[OPE-L:8146] Re: direct and indirect causes of surplus-value

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Dec 09 2002 - 07:04:38 EST

Re [8144]:

Hi again Fred. Earlier, in [8139], you wrote:

> my equation summarizing Marx's theory  of surplus-value
> S = m (L - Ln)
> I argue that this equation does provide an explanation of the DIRECT
> CAUSES of surplus-value - L and Ln (given m).  A given change in L or Ln
> will CAUSE a change in surplus-value, by a determined amount, determined
> by the above equation.
> I agree that this equation does not provide an explanation of the INDIRECT
> CAUSES (or ULTIMATE causes) of surplus-value - the causes or determinants
> of L and Ln.  Marx's theory has quite a lot to say about the determinants
> of L and Ln (class struggle, productivity, etc.), and you are correct that
> this equation does not capture all of this further theory of the indirect
> or ultimate causes of surplus-value.  But it does express Marx's theory of
> the direct causes of surplus-value, which is the basis of the further
>  theory of the indirect causes.

I commented then in [8140]:

> You are using the expressions "indirect causes" and "ultimate causes"
> synonymously above.  This is, I think, an unusual usage of these terms.
> What is your basis for identifying "indirect causes" of surplus value
> with  "ultimate causes" of surplus value?

In [8144], you then clarified:

> I agree that equating "indirect" cause and "ultimate" cause may be
> misleading - in the sense that the indirect causes of surplus-value that I
> have mentioned (class struggle, productivity) - which are causes of the
> direct causes of total labor (L) and necessary labor (Ln) - are themselves
> caused by still other determinants.  So I will just stick to the
> distinction between "direct" causes and "indirect" causes.

If we say that the equation S =  m (L - Ln)  provides an explanation for
the "direct causes" of surplus value, then our theory for the "direct
causes" of surplus value is the same as a transhistorical theory of the
surplus product (with the caveat that money is part of the equation).
IMO, this equation can not adequately express the 'essential' (note
change in terminology) character of surplus _value_ for precisely this
reason.  For the same reason, I believe it fails as a _measure_ for
the magnitude of surplus-value since it identifies the magnitude of surplus-
value as the same as the magnitude of surplus product in any mode of
production provided only that the surplus product comes to be
expressed by money.   It is precisely the *specific class relation*
between wage-labor and capital (and how that class relation is imbedded
in the formula M-C-M' where M is used to purchase LP and MP, i.e.
where both LP and MP take the commodity-form) that accounts for
surplus _value_.  You might say that you agree with this -- but the
point is that it doesn't show in your equation for the "direct" cause(s)
of suplus-value.

> What I am suggesting is that there is a "layering" of explanations of
> surplus-value: the first layer is the identification of L and Ln as the
> direct causes of surplus-value.  The second layer is the identification of
> the causes of L and Ln - class struggle, productivity, etc.  A third layer
> would be the identification of the causes or determinants of class
> struggle, productivity, etc.

I agree that there is a 'layering' of concepts related to surplus-value.
What I don't agree with is your division between "direct" and "indirect"
causes.  That is, I don't think "direct" and "indirect" causes can
satisfactorily grasp the character of the 'layering'  of those concepts.

Perhaps you think that the _ordering_ of the concepts in terms of the
presentation determines what is 'direct' vs. what is an 'indirect' cause.
That might work well in terms of interpreting many theories, but I don't
think it adequately captures Marx's theory.

In solidarity, Jerry

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