Re: [OPE] "Parasitism"

From: paul bullock <>
Date: Sat Jan 31 2009 - 11:35:59 EST


your response here is correct here as far as I am concerned.... there is a constant confusion by some, as how to analyse the manner in which the law of value regulates the entire process of capitalist production, and the fact that the commodity is of course a use value. I have said several times recently that to try to move DIRECTLY from the social conceptions which enable us to trace the development of the value relation TO those technical factors that constrain accumulation is an error. If private production relations are those which produce weapons, then surplus value is being produced. This has to be conceived as part of the 'luxury' goods department... the consumption of capitalists It consequently reduces the fund of use values which might be incorporated into further rounds of production, or for the reproduction of the working class, bu this is an issue of subsequent concern. (After all if the capitalists wished to consume ALL the surplus value in society it needn't be through weapons, but wine, fun and song etc... society would stagnate, but surplus would be extracted. The surplus labour has been realised in a social form of profit, which immediately enriches the capitalist.

The point has further been made that WHEN, as we must, we follow the process of accumulation, (the reconversion of money into commodities again), then clearly we see that the arms manufacturer does NOT contribute to the production of Relative Surplus Value and so CANNOT offset the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Jerry recently asked David Y about this, and received an appropriate answer. Thus armaments are a peculiarly significant handicap upon capitalism, despite their urgent necessity for its imperialist stage. Not understanding this also means that we find longstanding arguments that suggest that capitalism 'economically' requires a 'permanent arms economy' to survive. Whilst that is true politically it is nonsense 'economically'. I suspect that such writers want capitalism as they call it ( never imperialism) to be so stable that it can be condemned purely morally, without admitting that the arms will have to be used to reestablish the 'economy'.

It further follows that any country that has a high level of armaments production, must, from a purely 'economic' standpoint exchange these weapons against other goods with a lower the socially necessary labour time than the average (or those at 'home'), so increasing the rate of exploitation as they used ie the cheapest possible foreign foodstuffs, or oil (eg the British deals of arms for oil with the Saudi's and the extent to which the British defend these deals, so to arm themselves without crippling 'their' economy).

To muddle all this up into a sort of simple, single input output assessment is quite wrong, and as you say this involves.... " drawing the line between
productive and unproductive on the basis of use-value".

Paul B.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paula" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2009 1:24 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE] "Parasitism"

> Dave wrote:
>> Armaments are produced by social labour and have therefore labour-value.
>> When sold as commodities they tend to fetch a price proportional to their
>> labour-values and yield a profit for the firms that produce them. However,
>> if one stops at this level of analysis one cannot see the fundamentally
>> parasitic nature of the arms industry on the rest of the economy:
>> It lives off entirely from the surplus labour pumped out from the workers
>> in the basic sector, and it impedes the growth of the real capital stock
>> and of productivity. In this sense it is completely analogous to the
>> parasitism of the financial sector.
> Dave, you seem to be saying that the armaments sector is unproductive (of
> value), but surely the distinction between 'basic' and 'non-basic' goods has
> to do with use-value, not value. Is an airplane a 'basic good'? Does an
> airplane contain value only if it is sold to a commercial airline, but not
> if it's sold to a military? This would be drawing the line between
> productive and unproductive on the basis of use-value.
> Paula
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Received on Sat Jan 31 11:38:17 2009

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