[OPE-L:5573] Re: What is the effect of changes in Dept IIb/III?

From: John Ernst (ernst@pipeline.com)
Date: Mon May 14 2001 - 14:43:27 EDT

>From Allin's OPE-L 5572 

Jerry writes that an increase in labour productivity in the production
of goods destined exclusively for capitalist consumption...

> 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?

My comment:

Jerry,  it seems to me that necessary labor time would not change
due to an increase of productivity in the luxury goods sector if 
one assumes that all processes are equally profitable prior to
the change in productivity in that sector.  However, as the 
change occurs, the luxury goods producer would earn a higher 
rate of return and the workers would be creating more social 
value than before. 

If the higher rate of return induces capital to move to the luxury
goods sector and the social value created falls such that the rate
of return in that sector becomes equal to all others, then unless
some of the movement changes the prices of workers' consumption goods
the rate of surplus value, necessary labor time and the rate of 
return will not change.  Note that Marx says that relative surplus
value is ultimately generated by changes in the values of workers'
consumption goods.  

In response to Jerry, Allin wrote:

The point Paul and I are making is that talk of necessary and surplus
labour at the level of particular capitalist enterprises is just a
heuristic device.  These concepts are properly defined at the social
level.  Workers producing nothing but luxury good for capitalists are
performing no necessary labour: it's _all_ surplus.  So their becoming
more productive does not raise the rate of surplus value.  The same
amount of surplus labour is performed and the same surplus value
produced, only now it's embodied in a larger mass of use-values.
Ricardo was very clear on this (using his own terminology, of course).

My comment:  I think you should say that when you refer to the social
level in this case you assume not only equilibrium conditions but also
an equilibrium in which all processes earn the same rate of return. For
example, if the increased productivity in the luxury goods sector 
translates into temporarily greater profitability in that sector, firms
may shut down processes in the production of necessities that were
earning lower rates of return. They would thereby lower the necessary
labor time and hence the overall rate of return would increase.  


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