Re: [OPE-L] accumulation of capital and the working class - actual non existence of variable capital

From: Ian Hunt (ian.hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Wed Jan 09 2008 - 23:25:26 EST

Dear Paul,
While your procedure is OK as a simplification, I don't think it is
correct in general to say that workers advance their labour: it
depends on the turnover periods of capital and the time for which
labour is advanced. Wine producers pay out a lot in wages before they
get any return on the work done, so V is non-zero in their case.
Similarly, in the construction industry, the car industry etc. (I
suppose things will look different if you take the instantaneous rate
of profit on capital stock with part used capital goods and part
completed product as joint products with imputed returns from their

In general, advance of labour simply increases the turnover of
capital and thus the rate of profit on capital stocks. In some cases
it does, as you say, eliminate V but in all cases it reduces it. It
functions in much the same way as the advance that wholesalers make
on sales. The wholesaler gets a discount but this is compensated by
the increase in the turnover of capital.

Notwithstanding that I like your definition of accumulation as the no
of workers employed in producing additional means of production (and
I would say in  general, to producing additional means of subsistence
for additional workers)

>No V does not figure, or 'reckon'.
>The concept of variable capital is a polemical act of charity by Marx to the
>bourgeois political economists, rather than something that really exists.
>Marx wants to prove exploitation even on the grounds most logically
>favourable to the political economists, so he makes a number of
>concessions to them:
>1. That all commodities exchange at their values with no cheating or
>2. That workers are not cheated but are paid the full value of their labour
>3. Finally, that workers are paid in advance.
>These are all to greater or lesser extent counter factual, but allow
>him to show that even on the grounds most favourable to the
>political economists he can demonstrate exploitation.
>In fact we know wages are never paid in advance, it is actually the
>workers who advance labour to the capitalists rather than the
>capitalists who advance money to the workers as in the myth
>propagated by the political economists. Thus, in fact the stock of
>'variable capital' is always negative - the capitalists always owe
>the workers for work already done.
>Capital accumulation relates to a growth in the stock of value
>serving as capital, this stock, in a modern economy exists solely in
>the form of means of production, plant,
>equipment, stocks of raw material, stocks of data, and partially
>worked up products.
>There is no net money capital, and negative net variable capital.
>If one employs flow accounting rather than stock accounting, there is a flow
>of wages, there is a flow of means of production etc, and in this accounting
>framework it is useful to label the flow of wages as v and the flow
>of means of
>production as c, but these
>distinctions are not applicable to analyzing what has been accumulated, since
>what has been accumulated is a stock.
>For analysing accumulation there are two key variables
>1. The portion of the surplus value flow that is not consumed, the
>dimension of
>    this is person years/year or persons ( ie, the figure tells us
>how many workers
>    are engaged in producing additional means of production ). Let us
>denote this by
>    (a)
>2. The stock of capital (whose dimension is person years), and
>represents the total
>    materialised dead labour under the control of the capitalist
>class. I usually
>    denote this by K.
>We have the basic equation that
>   K = \int a dt
>The capital stock is the time integral of the accumulation, by the
>calculus of Newton and Leibniz this is dimensionally coherent.
>Paul Cockshott
>Dept of Computing Science
>University of Glasgow
>+44 141 330 3125
>-----Original Message-----
>From: OPE-L on behalf of GERALD LEVY
>Sent: Wed 09/01/2008 10:00 PM
>Subject: Re: [OPE-L] accumulation of capital and the working class
>>  In my opinion the only way to make sense of the concept of capital
>>accumulation is in terms of the growth in the value of the stock of
>>   means of production used as capital.
>Hi Paul C:
>Doesn't V figure at all in the accumulation of capital?
>Your formulation above seems to suggest that the total
>capital is represented by the value of the means of
>production rather than C + V.  If I understand Paul Z
>correctly, that puts your conception of 'capital accumulation'
>diametrically opposed to his.
>In solidarity, Jerry

Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
Dept  of Philosophy, School of Humanities,
Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
Flinders University of SA,
Humanities Building,
Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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