Re: [OPE-L] [Jurriaan] Surplus value

From: A.B.Trigg (A.B.Trigg@OPEN.AC.UK)
Date: Wed Nov 02 2005 - 08:58:24 EST

I agree with much of what you say. At the end you say that income, expenditure and product measures do not deliver the same results necessarily; but don't they in the first two volumes of Capital - where prices equal values and reproduction is posited? How can your disequilibrium intuition come into this picture?

	-----Original Message----- 
	From: OPE-L on behalf of glevy@PRATT.EDU 
	Sent: Tue 01/11/2005 22:25 
	Subject: [OPE-L] [Jurriaan] Surplus value

	---------------------------- Original Message ------------------------
	Subject: Surplus value
	From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
	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.

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