[OPE] Marx 101

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Tue Oct 06 2009 - 17:29:46 EDT

I have added some text to my wiki on "surplus product"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surplus_product as follows:

"In Marx's own view, commercial trade powerfully stimulated the growth of a
surplus product, not because the surplus is itself generated by trade, or
because trade itself creates wealth (wealth has to be produced before it can
be distributed or transferred through trade), but rather because the final
purpose of such trade is capital accumulation, i.e. because the aim of
commercial trade is to grow richer out of it, to accumulate wealth. This can
ultimately only occur, if the total stock of assets available for
distribution itself grows, as a result of more being produced than existed

Thus, because the accumulation of capital normally stimulates the growth of
the productive forces, this has the effect that the size of the surplus
product will normally grow also. The more the trading network then expands,
the more complex and specialized the division of labour will become, and the
more products people will produce which are surplus to their own
requirements. Gradually, the old system of subsistence production is
completely destroyed and replaced with commercial production, which means
that people must then necessarily trade in order to meet their needs
("market civilization"). Their labour becomes social labour, i.e. labour
which produces products for others - products which they don't consume

It is, of course, also possible to amass wealth simply by taking it off
other people in some way, but once this appropriation has occurred, the
source of additional wealth vanishes, and the original owners are no longer
so motivated to produce surpluses, simply because they know their their
products will be taken off them (they no longer reap the rewards of their
own production, in which case the only way to extract more wealth from them
is by forcing them to produce more).

In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith had already recognized the central
importance of the division of labour for economic growth, on the ground that
it increased productivity ("industriousness"), but, Marx suggests, Smith
failed to theorize clearly why the division of labour stimulated economic

  a.. From the fact that a division of labour existed between producers, no
particular method of distributing different products among producers
necessarily followed. In principle, given a division of labour, products
could be distributed in all kinds of ways - market trade being only one
way - and how it was done just depended on how claims to property happened
to be organised and enforced using the available technologies. Economic
growth wasn't a logically necessary effect of the division of labour,
because it all depended on what was done with the new wealth being shared
out by the producers, and how it was shared out. All kinds of distributive
norms could be applied, with different effects on wealth creation.
  a.. Smith confused the technical division of work tasks between
co-operatively organized producers, to make production more efficient, with
the system of property rights defining the social division of labour between
different social classes, where one class could claim the surplus product
from the surplus labour of another class because it owned or controlled the
means of production (see further Ali Rattansi, Marx and the division of
labour. Humanities Press, 1982). In other words, the essential point was
that the social division of labour powerfully promoted the production of
surpluses which could be alienated from the producers and appropriated, and
those who had control over this division of labour in fact promoted specific
ways of organizing production and trade precisely for this purpose - and not
necessarily at all to make production "more efficient".
  a.. Smith's theoretical omissions paved the way for the illusion that
market trade itself generates economic growth, the effect of that being that
the real relationship between the production and distribution of wealth
became a mystery. According to Marx, this effect in economic theory was not
accidental; it served an ideological justifying purpose, namely to reinforce
the idea that only market expansion can be beneficial for economic growth.
The logical corrolary of such an idea was that all production should ideally
be organized as market-oriented production, so that all are motivated to
produce more for the purpose of gaining wealth. The real aim behind the
justification however was the private accumulation of capital by the owners
of property, which depended on the social production of a surplus product by
others who lacked sufficient assets to live on. In other words, the
justification reflected that market expansion was the main legally
sanctioned means in capitalist society by which more wealth produced by
others could be appropriated, and that for this purpose any other form of
producing and distributing products should be rejected. Economic development
then became a question of how private property rights could be established
everywhere, so that markets could expand. This view of the matter, according
to Marx, explained why the concept of the social surplus product was removed
from official economic theory - after all, this concept raised the difficult
political and juridical question of what entitles some to appropriate the
labour and products of others."

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Received on Tue Oct 6 17:36:23 2009

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