Re: [OPE-L] capital in general and competition

From: Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Sat Nov 12 2005 - 12:19:48 EST

Rakesh, thanks for your latest message and sorry for my delayed response.  

I agree that many factors affect the total amount of surplus-value produced in 
a year:  most directly wages, the length of the working day, the number of 
workers employed, and the turnover rate of capital; and also indirectly all the 
other factors that affect these direct determinants of the total surplus-value.

However, my point is that, in Marx’s theory of the distribution of surplus-
value in Volume 3, Marx holds all these determinants of surplus-value constant 
and takes the total surplus-value produced as given, in order to analyze how 
the given total surplus-value is divided into individual parts – first into 
equal rates of profit across industries, and then the further division of the 
total surplus-value into commercial profit, interest, and rent.  I have written 
several papers (that you know about) that present lots of textual evidence to 
support this interpretation.  

In response to the specific factors that you mention:  

(1)  Economies in the use of constant capital do not affect the total amount of 
surplus-value; instead, these economies affect the stock of constant capital, 
the denominator in the rate of profit, and thus affect the rate of profit.  But 
the amount of surplus-value is independent of constant capital, as Marx 
emphasized many times.  

(2)  Turnover times do affect the total amount of surplus-value produced per 
year; I said this in my last post.  Marx analyzed turnover times in Volume 2 of 
Capital, at the level of abstraction of capital in general, prior to the level 
of abstraction of competition in Volume 3.

(3)  Yes, if wages rise, then surplus-value is reduced.  But for a given 
period, the amount of wages (or variable capital) is taken as given, which 
determines (in part) the total amount of surplus-value produced, which in turn 
is taken as given in the Volume 3 theory of the division of this total surplus-
value into individual parts.

Rakesh, a simple quantitative question:  how do you think Marx determined the 
general rate of profit in Part 2 of Volume 3?  Did he not determine it as the 
total surplus-value divided by the total capital invested, with the total 
surplus-value taken as given, as determined by the prior theory of the 
production of surplus-value in Volume 1 (and the circulation of capital in 
Volume 2)?

Please answer this question.  I think it would help to clarify whether or not 
we have a significant disagreement here.

Thanks again.


Quoting Rakesh Bhandari <bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU>:

> Hi Fred,
> Thanks for taking the time to explain your views which in turn
> have helped me understand Capital as I indicated in my last message.
> As you know from previous discussion,
> I think the magnitude of surplus value is discussed
> throughout Capital, not just in the first volume. 
> In vol 3 Marx deals with economies
> in the use of constant capital; this affects the 
> magnitude of surplus value, no?
> We also find that turnover time affects the mass of surplus value produced
> per annum. Also surplus value can decrease in volume 3 with the introduction
> of
> ground rent. Increasing ground rent payments can  raise the price of
> wage goods and thus decrease the rate of exploitation and the
> magnitude of surplus value. All these factors have to be considered
> as determinants of the mass of surplus value produced.
> So  the production of the mass of surplus value 
> being  depends on a lot of factors,
> some only discussed in the volumes following the first.
> Moreover,  Marx never  considers in detail the effects of rising physical
> productivity as measured in ever greater physical quantities of use
> values on the production of surplus value. These effects are
> suggested in many places but never fully developed. In my opinion--and
> here I was convinced by Paul Cockshott long ago-- 
> this is what gives the Sraffian
> model focused as it is on physical
> quantities a real strength over  much value 
> centric analysis to which I am of course
> sympathetic.
> On this list Paul Burkett has reminded us of how serious a blindness
> to use value (in an objective classical sense) is in the face of
> grave ecological problems. And of course Steve Keen has his own  version
> of this argument.
> All this said, I generally agree with what you are saying, and again
> as my last post to you showed, I take as very insightful and helpful
> your attempt to differentiate levels of abstraction.
> What do I mean by seeming mental abstractions such as capital in general
> and the average rate of profit being real things? 
> I mean that capital in general
> has its own real attributes and  its own fate which is independent of the
> lives
> of the individual capitals of which it is composed. But this is very murky,
> and I'll need time to think about it. Which will 
> include time to reread Chris Arthur's
> work.
> Comradely, Rakesh

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