[OPE-L:947] Re: Pure and Normal

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Sun, 4 Feb 1996 10:41:04 -0800

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Hil, Patrick. You write:

> In a recent posting, Gil Skillman writes (in part):
> <Since it remains the case that capitalist
> <exploitation may exist without the capitalist mode of production, both
> <on the authority of Roemer's formal argument and Marx's oft-repeated
> <historical argument, and that such exploitation *necessarily*
> <involves the non-equivalence of prices and values, my conclusion
> <that Marx's chapter 5 argument (which insists, remember, that any
> <setting in which surplus value is appropriated is isomorphic to the
> <case of price-value equivalence) is invalid remains intact
> How precisely does capitalist exploitation take place without the
> capitalist mode of production? Exploitation and social classes have
> taken place under many modes of production but it seems a bit perculiar
> to argue that capitalist exploitation can take place without capitalist.

I didn't say that "capitalist exploitation can take place without [a]
capitalist." I said, reiterating what Marx has said multiple times
throughout his historical work, that capitalist exploitation took
place without the capitalist mode of production, i.e. without at
least formal subsumption of labor under capital. This includes usury
and merchant's capital when extended to small producers. I've
explained "how precisely" this might be done, on the authority of
Marx's own writing, in the articles referenced in earlier posts.

> Further, one of Marx s many contributions was to show that IF com-
> modities exchanged at their value THEN it is still possible for
> exploitation to take place. To show that exploitation can occur when
> commodities do not exchange their value isn t very interesting.

It is when the relevant case of capitalist exploitation necessarily
requires price-value non-equivalence, since this directly contradicts
Marx's isomorphism claim at the end of Volume I, Ch. 5. It also
contradicts the standard interpretation of Marx, as evidenced by the
dominant response to Roemer's (and my) work.

> But to
> demonstrate that exploitation can occur even when commodities
> exchange at their value, well that's a major contribution.

But not if the mode of doing so blinds one to the more general logic
of capitalist exploitation, as I've argued in detail. The real
trick, I think, is to distinguish the cases when subsumption is and
isn't a critical component of capitalist exploitation; this is
suggested by Marx's historical-strategic account of exploitation,
which (I've argued) his value-theoretic account in Ch. 5 distorts.

> Yet, early on in his work Marx was quite clear that is possible for the
> money price of a commodity and its labor value to diverge. For example,
> if the labor value of the money commodity declines the money price of
> the commodity will increase -- even though the labor value of the
> commodity has remained unchanged.

Yes, I realize that.

> Hence, there simply is no grounds for the Skillman claim that
> <any setting in which surplus value is appropriated is isomorphic to the
> <case of price-value equivalence.

It's not *my* claim; it's Marx's, at the end of Ch. 5. And that's
isomorphic, not identical, so Patrick's preceding paragraph is
irrelevant to this conclusion.

In solidarity, Gil Skillman