[OPE-L:5566] What is the effect of changes in Dept IIb/III?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Mon May 14 2001 - 08:40:23 EDT

Re Allin's [5563] and Paul C's [5561]:

Previously I asked:

> "Suppose that output/working hour increases in > that part of Department
II  that produces
> commodities that are solely consumed by
> capitalists while output/working hour remains
> constant in  Dept I and the rest of  Dept II.  Is
> that an example of relative surplus value where
> the labor content of the workers' means of
> subsistence can remain unchanged?"

Allin replied:

> It's not an example of relative surplus value.
> An increase  in productivity of labour in
> Department III (that's what you mean?)

[it's a division of Dept II: IIb. I guess we could
call it Dept III if we want -- although some might
object. I'm not exactly clear what some think is
riding on whether we call it Dept IIb or Dept.
III. Any takers? When (or is?) a Dept III useful
in helping to clarify the issues in terms of
production departments?]

> gives the capitalists a larger volume of use
> values to enjoy with  their profits, but it doesn't
> augment surplus value.

Yes, it gives the capitalist a greater volume of
use values that they can enjoy for consumption
purposes. But, it is not use-value alone. Rather,
luxury goods take the commodity form and have
value which is expressed through the value-form.

This increase in the productivity of labor (as
measured by an increase in output per working
hour) in Dept IIb (call it Dept III if you like)
means that the necessary labor time for productive
workers in this (sub-) department has decreased
and surplus labor time has increased. Are
you asserting that the workers employed by
capital in this (sub-) department aren't productive
of surplus value?  (this reminds me of our recent
discussion on armaments and Paul C's
unconventional and largely unanswered take on
that question.)

[btw, the question re whether the above example
constitutes an increase in relative surplus value
also relates to the recent thread on whether
increases in the intensity of labor should be
understood as a form of increasing relative
surplus value.]

So, I would say (contra Paul C's claim in 5561)
that the effect of the above is that the mass of
surplus value *has* increased. What effect this
will have on the accumulation of capital is
another question. Clearly, if  capitalists are
individually consuming a larger proportion of the
total surplus value then that will mean that the
quantity of surplus value that is available for
productive investment in c + v will be less than
it otherwise would have been.  Yet, if the demand
for luxury goods goes up, then Dept IIb
capitalists can be expected to increase luxury good
production and thereby their demand for labor
power and means of production has increased.
So, it would seem that rather than there being a
decrease in productive investment in this case,
there is only a shift in terms of the composition
and quantity of commodities being produced.

Note that in this case, there is no reason to expect
that the labor content of the workers' means of
subsistence will change. Rather, there has been
a change in the labor content of the capitalists'
'means of subsistence'.

In solidarity, Jerry

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