[OPE-L:4659] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Questions

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@MAIL.WESLEYAN.EDU)
Date: Sat Dec 09 2000 - 22:14:28 EST

Rakesh, you write:

>In order to extract surplus value in a free exchange society in which 
>labor is carried out by formally free proletarians--that is, assuming 
>the basic institutional set up of a developed capitalist 
>society--entrepreneurs have to find on the market a commodity whose 
>use value posseses the peculiar property of being a source of 
>exchange value.   In Steve's K terms, the dialectic of use 
>value-exchange value allows Marx to specify that it cannot be labor 
>time but rather labor capacity which proletarians alienate on the 
>market.  This basic distinction is novel.

OK, so your reading is that Marx shows in, or at least as of, Vol. I, Ch.
6, that under the conditions you mention--free exchange  economy with
workers "free in the double sense"-- capitalists must hire labor power as a
commodity in order to appropriate surplus value.  [I agree, by the way,
that Marx's use of the distinction is novel, and would add that the
distinction is fundamentally important in capitalist political economy.]

With regard to my earlier question, your reading is that Marx defines
surplus value as the difference between M' and M in the circuit of
capital--with no other conditions other than that it is an aggregate
category, that is, descriptive of a class, not an individual--, and in
particular that in Chapter 5 he rejects the possibility that surplus value
might arise due to the mere redistribution of existing values, solely on
the basis of this definition.

For what it's worth, my impression from arguing the Ch. 5 critique here, on
PEN-L earlier, and in various conference sessions is that on these two
issues this is the standard reading among Marxists.  Would any OPE-L'rs
listening in care to comment on this assessment?  [Surely we're not just
talking to each other and possibly Julian...]   

I think I now have a pretty good sense of our basic points of departure in
interpreting Marx's arguement in V. I, part 2 of Capital.  But before I
address these, let me comment on a couple of the issues you raise below.

>   It seems that you are demanding that Marx derive from the concept 
>of surplus value itself the necessity of the universalisation of  the 
>form of wage labor.

I'm not.   I'm only asking what implications you read Marx as drawing from
"the concept of surplus value."

>  But Marx already assumes that labor is carried 
>out by formally free wage workers--he accomodates himself to this 
>fact theoretically as capitalists do practically.

I agree that he does this.  And if this were all that he did, then it
couldn't be said that he established in Ch. 6 that capitalists must buy
labor power as a commodity in order to appropriate surplus value.  But in
your remarks above I understood you to say that Marx *did* establish this.
If so, he has done something more than merely "accomodate himself to this
fact theoretically as capitalists do practically."

> But this does not 
>sidestep the question of the source of surplus value. In fact it 
>makes the question even more puzzling. And it can't be answered 
>unless we analytically separate labor power from labor as they are 
>separated in fact. So even if you prove that capitalists can extract 
>surplus value from other than formally free wage laborers--in some 
>cases and in some times and in some pockets--you will not have 
>undermined the distinction between labor power and labor.

I certainly wouldn't want to deny the fundamental distinction between labor
power and labor!  I'm on record insisting that the distinction is
fundamental to capitalist political economy.  But not, perhaps, for the
reason that Marx asserts he's established as of Ch. 6.....But that's a
matter for a later post.


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