[OPE-L:2264] Re: Chapter 5 and Marx's method

Duncan K Foley (dkf2@columbia.edu)
Fri, 17 May 1996 14:07:15 -0700

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On Fri, 17 May 1996, Gil Skillman wrote:
(among other things)
> To illustrate my point , consider Marx's discussion in Ch. 6 to his
> treatments of merchant's capital in Ch. 20 and usury capital in Ch. 36 of
> Volume III. In both of he latter cases capitalists enjoy the use value of
> labor power, but *do not* do so by purchasing labor power as a commodity.

I've stayed out of this discussion so far, because I'm puzzled in my own
mind about it. But this formulation (usurers enjoy the use value of
labor-power without purchasing it) makes me extremely uncomfortable, and I
wonder if any of the rest of you share this feeling. Marx put a great deal
of emphasis on the distinction between labor-power and labor, and viewed
the discovery of labor-power as his main contribution to the line of
classical political economy thinking. As I read it, however, labor-power
comes into real social existence with the wage labor relation: that is one
reason Marx thought Ricardo and Smith had difficulty disentangling
labor-power from labor (for example in the labor-commanded vs
labor-embodied accounts of the LTV). Usurers surely appropriate a surplus
value, representing a surplus product and surplus labor time, but if they
are lending, for example, to poor peasants, or sharecroppers, or to
spendthrift lords of serfs, it doesn't seem to me correct to say they are
enjoying the use value of labor-power, since there isn't any labor-power
in those situations, only labor.

Probably making things worse,