[OPE-L:7001] Re: surplus value discussion

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Tue Apr 16 2002 - 09:05:57 EDT

Re Ian's [6999]:

> 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
> sense.

Let's start out with the 'simple' case of transportation (rather than re-
transportation, described below):  the transport industry represents a
"continuation of a production process  *within* the circulation process
and *for* the circulation process" (Volume 2,  Penguin ed., p. 229)
For this reason, i.e. that transport  forms *part of the production
process* (but separate in time and space from the rest of the production
process),  that wage-workers in this branch of production are productive
(of surplus value.)

Now let's consider the case(s) you are referring to where the
commodity having been sold is now again placed on the market and
*re-sold* by merchants.  To the extent that merchants employ labor
to put "finishing touches to the product"  and thereby alter the commodity,
then there would be a gain in use-value,  exchange- value, and value
and the merchant capitalist might then employ workers who are
productive of surplus value.  The re-finishing of antique furniture comes
to mind -- this represents an expenditure of new living labor.   If,
however, the *only*  thing that the merchant does is to trade already
existing commodities -- and thereby the *only* change is a change in
ownership -- then this  should be conceived of as *speculation*.  In this
speculation, surplus value is not created by merchants -- rather surplus
value (in the  form of profit) changes  hands among merchant capitalists
and other capitalists (and, possibly,  other classes as well such as
landowners: consider the speculation in  real estate markets.)   In this
case, the  C-M' movement (if there is a  gain in M -- it is in the very
nature of speculative activity that there could  be a loss in M over what
the merchant capitalist laid out to  purchase C) results in more money for
(some) merchants, but  there has been no change in the quantity of
aggregate surplus value.

Of course, it is presumed that the buyer of the commodity (re-) sold
by the merchant capitalist will think that the commodity has use-value.
In most cases, this simply means that when it was decided to re-sell
the commodity, that it still had use-value. The action of the merchant
capitalist -- if all that is done is the transferring in the title of
ownership -- does not thereby necessarily increase the use-value of
the commodity to be re-sold.   So when you say  that there is a
"double use-value"  exchanged, I'm not sure what you mean.

> In any case, one of the important aspects of Marx's theory of surplus
> is that profits are seen as claims or shares of the total surplus labour
> society.

Yet, unless we assume fully developed capitalist relations, not all of the
total surplus labor of society takes the form of profits.  Thus, the claim
that the sum of S equals the sum of profit is not necessarily the same,
even once capitalism has become the dominant mode of production, as
the claim that the sum of surplus-labor equals the sum of profit.

>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
> be if we considered only competitive industrial capitalists in abstraction
> from capital as a whole.

In the case of rent, I think we have to ask *who pays the rent?* in order
to determine whether there is a transfer of surplus value *or* a transfer
of value.  (Here I am thinking of how advertising and marketing costs can
represent a rent on working-class consumers if  many of the commodities
purchased by workers are systematically sold at market prices greatly in
excess of value.)

As for slavery (which you refer to again in the final paragraph of your
post) I won't bore others (more) by repeating myself.

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu May 02 2002 - 00:00:09 EDT