[OPE-L:5309] Re: Re: Re: (Response to Rakesh)

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Sun Apr 01 2001 - 19:32:09 EDT

>You argue that Marx provides no link between surplus value and the 
>commodification of labor power.

No, I do not argue that.  I argue that he provides no coherent basis for
this link as of Part 2 of Volume I of Capital, and where he does provide
that basis elsewhere his argument depends in no fundamental way on his
value analysis.

>Surplus value can be appropriated by merchants simply by manipulating 
>exchange or through the organization of the putting out system.

It's not a question of "manipulating exchange."  The issue is if the
circuit of capital at issue supports the creation and appropriation by
capitalists of new value, which presupposes that the circuit finances new
productive activity.

>Marx himself underlines the former possibility but argues that it 
>cannot be a secure basis for surplus value and does not tend to 
>increase the value in circulation.

Rather, Marx says that it is not a secure basis for surplus value *after*
the class conditions of the capitalist mode of production are in place.
And under these conditions it doesn't "tend to increase the value in
circulation" only because merchant capital is then, in his assessment,
qualitatively restricted to the subsidiary role of redistributing existing
surplus.  This does not contradict my argument.

> He asks for our patience so he can 
>lay out its new place in bourgeois society, i.e., as a derivative 
>form of the value newly added in the industrial circuit of capital. 
>Until recently, you have refused to give Marx your patience on this 

I've already answered this tiresome and pointless argument at least twice.
Once again, it's not a matter of patience, it's that Marx's argument on
this score is demonstrably invalid.  "Patience" won't make an invalid
argument become valid.  

>But then you say wage labor is not employed in the putting out system 
>by means of which not only does the merchant appropriate surplus 
>value but also increase the value in circulation.

>So how can Marx jump to the commodification of labor power from the 
>existence of surplus value in the circuit of capital or even surplus 
>value in the aggregate?

I don't know what you're asking here.

>But Marx's interest from the very first sentence of Capital vol 1 has 
>been a fully developed bourgeois society in which free wage labor 
>contracts for a wage.

This is yet another point that I've already answered several times over.
The first sentence in Volume I of Capital doesn't say anything whatsoever
about "a fully developed bourgeois society in which free wage labor
contracts for a wage."  You supplied that language, Marx didn't.  Marx
refers in passing to "the capitalist mode of production," but doesn't
define what this means.  But even if he had, it seems clear from Marx's
argument that he doesn't take the fact of wage labor as given, but rather
sees it as part of his analytical task to *derive* the analytical basis for
wage labor given the "contradictions" in the general formula of capital.
If this were not the case, his arguments at the close of ch. 5 and the
beginning of Ch. 6 would necessarily be pointless.  

>To understand how not only surplus value is appropriated but the 
>value in circulation is increased in such a society we need to grasp 
>that proletarians do not alienate their labor but labor power for 

But again, that is not the point the point at issue.  The point is that
Marx analytical derivation in Vol. I, Part 2 of exchange for commodified
labor power as the necessary basis of surplus value is logically invalid

>Marx  simply confines himself to the island on which workers do 
>indeed find themselves; 

On invalid grounds, as I've shown. We've already gone over all of these
points at least twice.  Why do you keep repeating them without advancing
the argument?

he later recognizes  the inherent instability 
>of the putting out system. And you yourself have given additional 
>explanation for its instability and general collapse.

Yes, a possible explanation rather than a conclusive one.  But this is
beside the point, which is that the value-theoretic argument he does put
forward in Vol. I is invalid.

>But Gil I think it's time we take some stock of this six year list discussion.

Not if it's going to be based on an utter caricature of my position in this
discussion and a simple rehash of all the points you've raised, and I've
already answered, before.

>We have a debate about the transformation problem in which the 
>critics refuse to use Marx's definition of surplus value and cost 
>price (on the latter see Fred and Alejandro).

I tend to doubt that, but it's not really my concern, since I think that
Marx's value-theoretic formulations are incoherent whether or not the
correct definition of surplus value or cost price is used in discussing the
transformation problem.

>we have criticisms of the falling rate of profit theory which smuggle 
>in the methodology of comparative statics without justifying its use 
>in the study of continuous technical change (as Ben Fine, Alan F and 
>Andrew K have pointed out).

Erroneously, for the most part.

>We have one critic who insists that Marx himself should have 
>recognized that dead labor itself is productive of new value.

Not really my issue.

>and we have another critic who chides Marx for not recognizing that 
>surplus value can be appropriated via long antiquated forms of 
>production in which wage labor was not used.

This misrepresents what I've said so utterly that it once again confirms
that you have no real idea what I've been arguing all this time.

>I know these seem as major, decisive criticisms to many. I submit 
>that if not for the power behind them, they would obviously be 

(Power?  What power?)

And I submit that you've trivialized these criticisms by fundamentally and
consistently misrepresenting the points at issue.  Look, if you already
know that Marx is right in all major particulars, it's not really in your
interest to participate in these discussions, since the attempts of those
in "power" (snort) to come to grips with the actual (il-)logic of Marx's
arguments can only appear as unnecessary annoyances to you.  It would be
far more edifying, I should think, for you to focus on preaching to the
already convinced.


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