Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Sun Oct 16 2005 - 10:07:52 EDT

Quoting "michael a. lebowitz" <mlebowit@SFU.CA>:

>          I'm not certain about the significance 
> you attribute to 'appearance form' vs form. Yes, 
> capitalist exploitation must take the form of 
> money. Are you suggesting that this undercuts the 
> distinction between the inner structure of 
> capital and the surface phenomena that for Marx 
> are related as the invisible to the visible? 
> Recall, eg., the quotes from Vol III:
> >Surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value are… 
> >the invisible essence to be investigated, 
> >whereas the rate of profit and hence the form of 
> >surplus-value as profit are visible surface phenomena (Marx, 1981b: 134).
> >Profit is ‘the form of appearance of 
> >surplus-value, and the latter can be sifted out 
> >from the former only by analysis’ (Marx, 1981b: 
> >139).  Profit is ‘a transformed form of surplus 
> >value, a form in which its origin and the secret 
> >of its existence are veiled and obliterated.’

Mike, we should consider not only these two passages from Chapter 1 of Volume 
3, but all the textual evidence in this chapter and in the earlier drafts of 
this chapter in the Grundrisse and the Manuscript of 1861-63.  I will briefly 
review some of this textual evidence below (for further discussion, please see 
my paper “Hostile Brothers:  Marx’s Theory of the Distribution of Surplus-value 
in Volume 3 of Capital”, which is available on my website:  

We will see that these passages state that profit is “the same magnitude” as 
surplus-value and “just another name” for surplus-value and “absolutely nothing 
but surplus-value itself”.   The difference between surplus-value and profit is 
that this same magnitude (e.g. $100) is perceived in two different ways.  
Surplus-value is this same magnitude seen in relation to variable capital only, 
because according to Marx’s theory variable capital is the source of surplus-
value. Profit, on the other hand, is this same magnitude (e.g. the same $100) 
seen in relation to the total capital, constant capital as well as variable 
capital.  In other words, profit is “the same thing as surplus-value save in a 
mystified form”.  

Start with the Grundrisse.  In the Grundrisse, Marx began his brief first draft 
of what later became Chapter 1 of Volume 3 as follows:

"Capital is now posited as the unity of production and circulation and the 
surplus value it creates in a given period of time ...  In a definite period of 
time, ... capital produces a DEFINITE SURPLUS VALUE ...  A capital of a certain 
value produces in a certain period of time a CERTAIN SURPLUS VALUE. SURPLUS 
VALUE THUS MEASURED by the value of the presupposed capital …  is PROFIT ..." 
(pp. 746 47; emphasis added) 

And in the Manuscript of 1861 63, the opening paragraph of the second draft of 
Chapter 1 is as follows (this second draft of Volume 3 was published for the 
first time in German in 1982 and for the first time in English in 1991 in vol. 
33 of the new Marx-Engels Collected Works, and is very interesting):

"Considered in its totality ... the movement of capital is a unity of the 
process of production and the process of circulation.

The SURPLUS VALUE produced within a given period of circulation  ...  when 
MEASURED AGAINST THE TOTAL CAPITAL which has been advanced is called PROFIT...

Considered with respect to its material, PROFIT IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BUT 
SURPLUS VALUE ITSELF. Considered with respect to its absolute MAGNITUDE, it 
[profit] therefore does NOT DIFFER FROM THE SURPLUS VALUE produced by capital 
over a particular turnover time.  IT IS SURPLUS VALUE ITSELF, BUT CALCULATED 
DIFFERENTLY." (Marx- Engels Collected Works, Volume 33, p. 69; emphasis added)

Engels’ edited version of Chapter 1 of Volume 3 of Capital begins somewhat 
differently.  The opening paragraph states that this volume will “approach step 
by step the form in which they [the configurations of capital] appear on the 
surface of society, …i.e. in competition, and in the everyday consciousness of 
the agents of production themselves.”  (p. 117)

Then in the next paragraph, Marx reviews his formula for the value of 
commodities presented in Volume 1 and presents a simple numerical example.  The 
value of commodities is expressed by the formula C = c + v + s, and is 
illustrated by the example $600 = $400 + $100 + $100.  (I have substituted the 
$ sign for the pound sign).  We can see that these key components of the value 
of commodities, including the surplus-value component, are all expressed in 
terms of money.  The surplus-value is illustrated by $100.

Marx then goes on to define the cost price of commodities as the sum of the 
constant capital and variable capital consumed in the production of 
commodities:  i.e. k = c + v; e.g. $500 = $100 + $100.  

After a discussion of the concept of cost price (pp. 118-24), Marx then goes on 
to define PROFIT is the same way as in the earlier drafts discussed above:  
profit is the same magnitude as surplus-value (e.g. the same $100), seen in 
relation to the total capital, rather than to variable capital only:

"As this supposed derivative of the total capital advanced, the surplus value 
takes on the transformed form of PROFIT…  If we call profit p, the formula C = 
c + v + s = k + s is converted into C = k + p, or commodity value = cost price 
+ profit. 

PROFIT, as we are originally faced with it, is thus THE SAME THING AS SURPLUS 
VALUE SAVE IN A MYSTIFIED FORM, though one that necessarily arises from the 
capitalist mode of production.  Because no distinction between constant capital 
and variable capital can be recognized in the apparent formation of the cost 
price, the origin of the change in value that occurs in the course of the 
production process is shifted from the variable capital to the capital as a 
whole." (p. 127; emphasis added)

Thus we can see that s and p in these formulas are the same magnitude (e.g. 
$100) seen in two different ways.  

Marx’s original draft of Volume 3 in the Manuscript of 1864-65 (which Engels 
edited to produce the version we know) has recently been published for the 
first time in German in the new MEGA.  Unfortunately, this important manuscript 
is not included in the 50-volume English translation of the 150-volume MEGA.  I 
obtained a copy of the first few pages of Marx’s manuscript from Regina Roth 
and a student translated it for me.  

The first paragraph of Marx’s manuscript is similar to the first paragraph in 
Engels’ edited edition (although not exactly the same).  The second paragraph 
of Marx’s manuscript is similar to the opening paragraphs in the Grundrisse and 
the Manuscript of 1861-63 discussed above.  Some excerpts include:

"… in a year capital produces a certain amount of surplus-value…If we calculate 
a yearly … surplus-value in relation to the total advanced capital, which 
consists of advanced + advanced variable capital, then surplus-value is 
transformed into PROFIT…  The SURPLUS-VALUE created in one given circulation 
period measured by the advanced total capital IS CALLED PROFIT… PROFIT AND 
SURPLUS-VALUE ARE IDENTICAL…  In this first form of profit, the mass of profit 
is QUANTITATIVELY IDENTICAL with the mass of surplus-value …"  (emphasis added)

Finally, in an important letter written by Marx to Engels in 1868 (April 30), 
Marx explains to Engels what Volume 3 is all about and summarizes each of the 
seven parts.  With respect to Part 1 and the definition of profit, Marx says:

"PROFIT is for us first of all only ANOTHER NAME or another category of SURPLUS-
VALUE.  As, owing to the form of wages, the whole of labour appears to be paid 
for, the unpaid part of labour seems to necessarily to come not from labour but 
from capital, and not from the variable capital but from capital as a whole.  
In this way, surplus-value assumes the form of profit, WITHOUT ANY QUANTITATIVE 
DIFFERENTIATION between the one and the other.  This [profit] is only its 
illusionary manifestation [of surplus-value]."   (Selected Correspondence, pp. 
191-92; emphasis added)

We can see from all these passages that the meaning of the two passages from 
Chapter 1 quoted by Mike, which state that surplus-value is the “invisible 
essence” and profit is the “form of appearance” of surplus-value”, is that most 
people don’t realize that the surplus-value originates from the variable 
capital only, and think instead that this surplus-value comes from the total 
capital.  The second quotation says this explicitly.

Mike seems to suggest that surplus-value and profit are two different 
magnitudes – one which is invisible (surplus-value) and the other which is 
visible (profit).  If this were true, then Marx would be talking nonsense in 
all the other passages in which he states that profit is “the same magnitude as 
surplus-value” or “just another name” for the same magnitude.  Mike, if I have 
misinterpreted you, please correct me.  

So we can see that surplus-value and profit in Chapter 1 of Volume 3 are 
the “same magnitude” seen in two different ways.  Whether this same magnitude 
is visible or invisible is more complicated.  If we are talking about 
individual capitals, then this same magnitude that is both surplus-value and 
profit is invisible, because all that is visible for the individual capital is 
the AVERAGE PROFIT, which results from the equalization of profit rates, and 
which is in general a different magnitude from the surplus-value (and profit) 
which is produced by each individual capital.  On the other hand, for the total 
social capital, the aggregate magnitude that is both the total surplus-value 
and the total profit is visible, as the total dM in the economy as a whole.  

Mike (and others), I look forward to further discussion.


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