[OPE-L:7101] Re: surplus value discussion

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Wed May 01 2002 - 22:13:42 EDT

discussion of value and slaveryRe Rakesh's [7090]:

> I cannot follow your latest argument about exactly why it is 
only wage labor that can produce surplus value  or as you put it: 
           it is  the *specific production relations* that determine 
          whether the surplus product takes the *particular  form* 
          of surplus value. 
What is the specific production relation? And if it is the exchange 
of labor power for a wage, why is this production relation rather 
than an exchange relation?  <


Social relations of production, within class societies, express  
*class relations*.    

Specific production relations are thus expressions of  specific class  

Specific production relations may require specific exchange relations.
Under capitalism production and exchange relations are necessarily
tied to each other: this is a consequence of  how capital represents 
a unity of the processes of  capitalist production and circulation. 

Let us then consider two distinct class relations, two specific social
relations of production:

Relation One:  plantation owner confronts slaves in production

Relation Two: capitalist confronts wage-laborers in production 

There are similarities  -- just as there are similarities in all modes 
of production: in both relations,  there is a ruling class which lives
off of the labor of a producing class; there is thus class exploitation
and surplus product production.  These relations can also have
the common characteristic of commodity (note small "c")
production when commodities are also produced in Relation One.

Yet, to concentrate _only_ on the characteristic of commodity
(understood here to mean simply a product that was produced 
with the intention of sale)  production when discussing *surplus 
value* is to ignore the   _specific_   production relations  under 
which surplus value is created. 

Let us consider how these two sets of social relations express
two *fundamentally* different forms of production relations *even 
where and when the producers in both relations are engaged in 
commodity production* --

Within *all* class societies, the exploiting class has certain common
goals within the production process:

a) where possible, increase the *intensity of labor*  As we have 
discussed previously the specific *way* in which the intensity of 
labor can be increased is fundamentally and essentially different
under a plantation owner/slave relation than under a capitalist/
wage-labor relation;

b) where possible,  increase the *working day* and/or *workweek*.
Under the plantation owner/slave system, direct control is required;
under the capitalist/wage-labor system, indirect control is 
built in.  Fear of  physical punishment vs. fear of joining the 
IRA  represent very different forms of compulsion (and make 
possible different forms of resistance);

c) where desirable, introduce *technical change* in means of
production.   The *benefits* of  technical change for the
exploiting class vary depending on which class they confront in 
the labor process.  E.g. technical change where there is wage-
labor is not only used to expel workers from the production 
process but is also utilized to decrease the bargaining power
of workers and drive down wages and benefits ... and increase 
the intensity of labor, etc..  This is very different for *why* a
plantation owner might under certain circumstances increase
technical change in means of production on the plantation.

d) where possible, drive down the customary *standard of 
subsistence* (expressed in  quantity and quality of means of 
subsistence) for the producing class.  Where there is a 
plantation owner/slave  relation,  this is often possible simply by 
-- through direct  means -- decreasing the food, etc. consumed 
by slaves.  Of course, even the slave owner knows that there are
*natural limits* to this process (since slaves need a minimum
amount of food, etc. to remain as productive in terms of 
output/slave/period of time.)   The capitalist, however, can not
decrease the means of subsistence that wage-earners have
in the same way  *and*  [in addition to natural limits] there are  
*social limits* that  confront capitalists in terms of resistance of 
workers to such efforts. While it is true that slaves can resist, the 
*form of resistance* and the consequences of resistance vary very
much in the two types of relations. 

a-d are not minor differences. They are specific expressions of
fundamentally and  essentially different forms of production 
relations.  It is for this reason -- that surplus value is fundamentally
an expression of a  *specific* social relation -- that makes it specific
to the  particular class relation of capitalist/wage-laborer.  

It is,  of course, true that commodities and Commodities are 
*superficially*  the same in terms of physical characteristics and 
generally price, but they are *essentially* different for the above reasons.  
However, If one  wants to  view surplus value merely as "stuff" in a
physicalist sense then one will have  a different perspective.  If that
be the case, as surplus approach theorists suggest, then value
theory is unnecessary and  "redundant".

In solidarity, Jerry

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