Re: [OPE-L] questions on the interpretation of labour values

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Fri Mar 23 2007 - 13:22:10 EDT

Marx's 'Capital', Philosophy and Political Economy by Geoffrey Pilling 1980

The price of production and fetishism
And the matter becomes even more obscured when we consider the
average rate of profit and with it the conversion of values into cost
prices. Here,
the profit of individual capital becomes different from the
surplus-value produced by the individual capital in its particular
sphere of production, and different, moreover, not only in the way it
is expressed - i.e. rate of profit as distinct from rate of
surplus-value - but it becomes substantially different, that is, in
this context, quantitatively different. (1972, pp.482-3)
In this form of profit:
Capital more and more acquires a material form, is transformed more
and more from a relationship into a thing, but a thing which
embodies, which has absorbed, the social relationship, a thing which
has acquired a fictitious life and independent existence in
relationship to itself, a natural-supernatural entity; and in this
form of capital and profit it appears superficially as a ready-made
precondition. It is the form of its reality, or rather its real form
of existence. And it is the form in which it exists in the
consciousness and is reflected in the imagination of its
representatives, the capitalists. (1972, p. 483)
The point here is this: the formation of 'prices of production'
constitutes a more perverted and estranged form than 'value' for now,
outwardly, the price of production depends not upon labour, but upon
capital. This development of fetishism is a reflection not only of
increasing mystification but of the contradictory development of the
social relations of production. That the formation of an average rate
of profit - and the contradiction this entails between value and
price - is itself engendered by the development of the productive
forces was many times stressed by Marx. Thus:
What competition, first in a single sphere achieves, is a single
market value and market price derived from the various individual
values of commodities. And it is competition of capitals in different
spheres which first brings out the price of production equalising the
rate of profit in the different spheres. The latter process requires
a higher development of capitalist production than the previous one.
(III, p. 177; author's italics)
It is because of the growing disparity in the organic composition of
capitals between and within industries, that values are transformed
into production prices. The regulator of capital accumulation, the
establishment of an average rate of profit, demands a deviation, a
'contradiction' between price and value; this is a contradiction made
not in thought but in material reality. In this form, 'price of
production', is reflected the growing social power of capital. For
now the capitalists as a class take part in the exploitation of the
working class as a class. Expressed in this 'thing' the price of
production, is the growing antagonism between the two major classes,
an antagonism raised to the level of society as a whole:
In each sphere [it transpires that] the individual capitalist, as
well as the capitalists as a whole, take part in the exploitation of
the total working class by the totality of capital and in the degrees
of that exploitation not only out of general class sympathy, but also
for direct economic reasons. For, assuming all other conditions ...
to be given, the average rate of profit depends on the intensity of
exploitation of the sum total of labour by the sum total of capital.
(III, p. 193)
In this form (production prices) Marx notes 'capital becomes
conscious of itself as a social power in which every capitalist
participates proportionally in his share of the total social
capital'. (III, p. 191). The capitalists now become communists, as
Marx wryly observes. But at the same time the material conditions are
laid for the unity of the working class in its struggle against the
entire capitalist class.

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