Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Fri Apr 08 2005 - 00:40:44 EDT

At 1:08 PM +1000 4/8/05, Nicola Taylor wrote:
>Hi Ian,
>  > Nicky I cannot agree with you if the following
>>  >Marx's key insight into the social relations of capital is that
>>workers trade their
>>>  labour-power freely. i.e. the crucial distinction is not between
>>>humans, land,
>>>  donkeys etc but between living *labour* and the *labour power*
>>>purchased for wages.
>>is intended to explain why workers are uniquely the cause of surplus-value.
>Re your last sentence: In my reading of Marx the labour /
>labour-power distinction is intended to explain why "workers WHO
>cause of surplus value'.  Marx is clear that political economy
>neglected to pose this question.  IF it is agreed that Marx set out
>to analyse the relations peculiar to a unique social form of
>production (capitalism) -- rather than, say, relations that obtain
>in all forms of production -- THEN the theoretical concept "surplus
>value" is a concept that applies only in the capitalist form.

I don't see how this follows. First Marx  pointed to surplus value as
the aim of mining in the ancient world.

Second, you are implicitly defining without justification surplus
value as new value added minus money wages paid to free wage
laborers. But for Marx surplus value is defined as an increase in the
value in circulation from one period to the next, simply M' less M.
The latter definition does not make it impossible for capital
positing activity to be carried out by slaves or workers paid in the
non monetary form of scrips or provision grounds (paid in kind) or
craftsmen dominated in and through a putting out system.  You must
argue that such  workers never produced surplus value even if their
dominated activity was oriented towards the production of what were
"from the start" commodities in which new value was objectified!

At this point  you must cut yourself off from what Marx actually
wrote since he recognized that surplus value was indeed produced
through and was the aim of such laboring activity. But you know that
since you have freely admitted that you are not concerned with what
Marx wrote. More importantly, your theory must cut you off from
actual capitalist history. you have never clarified how you would go
about writing the history of capitalism with your formalist
definitions. You couldn't even follow Brenner and Wood (note
conditions of servants in husbandry), much less Braudel and
Wallerstein. You couldn't follow Brass or Banaji!

Third,  capital as a mode of production depends generally speaking on
the personal freedom of the worker. Restrictions tend to be
exceptional or evidence of disintegration and decline.

Fourth, there are two claims being conflated here. Whether the
production of surplus value depends on monetary payment to free wage
workers (clearly not) and whether the law of value systematically
regulates production and exchange only if workers in general have
personal freedom.  I fail to see an argument for either claim.

>   I would go further and say that "value" relations only obtain when
>goods are produced under captialist social relations.

What are those? And why?

>  Essential to the capitalist social relation is the labour-capital relation.


>   This relation requires

why does it require?

>  that capitalists do NOT own or PRODUCE an essential input into
>production - labour power -

In what social formation does the exploiter produce the workers'
ability to labor?

>and must, moreover convert labour-power into actual labour through a
>coercive process.

Coercing labor hardly distinguishes capitalism.

>Crucially, in the society you envisage, machines are produced by
>capitalists for the purpose of reducing costs.  By definition these
>machines are not 'self owning' in the SAME sense that labour is
>'self owning' (i.e. labour power that is NOT produced by capital for
>purposes of cost reduction).  The problem in the capital-labour
>relation lies precisely in the fact that capital CANNOT under any
>circumstances produce human labour-power

No exploiter can produce under any circusmstances the human ability
to perform labor, surplus labor.

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