[OPE-L:5149] Re: Re: Re: the capital-form and the state

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Mon Mar 12 2001 - 06:03:57 EST

Re Howard's [OPE-L:5148]:

To begin with, I'm pleased to see that you took
your fist plunge.

> 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
> part like that?  The material element of wealth always appears in a
> specific social form.  So if we speak of ordinary commodity production,
> 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,
> 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
> apple as a bearer of value.

Suppose a capitalist obtains legal title to "virgin"
land and then sells the title on the marketplace
even though there has been no labour expended
on the land and all that happens in the exchange
is a change in title and rights to use the land.

When the land is sold as above, it has *exchange
value*.  Yet, despite the land taking the value-
form and coming to be treated *as if* it
represented value, it is not value.  Value is
produced by labor. Yet, the land was created
not by labor but by nature alone. Unless we want
to say that nature alone can produce value, then
we must reject that position. The alternative is
to argue, as I have done, that some goods
represent value as well as wealth (commodities)
and other goods represent social wealth alone.

To follow the value creation one needs to
introduce rent as well. Thus,  the owner of the
virgin land via exchange can lay *claim* to some
proportion of the total social value. It thus
looks like, since the land now has assumed the
value-form,  that the land has value. I would say,
rather, that there has been a *redistribution* of
value through the mechanism of rent.  Thus,
simply because an object is sold, we can not
therefore assume that it has value -- even though
in this case the land would clearly represent

> <snip, JL>If an object takes part
> in market exchange, then the labor incorporated > in it has value.

See above for a counter-example. I.e. where
an object takes part in market exchange yet
no labor has been expended.

> 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.

An object can exchange *as value* but not
actually *be* value.

> 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.

Don't agree. Labor can be useful, even necessary,
for capital when it is unproductive labor.
 This doesn't mean, therefore, that capital can be

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

Right, value is actualized (made *real*) when
sold but is not produced in circulation.

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

There is certainly a capitalist social relation
between the commercial capitalists and the
wage-earners who work for that capitalist.
What is important to remember is that the
working class is composed of those who
are unproductive of surplus value as well as
those who are productive of surplus value.
For the money allocated for wage-labour to
be considered variable capital and for it to
actually take the capital-form, the labor must
be productive of value and surplus value. If
not, then it doesn't take the capital-form.

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

I agree. That's basically how I view the role of
management in the process of production.

> . 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.

Wether ownership takes the legal form of a sole
proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation does
not alter its character as a capitalist enterprise.
State ownership is another issue ....

In solidarity, Jerry

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