[OPE-L:7728] Re: does the theory of surplus value primarily concern magnitude?

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Mon Sep 30 2002 - 15:48:53 EDT

On Mon, 30 Sep 2002, gerald_a_levy wrote:

> Re Fred's [7723]:
> > 1.  My core interpretation of Marx's theory in Volume 1 is the
> > following: in any given period of time, *a certain amount of actual
> > surplus-value is produced in the real capitalist economy as a
> > whole*.  That is the magnitude that Marx's theory of surplus-value in
> > Volume 1 is about - actual and for the economy as a whole.  That is the
> > magnitude that Marx's concept of surplus-value refers to, or in intended
> > to represent.  That is the magnitude that I have tried to estimate from
> > the NIPAs in my prior empirical work - the actual total surplus-value, or
> > dM, produced in the US economy as a whole.
> > Marx's theory of surplus-value in Volume 1 is not intended to explain the
> > surplus-value produced in individual firms, nor in individual
> > industries.  Nor, most relevant to the current discussion, is it intended
> > to explain a different hypothetical magnitude (i.e. not equal to the
> > actual surplus-value) that is instead proportional to the labor-time
> > required to produce surplus goods.  This is the specific contrast between
> > real and hypothetical magnitudes that I am emphasizing.
> > Jerry (and others), do you agree or disagree with this core proposition?
> For the most part.

Jerry, I think this is an important agreement.

> > 2.  The numbers given in Marx's examples are certainly hypothetical.  But
> > they are intended to represent or illustrate the actual magnitudes of
> > money-capital in the real capitalist economy as a whole.  Because that is
> > what Marx's theory of surplus-value in Volume 1 is about.
> Marx's theory of surplus value is about more than [just] magnitudes.
> See below.
> > 3.  Why do you consider the question of magnitudes to be a "secondary
> > question" in Marx's theory?  The primary question in Marx's theory, in my
> > view (as stated repeatedly), is the question of surplus-value, or
> > dM.  This is a quantitative question.  Indeed, Marx remarked that
> > surplus-value is "pure quantity" - i.e. all that matters about
> > surplus-value is its quantity or magnitude.  So I don't see how this can
> > be a "secondary question".  What do you think is the primary question?
> In the context of [7720] I wrote that it was a secondary question since the
> larger issue that I was discussing was the role of "hypotheticals" and
> "real, actuals" in Marx's theory.   I thought that larger question needed to
> be addressed before turning to the more specific question of the meaning
> of  M in M-C-M'.
> HOWEVER,  I strongly disagree with your perspective that the question
> of surplus value "is a quantitative question".   The theory of surplus value
> concerns the form that class exploitation takes under capitalism. THAT
> is the primary question.   While that theory encompasses  quantitative
> questions it PRIMARILY concerns QUALITATIVE social relations.

Yes, precisely, and the "form that class exploitation takes under
capitalism" is through MONEY, and the payment of MONEY WAGES.  The payment
of money wages makes it APPEAR as if all the hours of workers are paid
for, i.e. that the exchange between capitalists and workers is an EQUAL

The main purpose of Marx's theory of surplus-value is to dispel this
illusion of an equal exchange between capitalists and workers, and to
demonstrate that in fact workers produce MORE value than the money wages
they are paid, and that the difference is the capitalists'
surplus-value.  Therefore, the total relation between capitalists and
workers (including the process of production and not just the initial
exchange on the labor market) is not an equal exchange, but is instead a
relation of EXPLOITATION.  This demonstration of the reality of
exploitation behind the surface appearance of an equal exchange involves
the quantitative relation between the money value- added produced by
workers and the money wages they are paid, and therefore requires a
quantitative theory of value and surplus-value.  How could there be a
"qualitative" theory of class exploitation in capitalism without a
quantitative theory of class exploitation?  I don't see why one of these
is primary and the other secondary.  They seem to me to be the same

Jerry, I am glad that you emphasize the CLASS nature of Marx's theory of
surplus-value, which suggests that Marx's theory of surplus-value is about
the TOTAL surplus-value produced by the working class as a whole, not to
the surplus-value produced by individual groups of workers.  As you know,
I agree completely.  


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