[OPE-L:4752] On "capital scarcity" (reply to Paul C.)

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@MAIL.WESLEYAN.EDU)
Date: Wed Jan 10 2001 - 18:38:57 EST

This is a continuation of the discussion with Paul C.

In response to this passage from me, 

>> I don't know what "focus" means in this context Paul, but I think a
>> necessary condition should be recognized as such, and Marx's insistence on
>> the scenario of price-value proportionality necessarily obscures this link.
>>  Which is unfortunate, because Marx himself insists on the necessity of
>> capital scarcity, as I indicated.

Paul writes

>Scarcity is unproblematised. Scarce relative to what?

Relative to capitalists' desire for current-period accumulation.  Example:
suppose for simplicity that all capitalists are industrial capitalists,
workers consume all their income, capitalists use all of their profits to
accumulate.  If, at the resulting rate of accumulation, additional
investment would yield a strictly positive expected rate of return, then
capital is scarce in the sense I've defined it.  

Continuing the following exchange,
>> >One should look instead at the physical form of the means of production.
>> Well, perhaps "in addition to", but certainly not "instead"--a necessary
>> condition is a necessary condition.  
>The necessary condition is not the scarcity of means of production
>but the existence of a class deprived of means of production.

No, both are necessary, since as Marx recognizes in Ch. 25 of Volume I,
workers may be propertyless and yet the rate of capital accumulation is so
strong as to drive the rate of surplus value to zero.  To suggest otherwise
is to say that it is *logically impossible* for the rate of accumulation to
be so high as to drive the rate of surplus value to zero.  This strikes me
as implausible.

Finally, continuing this exchange,
>> >They are such that they 
>> >1. require operation by a collective operative
>> >2. their labour content per capita represents of the order of years of work
>> >These circumstances inhibit personal private ownership of the means
>> >of production and necessitate their ownership by either rich individuals,
>> >firms or some form of collective ownership.
>> This does not impinge on the argument one way or the other.  It doesn't
>> deny that capital scarcity is a necessary condition for capitalist
>> exploitation.  Nor does it deny the contrapositive that sufficient
>> redistribution would, in Marx's understanding, eliminate the basis for
>> capitalist exploitation. For example, we could arrange for these
>> necessarily large firms to be owned collectively by workers rather than by
>> rich individual capitalists.   GS

Paul writes

>That is not redistribution. The means of production are indivisible and 
>un redistributable.

However, ownership shares in the means of production *are* both divisible
and redistributable.

> They must necessarily stand as a social power as
>opposed to the individual worker.

How, if the means of production are owned collectively by workers, say as
employee-owned firms?

> Only through control of this social
>power by the public power - the workers state - can the domination
>of the means of production as an alien force be brought under
>control. Collective ownership - workers holding shares, does not
>stop the firms being firms and thus capitals as opposed to the
>individual worker.

I wonder if we're talking about two separate things here, Paul.  I'm
talking about the conditions required for capitalist exploitation, and
you're talking about the conditions in which the means of production stand
as an "alien force", say through the process of competition.  Putting aside
for the moment John E's caveat, Marx says that worker ownership of the
means of production would make capitalist accumulation, and thus the
capitalist mode of production, impossible [p. 933 Penguin].

On this point, note Marx's insistence that surplus value cannot result if a
worker adds value directly to means of production and then sells the
result--as employee-owned firms would do, for example.  The resulting
system might still make the means of production an "alien force", but it
wouldn't be a surplus value-producing system by Marx's definition, would it?


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Wed Jan 31 2001 - 00:00:03 EST