[OPE-L:7091] Comment on the definition of surplus value

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Apr 29 2002 - 19:42:37 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Gil Skillman" <gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu>
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 5:37 PM
Subject: Comment on the definition of surplus value

 Greetings from a former listmember and current archive-peruser.  I wanted
 to write in support on Ian's comment in the following passage:

 >I think you are correct in saying that the capital of slave owners is part
 of the fixed capital of the slave owners, as a herd of cattle would be part
 of the fixed capital of a farmer (as indeed US slave-owners mostly were).
 However, I think it is a bit rigid to say that the only form of
 'surplus-value' in a broad sense that can exist is a surplus of exchange
 value on variable capital. This is certainly the most dynamic form of
 surplus value, the only kind that is part of a ssytem of self-valorising
 value. Merchant capital and slave-owner's capital don't have the same
dynamic role: they depend on differentials in costs of production which
globalising capital tends to reduce. As long as we are clear about the
respective forms of 'surplus-value' it may be less confusing to accept then
alongside the capitalist variety.<

 In Capital V. I, Marx defines surplus value as the increment (M' minus M)
arising from a circuit of capital M--C--M', subject to 2 conditions:

 1) the increment must represent the "valorization" of value, that is, the
 creation of new value financed by the initial advance of capital, not
 simply a redistribution of existing value;


2) this increment of newly created value must be transferred from producers
 to non-producers (i.e., capitalists) so that, for example, a capitalist
 can't, by this stipulation, create surplus value by purchasing leather,
 adding his/her own labor to create a pair of boots, selling the result, and
 pocketing the difference.

 The idea that surplus value comes from the advance of *variable* capital is
 thus not part of Marx's *definition* of capital, but rather a theoretical
 *result* of applying this definition to the particular case of the
 capitalist mode of production, in which workers are assumed to be "free in
 the double sense," and particularly in the sense of being "free" to sell
 their own labor power.

 Thus, the valorized surplus labor of slaves would count as "surplus value"
 by Marx's definition, just as Marx understood surplus value to arise from
 the circuit of usury capital given that the latter was advanced to value
 producers, even though this circuit did not involve the purchase of labor



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