[OPE-L:7274] Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Tue May 28 2002 - 15:24:38 EDT

On Tue, 28 May 2002, gerald_a_levy wrote:

> Re Fred's [7266]:
> > What is the general theory of profit that you
> > present to workers and/or students?
> I don't think I can answer that question succinctly since a "general theory
> of  profit"  has many components which are developed and explained at
> various points in the classroom.  In a sense, indeed, a "general theory of
> profit" can only be fully comprehended within the *totality* of a theory and
> critique.
> > What is meant by a
> > "qualitative" theory of surplus-value?  Surplus-value is a quantity (Marx
> > called it a "pure quantity").  Therefore, the explanation of surplus-value
> > requires a quantitive theory.
> >From my perspective, surplus value is expressive of a specific social
> relationship which comes to be expressed as quantity.  Thus, most
> fundamentally, s itself is not quantity but is a relation that because of
> the value-form  takes the necessary form of appearance of exchange value
> and money and thereby quantity and magnitude.   It is precisely one of
> the confusions of Ricardo -- highlighted by Marx --  that he understood
> value _only_ as quantitative.

Jerry, I don't see what is so difficult about a brief summary of Marx's
theory of surplus-value.  

I would say:  Profit (or surplus-value) is the excess of money (dM) that
emerges at the end of the circulation of capital.  According to Marx's
theory, the magnitude of surplus-value depends on the quantity of surplus
labor, which is the excess of the working day over necessary
labor-time.  Necessary labor-time is the time necessary for workers to
produce a value equivalent to the wages they are paid.  It is in this
sense that workers are exploited: they produce more value than they are
paid, and therefore a part of their working day produces surplus-value for
capitalists, for which workers receive no equivalent.  It follows from
this theory that there are inherent conflicts in capitalism over the
length of the working day and over the intensity of labor, and that there
is an inherent tendency toward technological change that reduces necessary

Jerry, would you agree or disagree with this brief summary?  What of
significance would you say is left out?

As I have argued before, I think an understanding of this theory of profit
by workers and students would contribute in a fundamental way to the
development of an anti-capitalist consciousness.  

However, critics argue that this theory is contradicted by the tendency of
profit rates to equalize across industries.  That is why I think a strong
response to this criticism is necessary and worthwhile.


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