[OPE-L:4647] Re: Re: Re: Questions

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Fri Dec 08 2000 - 15:08:17 EST

re Gil's 4639

>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?

Surplus value *is* M' minus M. Are you asking me about the source of 
surplus value? These aren't the same questions.

>  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?

In the case of redistribution M' is simply the same as M at the 
aggregate level.
For example in Marx's transformation tables, if we assume that M' is 
the sum of the prices of production in the modified table and M is 
the sum of prices in the original table, we see that M' - M = 0. No 
surplus value has been created by the redistribution of value in 

>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.

Is it that your understanding of science leads you to embrace a 
formulation of a basic theory of exploitation which holds under any 
variety of institutional arrangements?  Korsch argued however that 
the principle of historical specificity is the key to Marxian theory 
of scientific knowledge.

>  [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.

Marx was a logic chopper; to use my father's  English, perhaps he 
will be hoist by his own sword and impaled by his own petard.

>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?

I was trying to get at the distinction between the exchange of live 
and dead labor. The tenability of that distinction is of course 
crucial to fend off Steven K's critique.

All best, Rakesh

Yours, Rakesh

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