[OPE-L:6999] Re: Re: surplus value discussion

From: Ian Hunt (Ian.Hunt@flinders.edu.au)
Date: Tue Apr 16 2002 - 01:29:07 EDT

Dear Jerry,
Sorry for the hasty reply. Yes, I did mean fashion rather than industrial
diamonds, and the issue is one of rent (which loosely could be described as
involving redistribution from customers, whatever their class).
Let me spell out my uncertainty about the 'redistribution' theory of
commercial profits (and in some respects of rent also). The image of
'redistribution' suggests viewing value and surplus value as some sort of
stuff, created at the point of production by industrial capitalists and
piped out to other claimants. However, this picture is misleading.
Merchants, of course, put finishing touches to the product by transporting
it. Marx recognises this but claims that they also effect a change of
ownership, which does not add value to the product. Now, I think exchange
does not add to the use-value of the product exchanged (unlike transport)
but it is arguable that the exchange of rights over the product is a
use-value for the purchaser of the product, so that there is a double
use-value exchanged in the exchange of the product. I am not sure what
would be best here, as I am not sure what would make best theoretical

In any case, one of the important aspects of Marx's theory of surplus value
is that profits are seen as claims or shares of the total surplus labour of
society. To see rent, finacial or commercial profit as redistributions of
surplus value is, on this minimal interpretation, just to say that these
shares enforce a different distribution of surplus value from what it would
be if we considered only competitive industrial capitalists in abstraction
from capital as a whole. I don't have any objection to this way of viewing
'redistribution', which removes the redistributive machinery and poses
'redistribution' as a counterfactual property of distribution: "if
industrial capitalists were the only claimants, distribution I would be the
result. However, for various reasons, it is profitable for industrial
capitalists not to raise their own money capital entirely, or market their
own commodities, so there will be claimants (and contributors - the extent
of this being open to debate) other than industrial capitalists on the
surplus labour of society and distribution of surplus value will be
different from I".
In the case of slavery, etc in precapitalist formations, talk of surplus
labour in monetary form (ie surplus value) makes the same point: that slave
owners claim part of social surplus labour but in money form. It would then
have to be explained that surplus value is, of course, not pumped out of
the direct producers in the same way as in capitalism, and that value only
takes a rudimentary and abstract form in precapitalist societies.

>Re Ian's [6993]:
>> I agree that the account of what happens is important. As I said in
>> response to some earlier post, which I can't remember, I am not sure
>> whether the redistribution of value theory of commerical profit is correct
>> (but equally I am not sure that it is not). Your formulations about
>> redistribution of value in various cases of buying cheap in order to sell
>> dear are therefore acceptable to me, although there are also other cases
>> where profits are appropriated (Marx calls them 'super profits') because
>> 'individual values' differ from market value. This is so in many instances
>> of profits from trade, and also in cases where one more productive
>> capitalist  will appropriate super profits (the individual rate of surplus
>> value of this capitalist will be above average).
>I agree that the subject of "super profits" (and *international value*)
>should be brought into this discussion.  More specifically, I think it
>would be desirable if we could further articulate the relationship
>between the redistribution of value and surplus value internationally
>and the appropriation of surplus profits.  As I can recall, Ernest
>Mandel in _Late Capitalism_ placed great emphasis on surplus
>profits and I think Alan F also suggested a large role for surplus
>profits in the creation of international value (in his "Links" article
>on moral depreciation, if I recall correctly.) For the most part,
>though, this seems to be a largely unexplored avenue -- which is
>quite odd when you think about it given the importance of the
>divergence of individual values from market values.
>> I agree also that in cases
>> such as sale of diamonds, the profits do not represent surplus value
>> extracted from the workers employed but from the ultimate purchasers.
>Hmmm. Because diamonds are a luxury good? Diamonds can also serve,
>of course, as an element of constant capital (I guess diamond bits would
>be classified as constant circulating rather than constant fixed capital?).
>As a commodity sold as a consumption good, though, I would have to
>say that most diamonds internationally are sold to  *working-class*
>consumers (even if the larger and most expensive diamonds are destined
>for consumption in bourgeois families.)   In the case of diamond pricing,
>we clearly have to examine how *rent*  plays a part in the redistribution
>of surplus value _and value_  to diamond mine owners. It's interesting
>to note in this connection how *advertising* by the diamond cartel has
>helped to stimulate the  consumer demand for diamonds  and thereby
>lead to increased prices for diamonds on world markets (and how the
>trade in diamonds has led to warfare in Africa and a call for an
>international boycott of diamonds -- thus advertising helps to shape
>consumer demand and consumer and political movements can help
>to re-shape that demand: the international campaign against the fur
>trade is another instance of the later movement.)
>The rest of your post covers topics just recently discussed so I will
>pass over it now.
>In solidarity, Jerry

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Philosophy Dept, School of Humanities,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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