[OPE-L:4296] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Steve on the worthlessness of labor at the source of surplus value

From: Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 03:55:13 EDT

Yes, the antagonism between labor and labor-power is undoubtedly a vital
aspect of the dialectical make-up of the commodity form...

But *not* in Volume I.

Why not? Because, I argue, Marx structured his argument to omit
consideration of the role of this antagonism from Volume I (with the
exception of his trade cycle model in Ch. 25).

The distinction between labor and labor power is a distinction which exists
with no other commodity, and it therefore points out that, in an essential
way, labor-power is both a commodity and a non-commodity. In Volume I, Marx
abstracted frmo this by assuming that the wage was equal to the value of
labor-power. But if you check Marx's writings, you find that whenever he
refers to the value of labor power, he calls it the *minimum wage*.

It is the wage which would apply if workers were reduced to the level of
commodities. Marx explicitly omitted consideration of this from Vol I, as
he explained in the Grundrisse:

“For the time being, necessary labour supposed as such; i.e. that the
worker always obtains only the minimum of wages. This supposition is
necessary, of course, so as to establish the laws of profit in so far as
they are not determined by the rise and fall of wages or by the influence
of landed property. All these fixed suppositions themselves become fluid in
the further course of development.” (Grundrisse, p. 817)

In general, Marx expects the wage to be greater than the value of
labor-power--since labor is both a commodity and a non-commodity, to be
paid simply as a commodity would involve eliminating its non-commodity

This is one additional reason why I am critical of the way TSS attempts to
dismiss the transformation problem. I see Volume III of Capital as part of
the first of the six books Marx intended to write--as well as unedited
musings not necessarily intended for publication, and certainly not
polished--and in this first book, he deliberately abstracted from issues
like the non-commodity aspects of labor, and of money, and indeed of new
technologies (which I also define as both commodities and non-commodities).
This necessarily omits many of the processes of change which TSS introduces
to invalidate the transformation problem.

>From my point of view, the labor-power/labor distinction is an explanation
of why workers in advanced capitalist nations are normally paid more than
subsistence--as well as to why there is a class struggle over the
distribution of income, control of production, etc. It is not an
explanation for the source of surplus-value (or rather it ceased to be the
primary explanation after Marx developed his use-value/exchange-value logic).


At 01:54 26/10/00 -0400, you wrote:
>Steve: I also lean towards a Hegelian reading of Marx (concurring with
>Lenin's dictum that the first chapter of Volume I can only be understood
>without first reading Hegel's LOGIC).  And certainly this implies giving
>much less weight to the economistic pursuits that see to dominate much of
>the discussion on this listserv.   But isn't the antagonism between labor
>(and labor power) still vital aspect of the dialectical make-up of the
>commodity form in chapter 1 of Volume I?   If 'value is a social relation'
>(i.e., an expropriative relation) then surely wage labor, in producing
>value, is also producing this antagonistic (dialectical) relation?
>The strength of this dialectical perspective lies in the kind of political
>Marxism it engenders (relative to the passive descriptions of many
>economistic readings).   Praxis embodies this, by acknowledging how we may
>be both structured, and structuring, of our circumstances.
>Fraternally, TT
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Paul Zarembka <zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu>
>To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
>Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2000 1:35 PM
>Subject: [OPE-L:4278] Re: Re: Re: Steve on the worthlessness of labor at the
>source of surplus value
>> On Wed, 25 Oct 2000, Steve Keen wrote:
>> > Sydney back in the early 1970s. Some fellow activists with whom I found
>> > myself in frequent disagreement were great fans of Althusser then (don't
>> > know how many still are). I got sick of hearing the word 'praxis'.
>> Allin's question would be mine.  I rarely use 'praxis'.
>> > With respect to the labor theory of value interpretation of Marx, I
>> > that it is based on incorrectly accepting the premise that labor is the
>> > only source of value, and working logically forward from there.
>> Marx never, or almost never, used "labor theory of value" but rather
>> referred to "law of value".
>> > The reason I call the premise incorrect is that, if you read Marx
>> > after 1857 that was not his initial premise but a deduction from a prior
>> > set of dialectical premises about the commodity, exchange-value and
>> > use-value. I argue that working logically from those premises reaches a
>> > conclusion which contradicts the labor theory of value.
>> My reference to Althusser was not entirely accidental.  If I am defending
>> a non-Hegelian reading of Marx, why would I be interested your discussion
>> of "dialectical premises", derivative of a Hegelian reading?
>> Paul Z.
Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
University of Western Sydney Macarthur
Building 11 Room 30,
Goldsmith Avenue, Campbelltown
PO Box 555 Campbelltown NSW 2560
s.keen@uws.edu.au 61 2 4620-3016 Fax 61 2 4626-6683
Home 02 9558-8018 Mobile 0409 716 088
Home Page: http://bus.macarthur.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/

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