[OPE-L:5625] Re: Re: Re: Marx's theory as a quantitative theory

From: nicola taylor (n.taylor@student.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Sat May 19 2001 - 01:34:22 EDT

Hi Fred,.
>For purposes of the present discussion, we don't have to decide whether
>the qualitative side or the quantitative side of Marx's theory is the most
>important.  (I will come back to this question in a subsequent post.)  
>For now, I hope we can agree that both sides of Marx's theory are
>important.  My question in recent posts has been about the quantitative
>side of Marx's theory, especially his theory of the magnitude of
>surplus-value.  I would like to know how Marx's quantitative theory of the
>magnitude of surplus-value is interpreted by the VF interpretation.

I agree that both qualitative and quantitative questions are important, but
don't believe that substantive discussions of either can be separated from
discussions of Marx's method.  After all, what is at stake is not the
presence of absence of the equation (below), but the meaning of the equation:

>Marx presented his theory of the magnitude of surplus-value in Chapter 7
>of Volume 1.  In Chapter 7, it is certainly true that, when Ls = 0 hours,
>then S = 0 shillings, and when Ls = 6 hours, then S = 3 shillings.  More
>generally, the magnitude of surplus-value is determined by the magnitude
>of surplus labor, as represented by the equation:
>	S = m Ls
>as I have discussed.  Marx's logic in this chapter certainly seems to
>assume a CAUSAL LINK between surplus labor and surplus-value.

I don't agree.  When Marx talks about the capitalist withdrawing 3
shillings more from circulation than he threw into production he writes
(1976, Penguin edn, p.302):

"This whole course of events, the transformation of money into capital,
both takes place and does not take place in the sphere of circulation.  It
takes place through the mediation of circulation because it is conditioned
by the purchase of the labour-power in the market; it does not take place
in circulation because what happens there is only an introduction to the
valorization process, which is entirely confined to the sphere of production"

Capitalist production, characterised by the capital-labour relation, takes
place through the *interplay* of value-form and the exchange relation in
the market and concerns the nexus of value and price.  The first point is
that the value of the commodity appears only as a money price, and this
price is anticipated "ideally" prior to production as "ideal money" - only
then does the captitalist purchase labour - on the market - for a money
wage.  Geert Reuten coined the term "ideal precommensuration" to describe
the anticipation of the relative value of labour-power and products before
any actual commensuration in the market.  The concept of ideal
precommensuration thus establishes the *necessary* interdependence of
production and circulation in capitalism.  Secondly, and most importantly,
precommensuration implies that the valorisation process dominates the
technical process forcing the doubling of the labour process into a
technical process (use-value production) and valorisation process
(value-production).  To the extent that productive activity is *determined*
prior to production by the imperatives of valorisation, form dominates
content and capitalist production is constituted as form-determined. It is
in this sense that causality is systemic.    

>From a VFT perspective, the embodied-labour theory of surplus value
advanced by Marx in chapter 7 gets in the way of a full development of the
insight into pre-commensuration that he himself presents in embryonic form.
 i.e. a theory of form-determination is implicit in Marx's recognition that
production and circulation processes interpenetrate, so that production
processes are premised on precommensuration - in money terms.  What after
all 'distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the
architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax'
(p.284).  A result emerges that 'already existed ideally'  Here Marx is
talking about the technical labour process; why didn't he applied the same
insight to the valorisation process?  If he had done, I submit, he would
not have had recourse to the dubious simplifying assumptions set out in ch.
7 (simple labour, average technical conditions of production, a commodity
theory of money and wage rates equivalent to the price of the subsistence

>Nicky (and others), if the VFI provides another interpretation of Marx's
>theory of the magnitude of surplus-value in Chapter 7 (or elsewhere),
>would you please summarize this alternative interpretation for me
>(us).  How does the VF interpretation explain why the magnitude of
>surplus-value is 3 shillings rather than 0, or 6, etc.?  Or how does the
>VF interpretation explain why the magnitude of surplus-value increases or

Given that, in capitalism, the allocation of labour to the production of
different commodities is coordinated with respect to the pursuit of money
denominated profits, ideal pre-commensuration relates value to labour.
Fundamentally, the decision to employ labour is mediated by the purchase of
labour power, and this depends on the price of labour power (determined by
demand and supply, union strength, state legislation; because labour power
is not produced within captitalist relations of production it has *no*
pre-existing price of production) and the price of the commodities it
produces.  Athough payment of a wage motivates the move towards
valorisation, the VFT argument that labour potentially creates value-added
cannot therefore be read to imply that value-added is proportional to
labour (aggregation at this level would anyway imply a fallacy of
composition). Labour and its products are validated only in the market;
only in circulation is it possible to determine *how much* value-added has
been created/actualised.    

In this email form, I don't think I can fully elaborate a VFT perspective -
for one thing there are considerable differences between Chris A's argument
that capital is *productive* (see his recent C&C argument) and the
Reuten/Williams view that I have drawn from above.  And I don't know enough
about *other* VFT perspectives to comment more broadly.  


Nicola Mostyn (Taylor)
Faculty of Economics
Murdoch University
Telephone: 61-8-9385 1130

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