[OPE-L:4639] Re: Re: Questions

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@MAIL.WESLEYAN.EDU)
Date: Thu Dec 07 2000 - 14:58:34 EST

I asked

>>1) How does Marx define surplus value? In particular, when Marx rejects 
>>the possibility of explaining surplus value on the basis of a 
>>redistribution of existing values via exchange (V. I Ch. 5, p. 265), is he 
>>illustrating an aspect of his definition of surplus value, or establishing 
>>a deductive inference on the basis of a previously given definition?

>Gil,  anxious to see what you are getting at, I shall cautiously say 
>that surplus value is inherently an aggregate category--that is, Marx 
>is trying to explain how in the system as a whole (M' minus M) or dM 
>or surplus value obtains.

Rakesh, I'd certainly accept the notion that "surplus value" is an
aggregate category.  A corollary of this understanding is that, whatever it
is, surplus value has to be attainable by the capitalist class as a whole,
and not just a subset of the class.  But again, what *is* surplus value,
according to Marx? And in particular, is his Ch. 5 rejection of the
possibility that surplus value results from the redistribution of existing
value definitional, or an inference based on a previous definition?

As for caution, I'm not trying to lay a trap by asking these questions.
It's evident that I have done a poor job up to now of conveying the problem
with Marx's argument in Vol. I, part 2 of Capital, and moreover I accept
the possibility that given your or other OPE-L'rs theoretical concerns,
there really isn't a problem in the first place.  [But if there is a
problem, I believe it's a significant one, which is to say I don't think
I'm wasting your time on logical minutiae.] In order to figure that out, I
think it would be useful to pinpoint possible differences as to what
exactly Marx has established here.

>>2)  What theoretical point does Marx establish in V. I, Chapter 6, that we
>>don't already know by the end of Ch. 5?  In particular, do we learn from
>>his analysis in Chapter 6 that capitalists as a class must purchase a
>>particular commodity called "labor power" in order to appropriate surplus
>Marx clarifies the distinction between labor power and labor. That 
>is, the worker is not selling a commodity in which past labor is 
>embodied; she sells a commodity which exists only in her living self.

I agree that the commodity called "labor power" is itself embodied in
living people.  But doesn't one's labor power, understood as a commodity,
embody the labor necessary to reproduce that labor power up to the point of
exchange? Isn't that necessarily the case in order for this commodity to
have a value in the same sense that a manufactured commodity has?  But
aside from that, can we infer from Marx's analysis in Chapter 6 that
capitalists as a class must purchase labor power as a commodity in order to
appropriate surplus value?


>Yours, Rakesh

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