[OPE-L] [Jurriaan] Surplus value

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Nov 01 2005 - 17:25:25 EST

---------------------------- Original Message ------------------------
Subject: Surplus value
From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date:    Tue, November 1, 2005 4:48 pm

BTW Jerry, by suggesting that the products of human labour possess
(economic) value irrespective of whether they are traded, I am not
intending to imply that *any* surplus product in any form of society
constitutes surplus value. Surplus value describes, in my view,
specifically a *monetised* form of (part of) the surplus product, an
objectified value relation. It is in fact the "cash economy" which,
historically speaking, generates the farreaching *objectification* of

In my own writing, I have stressed - similar to Engels, Mandel & Uno -
that the first forms of surplus value emerge in commercial trade,
initially being appropriations through trade of value created by
*non-capitalist* producers. Thus, surplus-value is not a category unique
the capitalist *mode of production*, having made its appearance already
in mercantile capitalism (and surviving to some extent in basically
non-capitalist societies as well).

Personally, I neither think that surplus value, surplus labour, physical
surpluses and surplus product are identical expressions, nor that there is
only one correct way to measure surplus value - nor, for that matter, that
Marx had the last word to say about surplus value, unless you regard his
work as a holy bible. In my opinion, value theory is essential in order to
be able to theorise the *real connection* between the production and trade
of outputs, in a coherent way - a connection which is demolished in
neoclassical economics, by dividing "economic agents" into "investors and
consumers" in the marketplace, who either buy or sell, save or consume. By
contrast, "value-form theory" is only a *phenomenology* of value.

When you read through the "transformation problem" literature, you realise
how poor the understanding is, mostly, of the writers about social
accounting, and about commercial realities, they are constantly using
"stylized facts" and assume statistical categories without probing their
real content. They often simply accept the official input-output
categories based on the notion of "value added" without truly
understanding what that really means. The transformation of surplus value
into profit may be problematic, but as I noted previously, the
transformation of real profit into a component of value-added ("operating
surplus") is epistemically just as problematic. Behind the slippage from
*real* prices to *ideal* ones which conform to an economic concept
derived from double-entry bookkeeping, a value theory is still lurking.
It lurks there, precisely because there is no other way to connect the
production and circulation of commodities macroeconomically. Any
accounting system presupposes specific property relations and legal
relations defining transactors, but this fact is conveniently spirited

We should I think at least distinguish between surplus value as a
valuation of a component of the gross product, and surplus value realised
as a form of net income. Quite possibly though, the most accurate
definition of surplus value in these heady days of credit-driven
accumulation would be an *expenditure* measure - the value of the products
of human labour actually claimed by the owning class with their incomes,
in virtue of their property ownership (both capital goods and consumer
items). It is wellknown that GDP can be valued in at least three ways:
according to a product-method, an income-method, and an
expenditure-method, and there is no reason why you could not treat surplus
value in a similar way; with the proviso that surplus value *produced* as
output, surplus value *realised* as income, and *expenditure* on the
surplus product, are not necessarily identical measures at all.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Nov 03 2005 - 00:00:00 EST