[OPE-L] Reclaiming Marx's "Capital": book launch talks, reviews, media coverage

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Aug 30 2007 - 12:57:45 EDT

The last comment by Claus refers to a mail by Philip Dunn, not by me. 

When Marx links surplus value to surplus labour, he is thinking of the value of the gross output of production (which he calls in the Resultate manuscript the "value of production"). But the capital flows included in gross output are, as any thinking economist (including Marx) knows, not all the capital flows there are - there are transfers (unilateral disbursements) and other property or asset transactions occurring in an economy which are, however, regarded as unrelated to the valuation of total new production in an accounting period. Profits result from these other transactions, but they are not directly attributable to current surplus labour. At best you can say that they imply a transfer of value in distribution, but in some cases even this may not be so.

I have tried to present a simple description of a Marxian concept of the value product here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_product The Marxian value product differs from official value added, and if we assume the two are more or less identical, that is only for lack of more accurate data. The differences are not only conceptual, but also involve a quite different calculation procedure from actual business accounts. If we wanted to get a more acccurate Marxian measure, we would need to readjust almost every entry in the product account, but this is very difficult if not impossible because of lack of data at a disaggregate level.

What I take Marx to be saying is, that distinctions such as value in use versus value in exchange, and specific labour versus general labour originate themselves from the practical activity of social labour in which these human valuations are made. By social labour Marx meant "labour performed for someone else". Social labour means that work can exchange for other work, work can exchange for products, products can exchange for work, and products can exchange for other products. Normally, social labour implies co-operation of some kind. Social labour does not necessarily involve commodity trade, it could involve tributary labour or exchanges which do not involve commodities.

When Marxists talk about capital accumulation, they usually mean profit-making from production. But in Marx's own theory, this refers to only one mode of augmenting capital assets owned. Capital accumulation occurred for thousands of years without any specifically capitalist mode of production, through interest on loans, rents charged for the use of assets, usury and mercantile activities. When the capitalist mode of production eventually becomes dominant, this does not mean previous forms of accumulation disappear - they continue to exist side by side.

What Marxists often forget, is the results of accumulation, namely, a growing stock of physical assets existing external to production. These assets give rise to new financial claims, which can also be traded in. In modern advanced capitalist societies, the value of this stock is greater than the value of production capital. This does not invalidate Marx's theory necessarily, but it would be wrong to focus only on production, if we want to understand capital accumulation as a whole.


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