[OPE-L:5148] Re: Re: the capital-form and the state

From: howard engelskirchen (lhengels@igc.org)
Date: Mon Mar 12 2001 - 04:23:15 EST


You seem to suggest that there is wealth created by value and wealth
created by nature that is not value.  But can you separate out the material
part like that?  The material element of wealth always appears in a
specific social form.  So if we speak of ordinary commodity production, the
role played by nature is as the bearer of some portion of aggregate social
labor.  That is, it cannot be that an object could be produced by nature
alone and then merely appropriated and sold as welath, but not as value, as
you seem to suggest.  If I wander onto virgin land and pick an apple that
is a spontaneous product of nature, and I eat it, then we can speak of
wealth that is not value.  But if instead of eating the apple, I sell it,
then the apple has value and nature's contribution is that of providing the
apple as a bearer of value.

More broadly, value is the proportion in any product of the sum total of
commodity producing labor.  How do we determine what belongs to this
universe?  By acts of exchange, real or potential.  If an object takes part
in market exchange, then the labor incorporated in it has value.  If it is
the fruit of virgin land, then the labor includes the effort of getting to
the land and reaching the fruit.  If it is unfree labor, it still will
exchange as value if it participates in exchange, though I could imagine
that slave labor, for example, could be discounted the way slaves were
discounted to 3/5 of a person for the census count in the original U.S.
Constitution -- census undercounting has a venerable tradition in the U.S.
But however distorted, the law of value will tend to operate there where
there is production of use values for private exchange, whatever the social
form connecting the actual producer to the means of production.

Does unproductive labor produce wealth?  This is very tricky stuff and I
don't have answers.  But perhaps it would be worthwhile collecting some
necessary distinctions:

.	No particular use value stamps labor as productive; labor is productive
when surplus value is produced. 

.	There's a distinction to be made between the productive power of labor
and the productive power of capital -- labor power is productive when it
produces surplus value; capital is productive as the appropriation of the
powers of social labor and of the productive forces generally, e.g.
cooperation, science, etc.

.	Value is not produced in circulation, therefore the employees of a
commercial capitalist are not productive laborers.

.	Although labor is unproductive, it may still take the capital form; the
relation of a commercial capitalist to its employees is certainly a form of

.	The exercise of coercion does not produce value even though it may be a
precondition for the production of value.

.	The purchaser of a commodity, e.g. tanks, can spend revenue
unproductively even though the seller of the same commodity sells the
product of productive labor.

.	Capital gets personified as the capitalist, but the personification can
be accomplished by an individual, or by various juridical persons, for
example, a corporation, or by the state.

.	Whether labor is productive is an economic question; whether or not
juridical forms of ownership remain formal or generate changes in the forms
of productive labor depends on whether juridical forms are used to work
economic changes.  Assuming state ownership of all productive units, if
enterprises produce separately and independently for the market so that the
law of value continues to operate, labor would be productive insofar as it
produced surplus value.  State ownership which transformed the material
conditions for the reproduction of value -- for example, workers really
controlled the means of production and caused each unit of production to
cooperate with others -- then what counted as wealth would also be

In solidarity,


At 06:25 AM 3/11/01 -0500, you wrote:
>Re Rakesh's [OPE-L:5142]:
>> But let's say that some portion of the means of
>> production which
>> absorb labor and surplus labor cannot be or is best not > owned
>There are many examples of "public goods" especially
>in advanced capitalist societies.  In many cases, these
>public goods are produced by the state because they
>could not be produced efficiently by individual
>capitalists (e.g. consider fire protection).  Yet, this
>does not mean that the means of production thereby
>employed come to take the capital-form.
>> . I still think Paul B's argument is not being met
>> head on.
>To repeat once again: I'll let Paul B speak for
>himself. I do this in order to avoid possible confusion:
>I'm willing to debate Paul's position and your position
>but I'm not willing to accept that your interpretation
>of Paul's position is necessarily correct.
>As for my own position, let me recapitualate:  wealth
>is produced by labor and nature; value under
>capitalism is produced by wage-labor employed by
>capital in commodity production. What this means is
>that some proportion of the social wealth is *not value*.
>I.e. it is wealth alone but not also value.
>E.g. the products produced by bonded (unfree) labor
>represent wealth but not value;  objects can be
>produced by nature alone and then merely be
>socially appropriated and sold (wealth but not
>value); unproductive labor employed by the state
>can produce wealth but not value.  It is in this last
>category that I place the infrastructure (such as
>roads) when produced by state labor. This
>infrastructure when produced by unproductive labor
>can not take the capital-form because they do not take the value-form or
>have value -- even though they
>represent social *wealth*.  This wealth, of course,
>can benefit the capitalist class within an individual
>nation. Even though that may frequently be the case,
>it must be distinguished from the capital-form.
>Unfortunately, this distinction between value and
>wealth suggested by Marx has important consequences
>in terms of  our ability to reliably measure value since
>it would be very difficult as a practical matter to
>separate the national income accounts into the
>monetary worth of social wealth which represents value
>and the monetary worth of that proportion of the
>social wealth that is wealth alone.  In theory, I suppose
>such calculations could be done *if* governments used
>these criteria in the construction of national income
>accounts.  That is not the case, though.
>(I had an interesting experience yesterday re roads --
>actually sidewalks. I was walking down 2nd Ave. near
>Houston St when I approached a barricade stretched
>across the sidewalk. I was told that I would have to
>pay a "sidewalk tax" in order to be allowed to pass.
>The money-collectors explained to those present
>that Guiliani had just passed a law taxing sidewalks.
>I responded by saying "That's illegal" and I then
>proceeded by saying "The sidewalks belong to the
>people. This is bull ----".  One of the two guys then
>took out a camera and snapped a shot of my face!
>[with the suggestion that it would be used later in court proceedings]. Yet,
>I noticed that down the block someone with a videocamera was taping
>As I went down the block, I approached him and
>said: "What is this, Candid Camera?".  He said "Yeah" and smiled. Then I
>smiled as well. Of course, the state *can* charge for the use of public
>roads and bridges
>-- as those who pay tolls know. Yet, this does not mean that the state labor
>employed in highway or bridge construction or toll collection now becomes
>of surplus value).
>In solidarity, Jerry

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