Re: [OPE-L] Workers' savings, a form of surplus value?

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Thu Sep 08 2005 - 07:54:56 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dave Zachariah" <>
Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2005 4:42 AM
Subject: [OPE-L] Workers' savings, a form of surplus value?

Gerald Levy wrote:
For what it's worth, I do not agree that workers' savings constitute
a part of the total surplus value.  Rather, I believe that we should view
workers' savings as constituting a portion of the total _value_.

Assuming that the wage equals the value of labour-power,  if workers
are able to save some portion of their wage then at the simplest level of
understanding it means that workers are defraying consumption expenditures
now with the intent of consuming more at a later date.  One has to recall
that the wage does not equal the subsistence requirements of workers
narrowly and physically understood. Rather the wage and the value of labour
power have a cultural and moral component which changes over time
and is different in different social formations.  This is largely a
consequence of the class struggles that have occurred over time in
different social formations which have resulted in new cultural
understandings and standards for what constitutes workers' needs.

Moreover,  given the existence of an industrial reserve army (and hence
uncertainty by workers about job security and future earnings) and the
lack of state policies that provide for retirement and future medical
expenses,  then some level of savings by workers is required to meet
their real or potential future needs.

However, perhaps others on the list believe that workers' savings
constitute a portion of the aggregate surplus value.  If so, then I'd like
to hear what their reasoning is.


Jerry, I follow your point that the wage does not equal the subsistence
requirements of workers
narrowly and physically understood, and that some level of savings by
workers is necessary. But I don't think it is an issue here. Perhaps the
problem of classification becomes clear if we look at the national
accounts in a closed economy with two classes (as in Kalecki's simple

(1) Profits + Savings by workers = Investment + Capitalist consumption

From historical materialism we know that the right hand side of the
equation is the monetary value of the social surplus product. What about
the left hand side? Since profits are the only surplus incomes in this
model the traditional approach is to say that only profit is the monetary
surplus value. From this it follows that

(2) total monetary surplus value < monetary value of surplus product

since total savings by workers is often > 0, which would be an odd way of
accounting. On the other hand if we want to maintain an equivalence in (2)
then (1) suggests that savings by workers must constitute a fraction of
the total monetary surplus value. This also adds to the distinction
between the formal appropriation of surplus value and the real
appropriation of surplus labor.

Best wishes,

//Dave Z

PS. Congratulations to OPE-Ls 10th anniversary. I have only studied
Marxist theory for about four years during which the OPE-L archive has
been the main source, through discussions, links and references, of
up-to-date Marxist political economy.

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