[OPE-L] [Fwd: Re: [OPE-L] basics vs. non-basics and financial services]

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 06:35:12 EDT

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

attached mail follows:

Was your mail intended just for me or for the list,
if for the list please forward my reply to the list

Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

>  >2. It could produce absolute surplus value, so its employees
>  >    can be exploited by being forced to work beyond the time
>  >    necessary to reproduce the value of their wages, but in
>  >    this they are no different from butlers and the other feudal
>  >    retainers that Smith stigmatised as unproductive. These too
>  >    may have to work long hours.
> No, this isn't true. Expenditure on butlers (or feudal retainers) is
> not returned as value and surplus value; it is indeed expended. A
> third sector capitalist enjoys return and valorization of capital.
> The butler is unproductive; the employees of third sector capitalist
> are productive. Third sector employees are not like feudal retainers.
> This is not, as you suggest below, a juridical distinction. It is a
> basic economic one, and Marx makes it in TSV, especially in regards
> to discussion of Asiatic Mode of Production about which he was
> misinformed.

My view is that there is a different social relation between
a butler and master than that between Faberge's employees and the
Czarina, but that this difference in social relationship does
not correspond to the difference between productive and
unproductive labour. Faberge's employees were wage labourers
but they were unproductive ones. They were feudal retainers
at one remove.

Conside the Duke of Atholl here in Scotland. He maintains the
last private feudal army in Europe. Suppose he were to turn
that army into a private millitary company and purchase the
services of that company for guard duty at his castle.
By your argument this legal ledgerdomain would transform
unproductive retainers into productive workers.

I content that Smith was right and Marx is confused on this issue.
No change of legal form of employment can change unproductive
labour into productive labour.
>  >
>  >3. Why can the surplus value produced in this sector not be
>  >    accumulated?
>  >
>  >    Because of its material form.
>  >
>  >    Assume depts I, and II remain unchanged, but that working hours
>  >    increase in dept III. This increase in working hours will result
>  >    in a more valuable product in dept III, but this surplus comes
>  >    in the material form of luxuries and services which can not be
>  >    accumulated as constant capital. Its output must thus be
> unproductively
>  >    consumed by the capitalist class.
> Again this does not follow. Surplus value from third sector
> activities can obviously be capitalized; third sector businesses can
> and do themselves grow; their capitalization of their own
> appropriated surplus value need not be a drag on growth especially if
> there are no potential borrowers for surplus value in depts 1 and 2.
> Indeed if that be the case, then the growth of sector 3 is bringing
> the whole system forward.

This is to fall into the illusions of competition. The value
produced in dept III takes the form of luxuries. An increased production
of luxuries implies an increased consumption of luxuries, not an
increased accumulation of constant capital.

Individual capitalists in dept III can grow richer, but this
is only at the cost of capitalists in other sectors, since their
output does not add to the accumulable surplus value.
These deep structural relations can not be analysed at the level
of surface appearances, or the accounting of individual firms.
They can only be understood by the reproduction equations.
The reality in economics is often the diametrical opposite
of what it at first appears to be.

>  >
>  >Thus the third sector is not what you describe as "new areas for
>  >accumulation of
>  >capital and production of new surplus value".

>  >It is what it always was, a drain on the process of accumulation and
>  >thus on capitalist economic progress.
> Why is the capitalization of surplus value in the third sector a
> drain; it creates a market for the products of the first two
> divisions.

The sector itself is a drain, because its existence implies that
the capitalist class is sunk into idle parisitism consuming
rather than accumulating the surplus value. A look at the
historical national income figures for the UK in the
late 19th century illustrates this. From 1875 till 1900 the
share of surplus value accumulated never rose abouve 6%. This
coincided with a vast expansion of luxury expenditure with the
capitalist class building themselves stately homes in the country
that rivaled those of the feudal landowners, employing retinues
of servants, and spending vast amounts on luxury consumption.

Providing a market for depts I and II does not amount to
accumulation. Providing a market for those depts amounts
to dept III unproductively consuming the surplus of depts
I and II.

> Indeed you criticized me for critiquing Andrew Trigg's
> emphasis on the importance of debt financed luxury spending as the
> source of continuing accumulation. You seem to be reversing your
> position. I thought you agreed with Trigg's picture of growing
> capitalist expenditures on luxuries creating the demand to sustain
> the accumulation process as long as the financing to back it up was
> forthcoming.

Not accumulation, continued circulation. There is an
important difference.

> But of course you are correct in terms of abstract possibility. The
> use value side of the accumulation process matters greatly. The
> faster the growth rate of depts 1 and 2, the more means and wage
> goods there are to employ more labor and thus extort more surplus
> value. But if they are not willing to expand, then expansion in
> sector three prevents spiral into ever higher unemployment
> equilibrium.
> I have argued, against Foley and Laibman, that the most important
> mistake TSS makes is ignoring the use value side of accumulation, so
> I am in sympathy with part of your argument.  They disarticulate the
> rising material rate of profit from the value rate of profit as if
> the former would not have even indirect positive effects on the
> latter.

I agree that mature capitalist economies can have a tendancy to spiral
into unemployment, and that the expenditure of the state on  weapons
can prevent this. But it prevents unemployment by at the same time
preventing accumulation and shifting the economy from expanded to simple

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

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