[OPE-L:5156] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: the capital-form and the state

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Tue Mar 13 2001 - 06:25:41 EST

Re Howard's [OPE-L:5155]:

> Of course as to land, but you speak of taking
> objects to market and land is
> not an object of that sort.

Wealth does not have to be physically transported
to a market to be sold.  Undeveloped virgin land
can be bought and sold in a geographic location
very far from the location of the land itself.

> Land is the basis of social existence, but
> the monopoly of a private landowner formalized > in legal title does not
> represent social wealth.

Why doesn't it represent social wealth? Because
it wasn't created by human labor?  I think it
can represent wealth -- a point well understood
by landowners during the enclosure movement.

Relatedly,  the laying claim to wealth produced
in non-capitalist societies does not represent a
new production of wealth or value but a change
in form and ownership of wealth. This has
significance for understanding the "primitive"
or "original" accumulation of capital. You will
recall that this also had significance in terms of
the colonization of what eventually became the
US and its later geographic expansion. This land
came to be treated, in many cases, *as if*  it  was
value even before there was value creation on the

Your comment about "promises" was interesting,
especially because of the role of promises in
contract law.  And, I agree that a promise can
have a price, *assuming the state-form*, even
though it is not value.

> <snip, JL>, then what is an example of a good
> that consists of social wealth
> alone?  Certainly elements of infrastructure, such as roads, are valued,
> whether produced by unproductive labor or not.

This is, so far, our biggest disagreement: I agree
that elements of the infrastructure "are valued";
I don't agree that they represent value. I.e.
objects which can be valued are not necessarily
objects which represent value. Whether those
"objects" are produced by productive or
unproductive labor is key to determining whether
they represent value or are merely "valued".

> Finally, the unpaid labor of employees of a commercial capitalist does not
> create surplus value but enables the commercial capitalist to appropriate
> surplus value.  Nonetheless we speak of a merchant's variable capital.

Should we speak of variable capital in this
context?  Well, some proportion of the "costs
of circulation"  should be viewed as representing
variable capital.  More specifically, to the extent
that there is wage-labor required for the
"transport industry, storage and the dispersal of
goods in a distributable form", then that process
would require variable capital. Yet, that
is because these processes "should be viewed
as production processes that continue within
the process of circulation" (Vol 3, Ch. 16,
3rd paragraph, p. 379 in Penguin/Vintage ed.;
also see Volume 2, Ch. 6 on "The Costs of
Circulation"). As for commercial capital proper,
I think it is a mistake to speak of variable
capital employed by the commercial capitalist.
See the long last paragraph of Vol. 3, Ch. 16.
I think it is very clear that Marx does not
view the labor employed  in the process
of circulation as creative of surplus value. He
says this quite explicitly in that paragraph.
Even though the labor employed here by
commercial capital might benefit capital in
other ways (see end of paragraph) it can
not itself create value and it is therefore misleading
to consider the wages paid to those workers
as representing variable capital. Rather, they
represent a deduction from value for the
payment of unproductive labor.

In solidarity, Jerry

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