[OPE-L:7860] Re: 'Hic Rhodus, hic salta!'

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Oct 25 2002 - 20:03:25 EDT

Re Paul C's [7858]:

Previously, in [7851], I wrote:

> Yes, but  the labour-time that creates surplus-value is SNLT.   What
> labor constitutes SNLT can only be known when (if) the commodity
> product (C) is sold for money (M').

Paul responded:

> This strikes me as arrant subjectivism. Known to whom?
> Why is knowing it important?>
> You express the viewpoint of the individual bourgeois, who needs
> to know if his particular investment will pay.

On the contrary,  the 'subjectivist perspective' of the bourgeoisie is
best represented by the presumption that because commodities are
produced and because commodities have been sold in the past
that therefore this will continue into the future and the C will once
again be able to be converted into M'.   This viewpoint of the
bourgeoisie is torn asunder during an economic crisis and what
was assumed by capital to be a "given" (the transformation of C
into M') becomes merely an unactualized possibility -- indeed a
whim and a fantasy of the ruling class.

Once in the crisis, then the altered standpoint of capital (the realization
that the dream of endless profit has been transformed into the
nightmare of crisis) is important for more than just individual capitalists
since increased investment in C + V will only occur when (dare I say
the word?) *expectations* of profitability become more favorable.
Weren't expectations critically important for Kalecki's theory (who you
refer favorably to elsewhere) as well as Keynes's theory?  While
this isn't -- perhaps -- relevant for an analysis at the level of
abstraction of _Capital_ it surely is important when considering the
*timing and duration* of economic crises.

> Considered objectively, there will be underlying causes which will
> determine how much of each commodity will get sold. The quantity sold
> is determined by various objective conditions - for instance the
> quantity of steel sold is determined by the current production levels
> in the steel using industries. It is this requirement that determines
> how much labour - given current technical conditions - is socially
> necessary in steel production. These objective conditions determine
> the sales. The quantity sold reveals to the individual bourgeois whether
> the labour he employed was socially necessary. But if steel production
> exceeds current steel consumption then some of the labour expended on
> steel production is unnecessary. It is not the lack of sales that makes
> labour unnecessary but labour's lack of necessity that explains the
> dearth of sales.

Your choice of an example (steel)  is not very representative since it
is  an intermediate good which is purchased by other capitalists as an
input of constant capital.  When one examines cases where the final
commodity is purchased by the working-class or other classes as a
means of consumption then the only "objective" factor is the amount of
income available to those classes for consumption spending.  When
one then looks at the composition of  commodity sales, i.e. which
commodities are sold and which are not, then that is no longer as
easy to determine "objectively". For many of these other commodities
it is indeed the lack of sales "that makes labour unnecessary".  Thus
when firms have unsold inventories of commodities they cut back on
production and thereby cut back on their demand for labour-power.

I also wrote:

> Thus my point to Fred about the role of
> "givens" in Marx's theory -- if something is taken to be given now at one
> stage in the reconstruction in thought of the object (capitalism) then one
> must  be able to specify *what* later stage in the analysis it will _no
> longer be_  given (but is instead shown to be either a result or modified)
> and then one has to develop that comprehension.

To which Paul replied:

> That is true enough, and it is then later analysis of the reproduction
> schemes that dispells the subjectivist interpretation of SNLT that
> you were advancing earlier.

Please be more specific. What aspect of the analysis of the reproduction
schemes dispels what you call (erroneously -- using loaded terminology,
btw) the 'subjectivist interpretation' of SNLT?  It seems to me that it
is precisely in the analysis of the reproduction schemes that we see
the emphasis on the crucial nature of the actualization of surplus value.
Indeed, in that analysis Marx develops the *formal abstract possibility of
crisis* precisely through that recognition.

Previously Paul wrote:

> The level of abstraction used is one in which the divisions of surplus
> are ignored and one just looks at the social labour budget and works out
> how many social working hours per day are required to reproduce the
> working population at its current level of consumption.
> One is not at this stage concerned with the monetary equations operating
> at the level of the national accounts which determine the accounting
> profit of the corporate sector, the flow of funds between it and the
> banking  sector etc.

I then asked:

> At the level of analysis national accounts don't all contradictions come
> into play?  Or is that only the world market?

Paul replied:

> At the level of the national accounts, according to Kalecki the trade
> surplus acts as another determinant of profits.

This is a very good point which would be well worth our discussing.
How do trade imbalances among countries lead to a redistribution of
capitalist profit internationally?  What are the *other* international
mechanisms that also lead to a redistribution of profits internationally?
Since trade surpluses and deficits can be affected by the state, through
e.g. exchange rate policies, what is the role of nation states in this
process?  And (to ask a relevant question for today's news): isn't war
another means whereby profits can be redistributed internationally?

In solidarity, Jerry

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