Re: [OPE-L] workers' consumption and capitalists' consumption

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Sat Jun 10 2006 - 20:03:22 EDT

Hi Ajit

> How could one by simply taking food from
> the laborers and giving it to the capitalists increase
> the labor-values of goods? You are saying that the
> labor-time needed to produce a ton of corn doubles
> simply by taking half of the corn from the mouth of
> the laborers and giving it to the capitalists. Now,
> there has to be something wrong with such a statement,
> isn't it?

The direct labour-time necessary to produce 1 unit of corn does not
change. However, the vertically integrated labour-time, that is the
labour-value, does change.

The short explanation is that the replacement cost of corn, measured
in terms of labour-time, is now higher, due to the additional
requirement to produce the corn that capitalists consume in the
production period. Under capitalist conditions it is not possible to
produce any commodity without at the same time producing capitalist
consumption goods, the material form of their profit income. It is an
extra cost of production, requiring real labour to be performed. In
simple commodity production, in contrast, there is no such
requirement: hence, the replacement cost of corn is lower. Sraffian
labour-cost accounting omits to account for this extra labour required
to replace 1 unit of corn. It therefore does not distinguish between
labour-costs in simple commodity production, and labour-costs in
capitalist simple reproduction.

Maybe this image will help (it might not). I want to walk from A to B,
a distance of 1 mile. The total labour-time of that walk is 1 hour.
But now a capitalist controls my activity. I need permission to walk,
and it is only granted if I make a detour to his house to doff my cap.
The total labour-time of walking from A to B is now 1.5 hours. I still
walk at the same rate, however, so the direct labour-time per step is

The following expands on this, in the context of the numerical example
you have studied.

1 ton of corn requires 400 hours of direct labour to produce. This is
the same in both simple commodity production and capitalist
production. Under conditions of simple commodity production,
capitalists do not receive a corn-profit, and as we all agree, it
requires a total direct and indirect labour time of 500 hours to
produce 1 ton of corn from scratch.

But under capitalist conditions, capitalists receive a corn-profit of
2/5 tons of corn per ton produced. It still requires 400 hours of
direct labour to produce 1 unit of corn, but it now requires a total
direct and indirect labour time of 1000 hours to replace 1 ton of corn
from scratch.

The difference exists because under capitalist conditions it is not
possible to produce 1 ton of corn without simultaneously producing 2/5
tons of corn for the capitalists. That is the real cost that
corresponds to capitalists' nominal profit-income, which is omitted in
Sraffian labour-cost accounting.

I encourage you to keep plugging away at the numerical example,
particularly the comparison between equations 65 and 67.

Best wishes,

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