Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

From: Diego Guerrero (diego.guerrero@CPS.UCM.ES)
Date: Tue Mar 13 2007 - 06:00:51 EDT

Hi, Riccardo,

You said:

<, btw, has
NOTHING to do with the ahistoric feature that
labour is active, and nature or means of
production etc passive (that's why I cannpot
agree with the train of thought of Diego, and of
all those who in my view are regressing to
Smith). It has to do with the specific social
relation of capital.>

When I say that labour is the only active element in production I just mean
the following:

If in social production you take out any other input completely and for
ever, for example corn, society will experience some difficulties, but
production will continue. That is, it will keep being an output: matrix A
will be modified but still A>0.

However, if you take labour out, production will stop more soon than later.
Then you will have neither input nor output at all, and A becomes = 0.

So, without labour, the ACTION in which production consists of ceases
absolutely. This happens only in the case of labour. This is why I call
labour the only active element in production.

You cannot deny this, can you?



----- Original Message -----
From: <ope-admin@RICARDO.ECN.WFU.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2007 9:46 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2007 19:03:56 +0100
From: Riccardo Bellofiore <>
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

At 10:58 -0500 10-03-2007, Pen-L Fred Moseley wrote:
>Quoting Jerry Levy <Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM>:
>>>The title of the book is Capital.  Capital is defined as "money that
>>>makes more money" i.e. M . (M + dM).  This is the main phenomenon to be
>>>explained in Marx's theory, which he highlights and emphasizes in
>>>Chapter 4 of Volume 1.
>>Hi Fred:
>> Capital is not "defined" as  "money that makes more money".  Capital
>> represents a set of  specific SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS,  some of which
>> are expressed quantitatively.
>"The value originally advanced, therefore, not only remains intact
> while in circulation, but increases its MAGNITUDE, adds to itself a
> surplus-value, or is valorised.  And this movement converts it into
> CAPITAL."  (C.I. 252; emphasis added)

Hi Fred.

Would you object, in defining capital not only
as *money in process* (and I agree), but also as
*value in process*, and as such (value AND money
in process), capital? A *process* in which
*commodities* and *moneys* are *mere* forms?
Commodities and money only in certain *specific*
social relations of production become capital.
And this is what the *process* above refers to,
IMHO. Money begetting money may come out from
mere rapacity. It becomes a systematic process
only with those social relations of production.
There is no need of a sophisticated theory to
know that M-M' because of rapacity. The point is
to understand how and why this happens

>>What Marx is trying to do in posing what seems to be a puzzle --
>>what is the source of dM? -- is to explain how this dM is an expression
>>of  SURPLUS VALUE.    Surplus value represents a SOCIAL
>>RELATION: class exploitation is QUALITATIVE but the character
>>of  the COMMODITY-FORM  means that this QUALITATIVE relation
>>comes to be expressed QUANTITATIVELY.   Thus,  value and
>>surplus value have BOTH  qualitative and quantitative dimensions.  It
>>is a a VERY serious mistake, imo, to think that the quantitative is the
>>"most important dimension" of Marx's theory because it mystifies and
>>obscures the central importance of the qualitative social relations which
>>he seeks to explain.
>I don't think that we disagree too much on this issue (maybe you do).
>The difference is more a matter of emphasis.  I certainly agree that
>Marx's theory of surplus-value proves the exploitation of workers.  But
>I emphasize that a quantitative theory is necessary in order to do this.

"Proves" does not seem to me the appropriate
term here. The real point is to show that any
new value produced comes ONLY from the
objectualisation of *living* labor in monetary
form: from the exploitation as the USE of labor
power. This requires an argument, which is this:
the capitalists have all the money, and the
commodities (means of production, means of
subsistence); without putting the workers (as
'free' individuals compelled to sell their
labour power) to work, *no* value produced,
hence no surplus value, and even no transfer of
value from constant capital. And this is not
granted ex ante, before the actual production
process, because of the *specific* nature of
labour power, a commodity whose use value is
inseparable from the seller: according to the
"right" of commoditry production, that use value
pertains to who has bought that labour power; at
the same time it is clear that the workers have
any reason to be interested in what is done of
the use value which can be extracted from the
commodity they have sold, because it is THEIR
body and minds that capitalist have to *use*
when they extract living labour. This, btw, has
NOTHING to do with the ahistoric feature that
labour is active, and nature or means of
production etc passive (that's why I cannpot
agree with the train of thought of Diego, and of
all those who in my view are regressing to
Smith). It has to do with the specific social
relation of capital. Once you have in mind this
argument, you do NOT have to *prove*
exploitation in your sense, as the fact that
surplus value refers to some notion of *surplus*
labor. Because at this point this is true as a
consequence of the founding argument relating
the new 'value added' to living labor. If all
the new value is living labour "objectualised"
in the period, of course any surplus of the
money receipt over the capital advanced CANNOT
BUT BE surplus labor.

>>>I am not saying that other questions are not important.  I am just
>>>saying that the production is the most important feature of capitalism,
>>>and therefore the most important question in Marx's theory of
>> I  strongly disagree with this formulation as well.
>> Sorry, I misspoke.  What I meant to say is that "the production OF
> SURPLUS-VALUE is the most important feature of capitalism" (consistent
> with my preceding paragraphs), not just production per se.

The production of surplus value is by definition
also production of value, and value does *not*
exist if the commodity is not sold. Probably you
mean the production of surplus value as a
*latent* magnitude.

> I also emphasize that circulation is a necessary and important part of
>capitalism.  Marx's analytical framework is the circulation of money
>capital, which begins in the sphere of circulation, with the advance of
>money capital (M) to purchase means of production and labor-power.
>This is one of the reasons that I argue that this initial money capital
>in the sphere of circulation is taken as given in Marx's theory.

Yes, as a quantitative conceptual
determinatiion, but not as the *specific*
amount, because it depends on ruling exchange
ratios, and  exchange ratios has yet to be fixed
theoretically. So nothing is said about a fixity
of the SAME magnitudes across volumes.


- since, as you know, in vol. I clearly Marx
very often refers to necessary labor as the
labor required to produce means of subsistence
(labour contained in those commodities), which
is the same as the labour bought (commanded) by
the money wage if exchange ratios are simple
prices but *not* if exchange ratios diverge
from those simple prices (e.g., prices of

- and since vol III was written before vol I

- and since Marx was again and again obsessively
rewriting his economic work (even on fundamental

- and since the vol. III we have is constructed
by Engels from the drafts by Marx

it is clear (at least to me!) that:

- there IS a logical problem to be dealt with(I
am not saying it cannot be dealt within the
Marxian labor theory of value)

- it cannot be resolved using the authority of vol. III to re-read vol. I.

I think we should start recognize that there
does not exist, because it CANNOT exist, THE
right interpretation about Marx, meaning the
definitive and final.

We are forced to go on in an uncertain terrain,
assuming our responsibility, in developing *our*
prolongation of an unfinished business.

otherwise, we will look more and more similar to
the true believers who make battles of quotes
about the Bible, or the Koran, or Keynes'
General Theory, or Mises' Human Action.


PS: if I am wrong, why Marx in the several
editions of Vol. I didn't put a very simple
footnote saying the following: the exchange
ratios of the elements of constant capital and
variable capital are not
supposed to be transformed? Instead, he wrote in
the footnotes, more or less: the exchange ratios
assumed here are simple prices, i. e. not
immediately capitalist prices; this creates a
problem, to determine prices of production,
which I'll do in vol. III.

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