[OPE-L:4689] Re: Re: SV and the F of D

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@MAIL.WESLEYAN.EDU)
Date: Tue Dec 12 2000 - 22:53:56 EST

>First, Gil, again Marx basically assumes that all labor is carried 
>out by wage workers--he accomodates himself to this theoretically as 
>entrepreneurs are confined to it practically in a developed 
>capitalist society.  We are on the labor island:  there are no 
>independent commodity producers, no merchants and no creditors--so I 
>truly don't understand your fascination with these examples.

First: you've begged a key question here.  "Practically" speaking,
"developed capitalist economies" have merchant and credit capitalists as
well as industrial capitalists.  So if I can show that, by the definition
you've affirmed, the latter can give rise to surplus value, then it passes
this rather narrow theoretical test. 

But second:  Marx makes no mention whatsoever about the particular *forms*
of the circuit of capital until Ch. 6, and that only after he has
explicitly motivated his focus on a particular circuit of capital involving
wage labor.  Indeed, in the first two pages of Ch. 5, he goes out of his
way to say that there is no evident distinction in the circuit of capital
other than the inversion of the order of exchanges M-C and C-M.  *Only*
once he has analytically justified the focus on wage labor does he make the
comment about theoretically confining himself, and if you'll read the
passage you're paraphrasing here, the context is that he's not concerned
with why or how workers come to be free in the double sense and offering
their labor power for sale.  He's definitely NOT saying that he's ruling
out alternative circuits by fiat; he argued previously, in Ch. 5, that he
ruled these alternative circuits as irrelevant by *argument*, and I've
shown the *argument* by which he does this--and justifies his theoretical
focus in Ch. 6--is invalid.

Which brings me to third point:

You're defending Marx by running his argument in reverse.  As the argument
is presented, going from Chapter 4 to 5 to 6, he defines surplus value;
claims to justify an analytical focus on price-value equivalence on the
basis of definition; then justifies his substantive focus on the purchase
and subsumption of labor power on the basis of the need to account for
surplus value given price-value equivalence.  But I've shown that following
Marx's argument in the order he gives it, at least given your reading of
his definition, his middle inference is invalid, based on a fallacy of
division.  Thus, in logical terms, one can't justify the sole focus
circuits of capital involving the purchase and subsumption of labor, which
you're now using to justify the analysis *that came before it and
putatively led to the conclusion*.   You're using an invalidly derived
*conclusion* to justify the argument that generated the conclusion.

So again I ask: reading Marx's argument in the order *he* presents it,
moving from Chapter 4 to Chapter 5 and not from Chapter 6 backwards to
chapter 5, do you agree that, given your reading of his definition of
surplus value, Marx's rejection of redistribution as a basis for surplus
value is a non sequitur based on a fallacy of division?

>  In 
>Marx's own case he is able to show that workers would have to 
>alienate labor power rather than their time in exchange if dM is to 
>result from the circuit of capital.

This begs the question at hand, because if surplus value can result from
redistribution of existing values (as in the case of merchant capital),
then we need not talk about alienating labor power in the first place.

>>Imagine an exchange economy of A's and B's in which the A's are all small
>>commodity producers--thus non-capitalists-- and the B's are all merchant
>>capitalists.  Each merchant capitalist buys commodities from some producers
>>(M-C)  and sells them to others at a profit (C-M', completing the circuit
>>of capital).  If this is done by the merchant capitalists as a class we
>>have surplus value in the sense you attribute to Marx:  M-C-M', with M'
>>greater than M, as an aggregate category descriptive of the entire class.
>>Of course, for the class of small commodity producers taken as a whole, we
>>have an aggregate circuit C-M-C', with the value content of C' less than
>>that of C, *but this is utterly irrelevant from the standpoint of Marx's
>>definition, as you have specified it.*  All we need to know is that M' > M
>>in the circuit of *capital*.
>No new value has been created in the circulation of *commodities*. We 
>begin at t0 and end at t+1. At t+1 the merchants have M' and the 
>independent commodity producers have C'.

That's right, and M' is greater than M, so by your own definition, surplus
value has been achieved.

>You misunderstand Marx's aggregate definition.

No, I asked if you had any problem with my understanding of your
characterization of surplus value as an "aggregate category", and you
voiced no concern at all.  It doesn't seem legitimate to bring up a new
issue now that it seems there's a difficulty with the definition.

> If we are going to 
>judge whether surplus value has been produced in the circulation of 
>commodities, the C and C' would have to be assigned  monetary values 
>so we can aggregate what we have have at the beginning and the end of 
>the circuit for comparative purposes.

I do not see the basis for this.  All we need to know, by the definition
you advanced, is that the capitalists as a class achieved M' > M via the
circuit of capital M-C-M'.  There was no requirement in the definition
about attaching monetary values to C and C', or aggregating C and C' in the
circuit of commodity exchange, which is not the circuit of capital.
Furthermore, it's unnecessary for the purpose of aggregation, because you
can aggregate them on the basis of their labor values "for comparative
purposes", which is of course what I've done in my example of merchant capital.

  So at t + 1 we have 
>*aggregate* M'  and at t0 we had *aggregate* M.
>Of course at t + 1, the value difference between M' and M for the 
>merchants is cancelled out by the value difference of C' minus C for 
>the independent commodity producers.  There is no surplus value in 
>the aggregate from circulation--that is, aggregate M' minus aggregate 
>M is zero:  there has only been a redistribution of value in exchange.

This does not follow from the definition you gave.  The C and C' in the
circuit of *commodity* exchange C-M-C' are not a part of the circuit of
*capital* M-C-M'.  "Surplus value", as you said, is an aggregate condition
for *capitalists*, not for mere *commodity exchangers* engaging in
*commodity exchange* C-M-C. Nowhere in Chapter 4 will you find an aggregate
condition on C-M-C as a part of the definition of surplus value
corresponding to the *separate* circuit M-C-M'. Again, you are importing an 
additional condition on the definition after the fact, which eliminates the
fallacy of division by brute force.

But that's all right.  Suppose I were to grant you this extension of the
definition, although you never mentioned it before and Marx says nothing
whatsoever about this additional condition anywhere in Chapter 4 or
thereafter.  The force of the amended definition is to *require by
definition* that surplus value correspond only to value that is *newly
created* subsequent to the initiation of a given circuit of capital.  Then
the fact that surplus value cannot be accounted for on the basis of
redistribution of existing value follows *necessarily* from the definition
of surplus value, plus the definition of value.  Since value as Marx
defines it can only arise in commodity production, and exchange is not
production, then it follows immediately that *if* surplus value is
*defined* as corresponding to newly created value, then surplus value
cannot arise solely in exchange.

And since this fact follows tautologically from the *definition* of surplus
value, this renders the entire analysis of Ch. 5 superfluous.  Would you
agree, Rakesh, that if surplus value is defined as being based on newly
created value, then one can infer from the fact that exchange is not
production that exchange cannot itself give rise to surplus value, and that
one could make this inference without reading a line of Chapter 5?

In any case, I think we've successfully identified the fundamental point of


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Dec 31 2000 - 00:00:04 EST