[OPE-L:5178] the transfer and depreciation of the value of means of production

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Thu Mar 15 2001 - 17:21:20 EST

Re Steve K's [OPE-L:5177]:

Didn't we discuss the _Grundrisse_ quote, on a
long deceased list, over 5 years ago?  At the time
didn't John E and you exchange long posts full of
numerical illustrations about this? What did you
find unsatisfactory with John's answers? I recall
that someone else, whose name I will not mention,
engaged you in an extended discussion of that
quote and your perspective as well.

In any event, before you *jump to conclusions*
(like the ones that appear below), let's consider
the quote *in context*. 

The quote is:

"Here, it must be assumed (and this was not
assumed above) that the use value of the machine
is significantly greater than its value, i.e. that
its depreciation in the service of production is
not proportional to its effect in increasing production"
(_Collected Works_, Vol. 28, p. 309).

Note that he begins the sentence with "Here". Yet,
you have made no attempt to put that quote in the
context of what "Here" means. See both the 
beginning of the paragraph and the several paragraphs
beforehand in which "This example" is discussed.

Note, then, what *follows* your quote: "So,
assume, as above, a printing press: the first a
printing press operated manually and the second
a *self-acting* printing press" (Ibid) and the 
example that then follows.

In what follows (and was written beforehand), I 
see no support for your interpretation. If you think
that this section of the _Grundrisse_ supports 
your interpretation that it seems to me that you have
to show that the examples that Marx gives 
(especially the examples after the quote you
cited) lend credence to your interpretation.

(NB: as the magnitude of use-value can not be
measured as in marginalist theory by the
artificial measure of "utils",  what Marx writes in
the quote above is confusing. I.e. there *is no way
of determining* whether the "use value of the
machine is significantly greater than its value").

Perhaps what we need to do is discuss the difference
between *individual and social value*. The subject of
*moral depreciation* (of which we have had *lengthy*
discussions on this list) also comes to mind. The
*release and tying-up of capital* (discussed in
Volume 3, Ch. 6, section 2) might also be brought to
bear on the discussion.


If your question, however,  boils down to the following:
isn't the postulate that there is an increase in
use-value and value transferred to the commodity
over and above the value of the means of production
inconsistent with Marx's perspectives on the creation
of surplus-value? ... then I will offer an answer.

Marx does not claim here or elsewhere that the value
transferred to output by means of production is
greater than the *social value* of the means of 
production. He only claims that the value transferred
by the means of production is equal to *or less than*
(with moral depreciation, the latter), the value of the
means of production.

Yet, the transfer of value to output from the
means of production *can* increase. This would
not be the case if we hold fast to the assumption
that the means of production depreciate in a linear
and uniform manner, as with straight-line

With straight line depreciation if an element of
constant fixed capital depreciates fully over a five
year period (assuming no moral depreciation), then
if the value of the fixed capital is 100 the *transfer 
of value* would take the following form:

Year                            Transfer of Value
------                             ------------------------
1                                        20
2                                        20
3                                        20
4                                        20
5                                        20
Total:                                 100

Yet, there is nothing in Marx's conception of
value that requires that the transfer of value
happens in a linear way. To the extent that 
straight-line depreciation is assumed in most
of Marx's numerical examples, I think it represents
only a *simplifying assumption* which can be dropped
at a later stage of analysis -- as I suggest below.

Here's another example where the transfer of value
happens in a *non-linear* way:

Year                       Transfer of Value
------                        ------------------------
1                                  10
2                                  20
3                                  30
4                                  10
5                                  30
Total:                           100

Notice that there is an *increase* in the *annual
rate* of value transferred in Years 2 and 3, followed
by a *decrease* in the value transferred in Year 4,
followed by an *increase* in the value transferred in
Year 5.

Of course, this is a hypothetical illustration (as are
many of Marx's other examples), but there is 
*nothing* inconsistent with the 2nd example *if*
the transfer of value can be thought of as happening
unevenly (in a non-linear form) in a temporalist

Thus, it can *appear* that the value transferred by
the means of production is greater than the value of
the means of production but if one views this 
process in a temporal setting  there can 
be uneven annual transfers of value where
there are some periods when the value transferred increases even where the total value transferred 
remains equal to (or less than) the value of the 
means of production.

I think that the above can also be connected to the
subject of the release and tying-up of constant
fixed capital.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: we did have some recent discussions on this
list about the world economic crisis, including the
situation in Japan and S. Asia as well as the
prospects for a downturn in the US economy. You
were here, so you should remember. In any event,
I haven't see more insightful discussions on that
subject among Marxists on any other list.

PPS: the question of *where*  an analysis of
value as a non-linear and temporal process should
be placed is not discussed above, but I think it depends on the "level of abstraction"  of the 
particular subject under investigation.
  But what do you and other Marxists make of this statement:

  "It also has to be postulated (which was not
  done above) that the use-value of the machine significantly
  greater than its value; i.e. that its devaluation in the service
  of production is not proportional to its increasing effect on
  production."(Footnote: *Grundrisse*, op. cit., p. 383.)

  That is *precisely* my interpretation of Marx's theory of value: that the use-value of machinery is significantly greater than its exchange-value. Note that I am quoting Marx here. With that one statement, *Marx* contemplates that "means of production create new value". This contemplation is a direct *and accurate* implication of his philosophy. I have yet to have any Marxist economist provide an interpretation of this statement which is consistent with the labour theory of value.

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