[OPE-L:5368] turnover time and surplus value

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Fri Apr 20 2001 - 08:46:28 EDT

Re Rakesh's [5367]:

Fred wrote:

> > The main point I want to emphasize and to
> > which I will return below is that surplus-value
> > is determined in Volume 1.

To which Rakesh replied:

> Again I disagree; the determinants of surplus
> value include turnover
> time, which is not included in volume I.

The question, though, is whether the magnitude
of surplus-value *in the aggregate* is altered by
turnover time.

Thus, a reduction in turnover time for an
individual capitalist could result in an increase
in the rate of profit for that firm, but would this
represent an increase in surplus-value produced
or a change in the amount of surplus-value
appropriated by that capitalist? I.e. do
reductions in turnover time lead to increase in
the magnitude of s or a redistribution of s among

Another related issue concerns the timing of
the transfer of value and creation of  value and
s.  Thus, if turnover time for the aggregate
capital was reduced, would this alter the
magnitude of s produced or only the *timing*
of when s is created?

The issue of turnover time is important for both
theoretical and empirical studies. In terms of
basic theory in Marx, there is a discussion of
turnover time in Volume 2, Ch. 16 ("The
Turnover of Variable Capital") but the chapter
(4) in Volume 3 ("The Effect of the Turnover
on the Rate of Profit") was entirely written by
Engels.  Just one of the underdeveloped topics
concerns what happens to the value of the means
of production when the turnover time is reduced
due to moral depreciation. E.g. does the moral
depreciation of  the constant fixed capital lead
only to a redistribution of s among capitalists or
can it lead to a loss in the value of  aggregate

On an empirical level, there seem to be very
significant variations in turnover time
internationally.  Webber and Rigby wrote:

"The turnover time of capital varies markedly
between the four countries (Australia, Canada,
Japan, USA / JL). Capital turned over about
13 times a year in Japan in 1990, about 6 times
a year in North America, and only about 5 times
a year in Australia. These figures provide one
measure of the remarkable success of Japan
in reengineering the production process.
Furthermore, changes in the turnover time differ
between the four countries. The number of turnovers each year has increased
by 3.03% per
annum in Japan, by 1.08% per annum in
Australia, and by 0.97 per annum in Canada
(compound). In the USA the number of turnovers
a year did not increase between 1962 and 1990:
the time series is dominated by year-to-year
variations rather than by a trend. There is evidence
that in all four countries the number of turnovers
has increased particularly rapidly since the mid-

 Australia  +0.48% (1967/68-1973/74)
                + 1.38% (1973/74-1986/87)
Canada    +0.63 (1955-1974)
                + 1.52% (1974-1986)
Japan       + 1.78% (1960-1973)
                + 4.48% (1973-1988)
USA        + 0.73 (1962-1973)
                + 0.70 (1973-1990)

These changes have offset any tendency of the
rate of profit to fall, especially since the mid-
1970s -- and most particularly in Japan"
(Michael J. Webber and David L. Rigby _The
Golden Age Illusion: Rethinking Postwar
Capitalism_,  NY, The Guilford Press, 1996,
p. 322 [see section 8.33 pp. 321-323]).

The above authors also write that "Surprisingly,
given the fact that turnover times have been so commonly ignored, the
effects of changes in the
time taken for capital to turn over are of the same
order of magnitude as changes in the rate of exploitation" (Ibid).

I wonder: how do these findings compare to the findings of other Marxian
empirical studies that examine turnover time?

Webber and Rigby note how "Recent studies
(by Coriat, Linge, Sayer / JL) of just-in-time
production systems and their reduction of set-up,
lead, and cycle times also highlight the importance
of time based competition" (Ibid).  Listmember
Tony S has been writing about that subject as
well ... and, last I heard, was preparing a book
for publication on "Lean Production".  Hey, Tony
what happened to that book?  Any thoughts on
the above issues?  How's life? (I'll cc him just to
make sure he notices this.)

In solidarity, Jerry

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