[OPE-L:8124] Re: Re: Re: RE: Re: philosophy and political economy

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Wed Dec 04 2002 - 22:48:30 EST

On Wed, 4 Dec 2002, Francisco Paulo Cipolla wrote:

> Fred wrote:
> I argue that Marx took the wage-bill (i.e. variable capital) as given, and
> then assumed that the quantity of value added (VA) produced is determined
> by the product of the quantity of socially necessary labor-time (L) and
> money-value produced per hour (m); i.e.
>         VA = m L
> >From this basic assumption, the quantity of surplus-value is explained, as
> follows:
>         S = VA  - V             V is variable capital
>           = mL  - V
>           = m (L - Ln)          where Ln = V / m
> This theory explains why value added is greater than variable capital -
> because in only takes workers a part of the working day to produce
> value-added equal to variable capital.  But without the assumption that VA
> = mL, there would be no explanation.
> Hi Fred and colleagues of OPE-L,
> It is not clear to me why your  algebra allows you to conclude that "this
> explains why value added is greater than variable capital". It explains rather
> why a condition for the existence of surplus value is VA>V, or saying the same
> differently: a condition for surplus value is that L be greater than Ln. But
> none of this algebra explains why in fact it is. This difference between L and
> Ln seems to me to be a result of history. It was true in feudalism already!
> Capitalism increases the distance between L and Ln. Maybe it was just a matte
> of expression. Could you clarify further? I thank you in advance.
> Paulo

Hi Paolo, thanks for your questions.  My brief responses are:

1.  This equation (or rather Marx's theory which the equation
summarizes) identifies the determinants of surplus-value: L and Ln, which
are quantities of labor-time that exist as separate entities from
quantities of money - even though necessarily connected with quantities of
money, with the precise relation between them expressed by this
equation.  I agree that one also had to go further and explain the
determination of L and Ln, which Marx's theory also does (see #4 below).

2.  This equation also explains more than the "condition of existence" of
surplus-value.  It also explains the precise magnitude of surplus-value,
which is proportional to surplus labor, with m as the factor of

3.  I also agree (of course) that surplus labor already existed in
feudalism.  But the unique thing about capitalism is that surplus labor
APPEARS TO DISAPPEAR!  Because capitalist pay wages to workers, the
relation between capitalists appears to be one of an equal exchange, with
no surplus labor involved.  Mainstream economic theory explains profit (or
at least tries to, and fails) by factors other than surplus labor - the
marginal productivity of capital, abstinence (!), risk, etc.  The main
achievement of Marx's theory (in my view) is that it destroys the illusion
of an equal exchange between capitalists and workers and clearly
demonstrates that surplus-value is the result of surplus labor, i.e. of
the exploitation of workers.  

4.  Capitalism does indeed "increase the distance between L and Ln."  Much
more so than other mode of production.  From this inherent tendency to
increase surplus labor, Marx's theory derived in Volume 1 the following
important further conclusions: (1) inherent conflict over the length of
the working day; (2) inherent conflict over the intensity of labor, and
(3) inherent technological change.  This impressive explanatory power is
unmatched by any other theory of profit.  

Paolo (and others), any further comments?  Thanks again.


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