transform their money into capital." Marx did
not call capitalists "labor-time-bags".

Paul's definition of constant capital - the "labor time required to
produce the means of production" - cannot be Marx's definition of constant
capital because it is NOT A MEANS OF PURCHASE. The "labor time required
to produce the means of production" is not used to purchase the means of
production. Indeed, Paul's definition sounds like it refers to the
commodity side of this exchange (the means of production side) rather than
the means of purchase side. But Marx defined constant capital as a means
of purchase.

> "The value of a commodity [constant capital is not exception, P.Z.] is
> certainly determined by the quantity of labor contained in it...." [p.
> 318]

Paul, I think you are confusing here "is" and "is determined by". I would
agree that the value of a commodity IS DETERMINED BY the quantity of labor
contained in it. But that does not mean that the value of a commodity IS
the quantity of labor contained in it. Indeed it means the
opposite: that the value of a commodity CANNOT BE the quantity of labor
contained in it. If it were, then your sentence quoted would be: "The
quantity of labor contained in a commodity is determined by the quantity
of labor contained in it", which is nonsense. In order for the value of a
commodity to be determined by the quantity of labor contained in it, the
value of a commodity MUST BE SOMETHING ELSE than the quantity of labor
contained in the commodity. And that something else is: the form of
appearance of value, or the money-price of the commodity.

Paul, thanks for the discussion and I look forward to its continuation.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sat Sep 30 2000 - 00:00:04 EDT