[OPE-L:6910] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: value-form

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 05 2002 - 12:06:50 EST

Nicky writes in 6904

>Yes, we disagree profoundly.  For me the forms of capital (constituted as
>circulating capital through moments of exchange, production and exchange)
>do indeed describe the true essence of capitalism as a form-determined
>system.  From this disagreement, all other disagreements follow.

Well, then let's clear about what you are saying here!

(1) what are the forms of capital?
(2) why do they apparently reduce to circulating capital?
(3) as means of production (iron goods for example) and cotton cloth 
in particular were bought on the market and such purchases often 
financed by debt (which worked against a return to natural economy as 
Blackburn underlines in implicit response to Charles Post),  why were 
these 'investments' not forms of (constant and variable) capital?

>   I will
>pick up the main ones now, and elaborate them a bit: 
>>>This is so because the exchange of labour-power for wages (prior to
>>>production) is the key part of it
>>key part of what? the reference here is unclear. Moreover, why must
>>wages take the form that you specify? In the Journal of Peasant
>>Studies you will find scholars who argue that there are many hidden
>>wage forms.
>Key part of the reproduction of capital (as described in Marx's C2
>circuit), and therefore the capital-labour relation.

Marx is describing a theoretically pure capitalism. Now you are going 
on Marx's words: just because Marx only deals with this form of 
proletarian exploitation in his pure theoretical work does not mean 
that this can be the only form of exploitation consistent with the 
production of capital and surplus value.

By the way, I argued long ago that the production of relative surplus 
value does depend on free wage labor and that relative surplus value 
has to become the dominant form of surplus value as capital develops

However, the early expansion capital was often extensive in nature as 
it  depended on the production of absolute surplus value which in the 
face of the kind of labor shortages that haunted early capital was 
only made possible by the resort to formally unfree labor relations, 
in particular the slave trade and vagrancy and maximum wage laws.

The history of the slave trade in this context is described by 
Grossman; the early use of vagrancy laws to secure a formally unfree 
proletariat for the production of absolute surplus value was 
underlined long ago by Kirschheimer and Rusche in their book on 
Punishment and Social Structure.

>  Specifically, it is
>the initial exchange of labour power for wages that motivates the
>metamorphosis of money-capital into productive capital, a capital form from
>which follows the subsumption (in production) of living labour under aspect
>of time (exploitation).

You are simply not explaining why without the upfront payment of 
wages workers cannot produce capital and surplus value. You are 
asserting a necessary connection without having given a reason why it 

>>Perhaps more importantly, this exchange for wages is at best a
>>necessary but not  sufficient condition for the capital-labor
>>What are the other conditions? And why can't those other conditions
>>be sufficient?
>In his discussion of circulating capital (the first 4 chs. of C2, Marx
>identifies the 'necessary' but insufficient condition for the reproduction
>of capital as money. The condition required to make it sufficient is the
>existence of 'free' labour power available for monetary purchase (wages) in
>the first (exchange) stage of the circuit.

No this is not what Marx is arguing. As I have said in my reply to 
Gil, Marx assumes the existence of a pool of free wage labor. What he 
is arguing is that in order for capital to be valorized on this free 
wage labor island workers must alienate their labor power, rather 
than labor. Workers have to sell potential energy, not kinetic energy.

>>What are value form requirements? And why cannot they appy to the
>>owner of slaves or serfs?
>Again obvious, that is, if you temporarily allow yourself to accept that
>the presupposition of Marx's system is capitalism (and that the conditions
>that he sets down for the existence and reproduction of capital are money
>and wage labour).  As for the slaves and the serfs, I read Marx's own
>statements on method as flatly refuting any such linkage between conceptual
>and historical development.

I am not going to respond here because I just don't see how it is 
relevant to the argument. But you say:

>  He explicitly states in the Grundrisse
>'Introduction' that economic categories are valid only to the extent that
>they apply to the specific social form to be investigated, irrespective of
>their role in historical development.  Explicitly: 'It would be unfeasible
>and wrong to let the economic categories follow one another in the same
>sequence as that in which they were historically decisive.  Their sequence
>is determined, rather, by their relation to one another in modern bourgeois
>society' (p.107).  Or again: 'In the succession of the economic categories,
>as in any other historical social science, it must not be forgotten that
>their subject - here modern bourgeois society - is always what is given, in
>the head as well as in reality…' (p.106).  What matters in any scientific
>inquiry is, therefore, a demonstration of logical necessity upon which the
>validity of concepts depends.
>So, as I already said, the problem (as I see it) is to demonstrate that the
>necessary and sufficient conditions of a capitalist economy *are* money and
>wage labour, as posited by Marx.

They are surely sufficient. And to the extent that capital depends on 
the production of *relative* surplus value, there is no question that 
capital-as-a-whole depends on free wage labor without which 
continuous technical change would be practically impossible. I have 
never denied this. Banaji never denied this.

But the mass of surplus value was long increased primarily through 
the production of absolute surplus value and by the increase in the 
size of proletariat producing capital and surplus value.

But this form of surplus value production runs into limits and in the 
case of slavery came into conflict within US borders with free wage 
industrialism in which relative surplus value could be produced. But 
the abolition of slavery within the US did not halt formally unfree 
labor relations; cotton was produced through defacto slavery in 
Central America, Egypt and India, for example. Even after the 
abolition of slavery in the Caribbean formally unfree workers in the 
form of so called coolies were used to work the plantations--just 
more people you are forced to write out of the history of the 

>  Since reproduction of the whole depends
>upon complex determinations, functional demands specify the meaning of
>economic categories and of the interconnections that they describe.

This does not make sense to me.

>   To
>speak of the necessity of money and wage labour, then, is to ask what
>specific and essential roles money and wage labour play in the reproduction
>of capitalism.

Free wage labor plays an essential role in the production of 
*relative* surplus value, and the expansion of capital depends on the 
production of relative surplus value.

>  Imo, these concepts can be taken as valid only to the
>extent that they are verified (within the presentation) as necessary to the
>entire set of interconnected determinations that constitute capitalism (in
>thought) as it essentially is.

I don't understand the theoretical argument that you have made for 
necessary interconnections.

>To clarify this point, consider the hypothesis that a material form of
>commodity money (gold) is necessary to the existence and reproduction of
>capital, so that the absence of a gold standard must result in collapse of
>the monetary system, unless some surrogate can be found.  If this
>hypothesis is correct, the freeing of monetary instruments from any
>commodity connection must signal the decline of capitalism because one of
>its necessary conditions of existence has vanished.  An alternative
>hypothesis is that the concept of money is necessary, but the requirement
>for a commodity money embodiment is contingent.  If so, the reproduction
>and development of capital will continue unabated in the absence of a gold
>standard, along with a proliferation in monetary instruments.  According to
>the alternative hypothesis, what matters is the social institution of money
>per se, quite irrespective of any historically contingent or physical
>The same two possibilities arise in the case of wage labour.  Your
>possibility: that 'relations of production' are separate from 'forms of
>exploitation'.  In that case, wage labour is not necessary to the
>reproduction of capital and there are many 'forms of exploitation'

But I don't think that; AGAIN: the production of relative surplus 
value on which capital depends itself depends on free wage labor 
(though in certain conditions the production of surplus value even 
now depends on formally unfree labor). But capitalism was not born in 
its fully formed state. Nothing is.

>  (to link
>to Alfredo's 6903 - Hi Alfredo! - abstract labour is then simply social
>labour, whatever its form).  The other possibility: that the capital-labour
>relation describes a specific relationship constituted not in production
>but in circulation (and by this I stress again that I mean the whole
>circuit of industrial capital, within which the moments of production and
>exchange lie), then wage labour is logically necessary.

Free wage labor is not 'logically' necessary. Again: Marx's argument 
is that where workers are doubly free, the expansion of capital 
depends on their alienating labor power, rather than labor.

But your kind of logical derivation of practical institutions from 
the Idea of Surplus Value is just idealism, it seems to me. It is 
exactly what Marx critiqued in Hegelian dialectics!

It is just a practical truth that the expansion of capital comes to 
depend on relative surplus value and the production of relative 
surplus value is not in general possible without exploitation taking 
the form of free wage labor.
Banaji does not deny this; Grossmann did not deny this. I do not deny it.

>  Precisely because
>it is the initiating moment of the transformation of money-capital into
>productive capital, hence the fundamental determinant of what Marx calls
>the 'authentic transformation' of labour into capital (C1, pp.993-994).

No this is not what Marx says here. he says the fundamental 
determinant of the transformation of labour into capital is the 
exploitation of the proletariat in the abode of production.

>   In
>this case, the conclusion must be that exploitation arises only within the
>capital-labour relation, that abstract labour is a capitalist Value form -
>i.e private labour verified as socially useful only when commodities
>exchange for money on markets (although it is of course already there in
>'ideal' form in production), and exploitation consists of the whole of the
>working day.


>More on abstract labour and money: the standard argument for a necessary
>interconnection between labour time and money is that any measure (money)
>must always and everywhere possess something in common with what is
>measured (here the value of the commodity), and for Marx this is
>necessarily an equal amount of abstract labour.  The ideal or purely
>symbolic function of money in the circulation of capital is thus opposed to
>the necessity that money take on a material form in its function as measure
>of value.  However, Value-Form theory implies no such opposition between
>monetary functions (see the many works on this by Mike W, Chris A, and
>Geert R).  This is because the concept of value is a 'social' rather than a
>'physical' phenomenon; ultimately money is (capital) value, grounded in
>market mechanisms.
>Clearly you will not agree with me.

I don't understand the relevance of this above to our argument.

>  But as Isaak Rubin pointed out a long
>time ago it is impossible to reconcile certain points of view: especially
>those where the people in the debate use the same terms (eg circulation,
>value form, capital-labour relation, abstract labour and value) to describe
>totally different things.  Best to try to understand the differences,
>accept them and leave it at that. 
>>My reading of Marx's articles and correspondence on the American
>>Civil War do not turn up references to the Southern slave system as
>I use Marx **only** as a source of inspiration not as a bible - I'll leave
>it to others to decide whether my particular brand of VFT is compatible
>with Marx's, or not.  Frankly, what Marx thought of the Southern slave
>system isn't a question that interests me very much.

That's too bad. His journalism is quite responsible, and massively 
informed. You ask me how I have a life forwarding journalism to this 
list. How did Marx have a life writing journalistic work like this 
along with his theoretical investigations.  A lot can be learnt from 
reading it.

>>Do you think the plantations and mines of colonial Southern Africa
>>and Zimbabwe--I mean Rhodesia--were not capitalist enterprises just
>>because they were often based on formally unfree (or rather formally
>>the unfreest) labor relations?
>I'm not sure what you mean.  Rhodesia was initially the private property of
>Cecil Rhodes and his (mostly British) shareholders.  They exploited wage
>labour (peasants were forced to work in the mines by the imposition of huge
>taxes on head of cattle).

It was hardly through the wage alone that most working families were 
or could have been reproduced! So by your definition these wage 
workers were not the proletariat.

  In fact those who could fully reproduce themselves fully through 
wages were whites who even if formally perfectly free wage 
workers--and thus the real proletariat in your overformal sense even 
if they were supervisors with whips in hand--reactionary supporters 
on the whole of white domination and murderous colonial rule.

>   On the other hand, colonists in some parts of
>Southern Africa (especially Mozambique and Angola) did use slave labour
>extensively.  Was this capitalism?  Does it express a capital-labour
>relation?  Was the labour of these people abstract labour?

Yes, this slave labor produced commodities that was exchanged for 
money which allowed for the payment of debt, the acquistion of other 
commodities, and the formation of hoards.


>  Obviously I say
>no.  If I were interested in the problem though, I might try to find some
>other term for it, and some other theory to explain it.  After all, a
>theory that is intentionally meant to explain a system conditional on money
>and wage-labour should not be expected to explain something else.   
>>How do you make sense of the history of your own homeland?
>Different question... perhaps another time.
>(ps. thanks very much for Chomsky! I am in constant awe of your ability to
>simultaneously write and have a life)
>all best Nicky
>Nicola Taylor
>Faculty of Economics
>Murdoch University
>South Street
>W.A. 6150
>Tel. 61 8 9385 1130
>email: n.taylor@stu.murdoch.edu.au

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