[OPE-L:7910] Re: Re: Volume 1 about the total surplus-value

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Nov 05 2002 - 07:55:28 EST

Re 7907:

Hi Fred,

Many thanks for your clarifications - and also for your interest in 
my own view. To proceed it would be useful to give the context for 
my interpretation. My own take on Vol. 3 and its relation to Vol 1 is 
set out in a couple of chs of my PhD (I'd very glady send you 
these). Regarding Vol 3, I believe my view is very similar if not 
identical to Alfredo's on the transformation and Ben Fine's on the 
TRPF (though they may well disagree with me on this). Alfredo's 
exposition in his book of the TCC, OCC, VCC is a good starting 
point for this interpretation. What I do in the PhD chs is offer a 
detailed interpretation of the first 7 chs of 'Capital', vol. 1, on value 
and surplus value, which is more or less compatible, and indeed 
attempts to illuminate, the above mentioned interpretation of 
volume 3 (but I have no idea if Alfredo or Ben F. agree with my 
interpretation or not).

> I am not sure what you mean here by the "causal process or mechanism"
> or "social process" that "establishes" the proportionality between
> surplus-value and surplus labor.  Could you please clarify and perhaps
> give an example of what you mean by such a "causal process or
> mechanism" that could "establish" the proportionality between
> surplus-value and surplus labor.  Or are you suggesting that this is
> impossible?

By 'social process' I have in mind simply the relations of 
production. Fuedal relations entail certain social tendencies and 
outcomes. Capitalist relations entail different tendencies and 
outcomes. For example, capitalism entails rapid development of 
the productive forces whereas feudalism does not. 

In my view, the task of Marx's 'Capital' is to uncover the specific 
social relations of capitalism, the tendencies and outcomes (in 
other words, the laws of motion) entailed necessarily in these 

The process of theory development very early on (first few chs of 
Vol 1) reveals that there is, on the one hand, labour time and, on 
the other hand, there is price. The two are not immediately 
identical qualitatively, even though the latter is the form of 
appearance of the former. On my interpretation, Vol. 1 estabilshes 
that the social relations specific to capitalism necessarily entail, or 
include, exploitation and accumulation. However, Vol 1 by no 
means establishes proportionality between the respective 
immanent and external measures of value (and surplus value), 
neither in aggregate nor as regards individual values. That is, 
proportionality between surplus labour time and the monetary 
measure of surplus value is not established (nor could it be since 
this requires a theory of pricing, which cannot be developed until 
Vol 3 -- this is true for both aggregate prices and individual prices, 
in my view).

So to summarise, by 'causal process' or 'mechanism' I am refering 
to the relations of production. I believe that Vol 1 has developed 
enough of a grasp of these relations in order to establish the 
existence of exploitation and accumulation in capitalism. But I do 
not believe it has established proportionality between the respective 
immanent and external measures of surplus value.

OK. Let me go on to the other aspects of your post. I wonder if this 
next aspect is the key. You wrote:

> The basic assumption of Marx's theory is that each hour of average
> social labor produces m amount of money new-value (e.g. 0.5 shillings
> per hour in many of Marx's examples).  This is where the
> proportionality comes in - Marx's basic assumption.  

Does this mean that, on your interpretation, the key to Marx's view 
is this *assumption* (or could I also call it a 'hypothesis'?) of 
proportionality between the appearance form of surplus value (its 
money measure) and its substance (surplus labour time)?  
Or more precisely, the key is the assumption you state above 
which, via the structure of givens you have clarified for me in your 
previous email, leads to proportionality between the substance and 
appearance form of surplus value. Does this mean, furthermore, 
that the way to evaluate Marx's argument, on your view, is via 
'testing' the empirical predictions (to put it crudely) that arise from 
this fundamental assumption? What I have in mind is your 
discussion with Blaug, Steedman and others in the methodology 
collection that you edited and contributed to. Is your view that all 
theories make some or other 'assumptions' which form a 'hard 
core', to use Lakatos' terminology, a hard core not directly to be 
tested but rather to be evaluated in terms of the propositions in the 
'protective belt' (to borrow again Lakatos' terminology for the sake 
of clarity)?

If so, then we do disagree on the basic level of method. But, 
recognition of this fact might be a great step forward for further 
fruitful discussion! My apologies, however, if I am way off in trying 
to grasp your view - my attempted interpretation of your view is 
certainly speculative and I look forward to finding out how close I 

> This total surplus-value that is determined in Volume 1 is then taken
> as given in Volume 3, and the magnitude of this total surplus-value
> does not change as a result of the distribution of surplus-value in
> Volume 3, as Marx stated many times.  
> Andy, how is your interpretation compatible with Marx's many
> statements on this key aspect of his logical method - that the total
> surplus-value is taken as given in Volume 3 and does not change as a
> result of the distribution of surplus-value in Volume 3?

Qualitatively, my interpretation fits exactly with these remarks. 
Quantitatively, it also fits exactly given that Marx is dealing with the 
OCC, rather than the VCC, which is a natural thing to do given 
Marx's theory that value is created in production and then gains 
appearance in exchange. At this stage, let me own up to a 
deficiency in my own knowledge: I pretty much stop after chapter 9 
of Volume 3. After this ch. I rely on secondary literature, out of 
which I prefer Fine's exposition of the TRPF. What this means is 
that I am happy and able to debate 'what Marx really meant' in Vol 
1 and up to and including ch.9 of Vol 3. But after that I'm not 
qualified! When I get the chance I'll read the rest!

> Andy, I am also not sure exactly what you are arguing about what MARX
> did in regard to these questions.
> Please clarify, which of the following are you arguing (or something
> else?):
> 1.  Marx did NOT assume proportionality between surplus-value and
> surplus labor in Volume 1.

He did assume it but only for convenience. The assumption is 
innocuous such that it can be dropped without any affect on his 
theory. What cannot be dropped is the view that there is a 
systematic relationship between labour time magnitude and price 
magnitude. Proportionality is a very simple systematic relationship 
but not the only form of systematic relationship.

> 2.  Marx did assume proportionality between surplus-value and surplus
> labor, but -
>     -  two variations:
> a.  Marx did not explain the causal process or mechanism that
> establishes this proportionality in Volume 1, but he did explain this
> causal process or mechanism after Volume 1.  (If so, then where?)
> b.  Marx did not explain the causal process or mechanism that
> establishes this proportionality at all, ever, in any volume of
> Capital.  

My view is neither a nor b. My view is that he established in Vol. 3 
that proportionality does obtain when working at the level of the 
OCC. But this means also that it does not obtain when working at 
the (more concrete) level of the VCC. It means, further, that there is 
a systematic but non-proportional relationship between labour time 
magnitude and price magnitude, at the level of the VCC.

Sorry to bore you with my own (undoubtedly idiosyncratic) view --
should you be interested I'd be more than delighted to send you my 
PhD chs. But I am anxious to see how close I am to grasping your 
own interpretation.

Many thanks indeed,


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